Proper Afternoon Tea
My love for afternoon tea is well known. Having recently returned from England I want to discuss what a proper afternoon tea is, from my perspective. Afternoon tea is a fairly personal thing so, full disclaimer, these are my opinions on the matter.
Proper tea means loose leaf tea made in a teapot and drunk in a tea cup with a saucer. It also implies a sweet treat of some kind, but this is not strictly necessary. If you want to go all out, add a savory as well. Tea bags are not completely off the table, I often put loose leaf tea into an empty tea bag for easy cleanup, but not preferred.
My favorite loose leaf teas tend to be Ceylon. My current favorite is from Harrod's called Lover's Leap, which is sadly only available in store. But I also like Harrod's Number 14 English Breakfast, Yorkshire Gold, and PG Tips (which comes in a loose leaf form as well as in tea bags).
Prime the pot first by heating hot water to the boil, pouring about a cup into the pot, putting the lid on and letting it sit so it warms up. This will help keep the tea warm. You can let it sit for anywhere from 1-3 minutes before pouring the water out.
How much tea to put in the pot is a matter of personal preference, and size of the teapot. Small teapots generally are 1-2 cups. The one I use serves makes 6 cups. A teaspoon per person and one for the pot is how I make mine. If you like really strong tea, make the teaspoons more like tablespoons.
Pour boiling water over the tea. This is important. Don't pour hot water into the pot and then add the tea. Tea first, then water. This is because you start to lose heat as soon as the water hits the pot, even if you've primed it. How much water? It depends on the size of your teapot. I generally fill it to within a couple of inches of the top.
Steep for 3-5 minutes. 3 minutes for regular strength tea. 5 minutes for strong tea. Keep an eye on it. I've brewed tea in 3 minutes that looks like coffee. I've also brewed tea in 3 minutes that is too watery. It depends on how much tea and water you use.
To keep the pot warm, use a tea cozy or wrap in a dish towel. If you don't use a pot with a built in strainer or make your own tea bag don't forget to use a strainer over the cups.
I take my tea with brown sugar and milk with a dollop of cream to make it extra luscious.
I've been making a pot of tea once a week the last few weeks. It just makes it feel more special.
How do you take your tea?