Jan 04, 2011

by English Muse

Christopher Hitchens over the weekend wrote a story for Slate on the proper way to make tea.

“It is already virtually impossible in the United States, unless you undertake the job yourself, to get a cup or pot of tea that tastes remotely as it ought to,” he complains. “It’s quite common to be served a cup or a pot of water, well off the boil, with the tea bags lying on an adjacent cold plate… The drink itself is then best thrown away, though if swallowed, it will have about the same effect on morale as a reading of the memoirs of President James Earl Carter.”

Hitchens relies (mostly) on George Orwell’s tips for tea making.

They include:

*Always use Indian or Ceylonese—i.e., Sri Lankan—tea.
*Make tea only in small quantities.
*Avoid silverware pots.
*If you use a pot at all, make sure it is pre-warmed. (Hitchens adds: do the same thing even if you are only using a cup or a mug.)
*Stir the tea before letting it steep.
*MOST IMPORTANT: “Take the teapot to the kettle, and not the other way about. The water should be actually boiling at the moment of impact.”
*If you use milk, make sure it’s the least creamy type. (“And do not put the milk in the cup first—family feuds have lasted generations over this—because you will almost certainly put in too much,” Hitchens says.)
*A “decent cylindrical mug” is best.

Finally, Hitchens believes brown sugar or honey are “permissible and sometimes necessary,” even though Orwell would probably disagree.

And there you have it.

Photos by Le Portillon and Leuwam.)



This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 4th, 2011 at 12:57 am. It is filed under authors. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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32 Responses to “Christopher Hitchens on how to make a decent cup of tea”

  1. kirst says:

    I love this! Haha. The "milk last" rule is enforced in our house too. Apparently, you should let the tea brew 3 minutes to get full benefit of antioxidants…
    Happy New Year! xo

  2. Splenderosa says:

    I adore Christopher & his philosophies, so I'm certain HIS way with tea is the best. As a Texan I don't often have the benefit of a proper tea, but now I know how it should be done. Thank you, precious one, for this post.
    Happy New Year!!

  3. Global Atelier says:

    Lovely reminder on the perfect cup of tea!

  4. debbie bailey says:

    Sorry to disagree, but he's dead wrong about the milk. It should be cream not thin milk. I buy cream from a local dairy, and it's so lucious and yummy it should be illegal! It makes a wonderful cup of tea. And in my opinion, black tea needs to be sweetened with white sugar. And of course on the side should be sitting a huge, fresh scone filled with currants and whipping cream. I'm convinced that heaven will have four o'clock tea!

  5. Uncle Beefy says:

    I think the whole notion of this post is nothing short of glorious! Love it!

    In my restaurant days, while never provided with the means for a proper tea service, at the very least I would always warm the cup and saucer just before serving. No one I ever worked with would bother with this detail. And yet, it was probably one of things people commented on and appreciated most.

    It's in the little things.

  6. Sundari says:

    Hah! That's great. I am certainly a true tea drinker, though I am one of those naughty ones that put the milk in first. But unfortunately Australian cafes and restaurants lack in proper tea preparation skills, very disappointing considering how many people here drink 'tea'.

  7. samantha. says:

    i have been drinking a ton of tea this winter!! a girl after my own heart 🙂



  8. Melanie's Randomness says:

    I promise to not do the pot of water & a tea bag next to it ever again. I'll try to do it nicer! Cute post! I learned alot! Happy New Year!! =)

    Melanie's Randomness

  9. Jg. for FatScribe says:

    even if i disagree with almost everything Hitchens writes, I can't but just plain admire his advice for enjoying a nice cuppa! (plus, you know, the accent and erudition don't hurt.)

  10. Josie ♥ Savoir Weddings ♥ says:

    I am VERY fussy about my tea. So much so that no one else can compare to my tea making skills. Hot milky water is my least fave.

  11. B. Inspired. says:

    Lovely post;)

  12. Dylana Suarez says:

    This is so lovely!



