George Orwell Musing on Tea

George Orwell, the famous English critic, writer and essayist, loved a cup of tea as much as any of us. First published in the Evening Standard in 1946, he writes about the correct way to make tea and on reading his list, I have to agree with him. In his essay ‘A Nice Cup of Tea’, he is pretty adamant about the only proper way to make tea.

  • Use only Indian or Ceylon tea leaves
  • Always make tea in a teapot, not an urn
  • The pot should be warmed up first with hot water
  • The tea should be strong
  • Tea loose in the pot, not a teabag
  • Use rolling boiling water
  • Stir or shake the pot
  • Cylindrical cup
  • Non-creamy milk
  • Tea in the cup before milk
  • No sugar

“Anyone who has used that comforting phrase ‘a nice cup of tea’ invariably means Indian tea.” George Orwell

Tea is one of the mainstays of civilisation in this country country and causes violent disputes over how it should be made”

George Orwell

Now the milk debate. Milk first or last is an old discussion. My idea is to leave it to the person to decide their own particular tea habits, no matter how bizarre. When is the optimum time to add the milk? Milk may have been added first, back in the day to avoid breaking delicate fine china cups when pouring in boiling water. My idea is to add milk to tea in a cup first, if you are making proper tea using a teapot but if making tea with a tea bag then most definitely add the milk at the end.

“all true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes-a fact which is recognized in the extra ration issued to old-age pensioners.”George Orwell

I think I would have enjoyed a cuppa with George as I agree on almost every point of his tea list. He certainly liked strong, not too milky tea with no sugar and that is the perfect cup of tea.

One lump or two?

“Lastly, tea–unless one is drinking it in the Russian style–should be drunk WITHOUT SUGAR. I know very well that I am in a minority here. But still, how can you call yourself a true tea-lover if you destroy the flavour of your tea by putting sugar in it? It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper or salt. Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter. If you sweeten it, you are no longer tasting the tea, you are merely tasting the sugar; you could make a very similar drink by dissolving sugar in plain hot water.”

Margaret Preston 1924 Art Gallery of NSW

One aspect all tea drinkers agree upon is that Tea is a must when you’re working. It enlivens the brain to improve the clarity of thought, uplifts the spirit and creates solace and inspiration. It is a must first thing in the morning and when returning home from anywhere at all. Tea is obligatory when guests arrive, either invited or impromptu. One cannot enjoy breakfast without tea and it goes without saying that a catch up with friends in a cafe, a pot of tea to share is vital. A solitary day with a book, a day out on a picnic or one filled with friends over for lunch tea is essential. Other famous writers who love tea –

Some people will tell you there is a great deal of poetry and fine sentiment in a chest of tea.“-Waldo Emerson

“I must drink lots of tea or I cannot work. Tea unleashes the potential which slumbers in the depth of my soul.” Leo Tolstoy

“But indeed I would rather have nothing but tea.” Jane Austen

“Tea is the only simple pleasure left on us.” Oscar Wilde

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to please me.” CS Lewis

Wouldn’t it be dreadful to live in a country where they didn’t have tea? Noel Coward

One day I decided to try to have a complete day without tea. I was quite shaken. I was quite disturbed.” Morrisey

All content Di Baker 2020

Images Wikimedia, Art Gallery of NSW, Unsplash