It’s seven a.m., when an Englishman’s mind (including that of my other half) turns to tea rather than wine. Mine used to turn exclusively to coffee, but moving to a tea-focused culture will change a person. This morning I am guilty of what he calls “dual-wielding,” arriving at my computer with a cup of tea in one hand and coffee in the other.
After five years here I had finally reached the point when I could make an acceptable cup of tea — nothing fancy, but at least not oversteeped or understeeped, and not blighted by floating teabag dust or chunks of limescale. The water in this area is so hard it’s positively crunchy. It really wasn’t until a few months ago, when I noticed a tip in a favourite cookbook of mine, that I started making a genuinely and consistently good, even praiseworthy cup of tea.
I thought my beloved, well-thumbed copy of Spooning with Rosie (the first cookbook by Rosie Lovell, owner of Rosie’s Deli Cafe in Brixton) had given up all its secrets by now, but a few months ago I paused over a page of tips I hadn’t really noticed before.
It doesn’t sound that revolutionary and it’s not fancy — two different tea bags, one Earl Grey and one PG Tips, in the pot and milk in the cups first — but the reaction from Mr. Winetuned was a surprise. The best cup of tea he ever had? Made by his American wife? That may be my greatest accomplishment in England to date.
I think the idea of using one Earl Grey and one standard breakfast tea bag (I’m not sure it matters if it’s PG Tips or something else) works because you end up with a lighter dose of the heady perfumed bergamot in the Earl Grey. We’re of the any-Earl-Grey-but-Twinings persuasion since Twinings changed the formula and started tasting of lemon dishwashing liquid, so we have not tried this technique with Twinings. I can’t really explain why pouring the milk into the cups first helps, but Daniel was sure the resulting tea was smoother somehow. Both of us have found we can’t just put a tea bag in a mug and add boiling water anymore. There’s just no comparison between that and one brewed Rosie’s way.
— Janet (a.k.a Mrs. Winetuned)