  13. whenpenmeetspaper says:


    I love to read and writer too. I was a travel writer turned oopywriter.
    You can read my blog here http://whenpenmeetspaper.wordpress.oom

    How did you put the 'LinkWithiin' widget onto your blog?

    If it's ok, can we exchange links?:) I think i need you on my blogroll!

    Lynne from Sunny Island Singapore

  14. whenpenmeetspaper says:


    I love to read and write too! I was a travel writer turne copywriter. You can read my blog in the link above.

    How did you put the 'LinkWithin' widget into your blog?

    It it's ok, can we exchange links?:) I think I need you on my blogroll!

    Lynne from Sunny Island Singapore

  15. teodoragales says:

    Great, great tips! I shall try and live/drink by!

  16. Raji says:

    This is such a cute post
    Couldnt live without tea and wouldnt want too

  17. Carol says:

    I'm English ~ I always put my milk in first, I like my tea milky and sweet 😉

  18. lila Check says:

    I adore Christopher & his philosophies,love this post!

  19. iva yaneva says:

    The photo is so pretty!!
    And I enjoyed this post so much 🙂 I'm very much into tea right now. Masala tea must be my favourite at the moment <3

  20. Kristin Hjellegjerde says:

    Can´t wait for the HIGH TEA parties in London. A friend of mine is already arranging one for when I move next week. Yes to Perfectly made tea:)

  21. a little yellow button. says:

    What an adorable post! It's so simple, and delightful! Not to mention, the tea set and table look divine!


  22. thea says:

    this is bizarre – I just read all about this due to a personal project and then came to your blog for my 'fix' and here it is!!!! Just my cup of tea… 🙂



    p.s. could I tempt you into writing a little something for Spoonful? I think your style will fit deliciously into our beautiful little piece of happy. x

  23. The Dandelion Chronicles says:

    Good to know I do all the wrong things.. 😀 Except with the milk part.

    Have a nice day

  24. Tiffany from HOLIDAY says:

    adoring your blog! wish i had found you long before now. xo

  25. blorange dice says:

    haha i really like this post. how random to feature tea etiquette! i love it so much

  26. Hausfrau says:

    Love this! It's naturally a bit persnickety, coming from Hitchens. I don't have to worry about the milk and sugar parts, as I like my English Breakfast brew straight-up and strong.

  27. Sally says:

    he he he this post is brilliant, I'm really fussy about my tea too! you just HAVE to pour the water on as soon as it's boiled!! 🙂

  28. notinthepink.com says:

    I think one of the things I love about being British is that everyone loves a good cuppa tea. 😀 I can't imagine what it'll be like when I go travelling at the end of the year – Gonna miss my tea so much!



  29. the upholstress says:

    milk last always…….also loose tea in a tea pot, I prefer assam in the afternoon english breakfast in the morning…..afternoon cream tea…..tea, warm scone with homemade damson jam & clotted cream…..sat sipping on a lounger in an english country garden in mid summer surrounded by cottage plants, bees & birds…….

  30. bluebirdbylucie says:

    Haha, I love this post. I love anything related to tea. But my choice is green over black.

  31. Alessandra says:

    the right way to have a decent cup of tea for me is:
    mineral water (not tub water)
    good tea (the taste you prefere)
    do not boil the water, but take off the pot just before boiling
    leave the tea bag not more than 30 sec.
    do not put any sugar, honey or milk.
    this is the best way to taste a good tea ! try it!

  32. Floyd R Turbo (American) says:

    The last time I went back to England I went to a cafe where they used a cappucino maker to provide the hot water for the tea. As you might imagine it was very hot! They also pre-heated the cup. It was really good – even by British standards.

    Try as I might I can’t get the tea to taste right in California. I think it might be the water. I use “PG Tips”, white sugar, a teapot purchased in England, water straight out of the kettle at the boil, whole milk, pre-heat the cup (and teapot) – it still doesn’t taste the same.

    I draw the line at importing water from England.

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