How to make a cup of tea

mrs-beeton-4I’ve been reading Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management and enjoyed her directions for how to make tea.

Mrs Beeton says:

There is very little art in making good tea; if the water is boiling, and there is no sparing of the fragrant leaf, the beverage will almost invariably be good.
The old-fashioned plan of allowing one teaspoonful to each person, and one over, is still practised. Warm the teapot with boiling water; let it remain for two or three minutes for the vessel to become thoroughly hot, then pour it away.

Put in the tea, pour in from 1/2 to 3/4 of a pint of boiling water, close the lid, and let it stand for the tea to draw from 5 to 10 minutes; then fill up the pot with water.

The tea will be quite spoiled unless made with water that is actually ‘boiling’, as the leaves will not open, and the flavour not be extracted from them; the beverage will consequently be colourless and tasteless, – in fact, nothing but tepid water.

Where there is a very large party to make tea for, it is a good plan to have two teapots instead of putting a large quantity of tea into one pot; the tea, besides, will go farther.

When the infusion has once been completed, the addition of fresh tea adds very little to the strength; so, when more is required, have the pot emptied of the old leaves, scalded, and fresh tea made in the usual manner.

Economists say that a few grains of carbonate of soda, added before the boiling water is poured on the tea, assists to draw out the goodness: if the water is very hard, perhaps it is a good plan, as the soda softens it; but care must be taken to use this ingredient sparingly, as it is liable to give the tea a soapy taste if added in too large a quantity.

For mixed tea, the usual proportion is four spoons of black to one of green; more of the latter when the flavour is very much liked; but strong green tea is highly pernicious, and should never be partaken of too freely.


Nowadays I’m a lazy tea maker

who dips a teabag in a mug of hot water for a few seconds and adds some milk but when I was growing up things were rather different.

In Cabbage and Semolina I wrote:

Tea was always made in a pot.

I don’t know if teabags had been invented in the 1950s but we always used loose tea and the tea was poured straight from the teapot into the cup without a strainer so there was the danger of swallowing the tea leaves in the dregs if you weren’t careful.

The pot had to be warmed first with boiling water and the kettle was brought back to boiling point before the tea leaves were scalded.

The tea was then left to brew or “mash” as we called it before being poured in a heavy, caffeine laden stream on top of a dash of milk in the bottom of the cup. Usually at least two spoons of sugar were added as well.

Not much difference from Mrs Beeton in the 1860s to life in the 1950s and just the same for purists today too!

Thanks for reading my blog today.

Time to put the kettle on, I think.

If you have a few minutes to spare you might like to check out my publishing website too. It’s at




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