How the English make tea

Info Guru, Catalogs.com

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English cup of tea
Add a splash of milk after pouring in the tea
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Tips on how the English make tea for a proper afternoon respite

Anyone who’s ever been to England or watched an episode of Downton Abbey knows the English have a particular way for doing things. When it comes to tea, this is a wonderful thing. 

To learn how the English make tea you should prepare for a long list of Dos. First, note that tea is a social occasion. If you’re inviting a friend over and want to impress by observing the customs, send an invitation. Traditionally, tea is served in the afternoon between 3pm and 5pm.

Come prepared. Gather all the essential things first. In addition to the pot, cups, saucers and napkins, you’ll want a tray with a few finger snacks and treats. And don’t forget the loose tea leaves.

Set your water to boil then run your pot under hot water so it doesn’t crack when you add the boiled water. Spoon one teaspoon of tea into the pot for each person plus one extra spoonful. 

Steeping methods

You have a few choices of methods when it comes to actually infusing the water. Lay a filter over the cup before pouring if you’ve scooped the leaves right into the pot. A tea ball is a type of glass pot that allows you to stop the water from steeping simply by pushing down the center plunger. This method is clean and attractive as you can watch the water transform into tea in about 4 minutes.

You can also use an infuser. These are mesh balls that are easily removed from the cup when you’re ready. They open in the center with a squeeze of the handle and have just enough room for one teaspoon – any more than that and bits of broken leaves will be pushed through the mesh as they expand in water.


One thing to keep in mind about how the English make tea is the add-ins. Most add a touch of milk into their cup after pouring in the tea. Adding milk is an ingrained step in the process for many, so if you’re ordering at an English café and you want yours black with lemon instead, specify this when you order and double check that it’s made right. 

The English way to serve tea is with variety of different sweeteners. Set out a bowl of white and dark sugar crystals and cubes or lumps. Sticks of honey are always welcome as well.

A bite to eat

Remember this tradition was born to boost the slump between lunch and dinner, so your guests will likely be peckish. Stick with finger foods to avoid breaking out spoons and forks. Mini cucumber sandwiches, tiny cakes, scones and digestives go well with tea and keep everyone satiated until dinner.

The pour

One tutorial in The Christian Science Monitor reminds readers that the first cups poured are the weakest, so serve those who don't like strong tea first. Like cutting a birthday cake, the host should always do the first pour. A friend can do the rest if you’re busy.

Now it’s time to enjoy, but do keep that pinky in no matter how small the delicate handle is!

Tips for a better cup every time

  • Learning how the English make tea is only useful if you drop bad habits. For instance, allow the boiled water to sit before pouring it over the tea leaves. Once poured, refer to recommended infusion times on the package so your drink doesn’t become bitter. 
  • Use a spoon or small tongs to add the sugar because nobody wants to watch you grab it with your fingers, especially if they haven’t gotten theirs yet. If you’re adding lemon, squeeze it and remove the rind before sipping.
  • Dump out any remaining boiled water. Re-boiling old water produces tea that tastes flat because there’s little oxygen left.  

Cheers to your next proper cuppa!

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