A Nice Cup of Tea George Orwell

Tea George Orwell

All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little
stronger with each year that passes

Cup Of Tea Questions

We answer a lot of tea questions at Local Tea Company.  The most popular inquiry is about what makes for a good cup of tea?  This tea quote is taken from an essay published in the Evening Standard in 1946 by the English author George Orwell.  He directed his keen wit and passion for clarity in language to the topic of the perfect cup of tea.

George Orwell with a Cup of tea Orwell identified 11 points that he regarded as ‘golden.’   While I risk an overly lengthy post, it would not seem right to leave any of them out.  Each is so witty and relevant to the last detail, though I have risked a touch of editing. Enjoy…

First of all, for the perfect cup of tea

One should use Indian or Ceylonese tea. China tea has virtues which are not to be despised nowadays.  It is economical, and one can drink it without milk, but there is not much stimulation in it. One does not feel wiser, braver, or more optimistic after drinking it. Anyone who has used that comforting phrase ‘a nice cup of tea’ invariably means Indian tea.


Tea should be made in small quantities, that is, in a teapot. Tea out of an urn is always tasteless, while army tea, made in a cauldron, tastes of grease and whitewash. The teapot should be made of china or earthenware.


The pot should be warmed beforehand. This is better done by placing it on the hob than by the usual method of swilling it out with hot water.


The tea should be strong. For a pot holding a quart, if you are going to fill it nearly to the brim, six heaped teaspoons would be about right. In a time of rationing, this is not an idea that can be realized every day of the week, but I maintain that one strong cup of tea is better than twenty weak ones. 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.


The tea should be put straight into the pot. No strainers, muslin bags, or other devices to imprison the tea. In some countries, teapots are fitted with little dangling baskets under the spout to catch stray leaves, which are supposed to be harmful. Actually, one can swallow tea leaves in considerable quantities without ill effect, and if the tea is not loose in the pot, it never infuses properly.


One should take the teapot to the kettle and not the other way about. The water should actually be boiling at the moment of impact, which means that one should keep it on the flame while one pours. Some people add that one should only use water that has been freshly brought to a boil, but I have never noticed that it makes any difference.


After making the cup of tea, one should stir it, or better, give the pot a good shake, afterward allowing the leaves to settle.


One should drink out of a good breakfast cup, that is, the cylindrical type of cup, not the flat, shallow type. The breakfast cup holds more, and with the other kind, one’s tea is always half cold before one has well started on it.


One should pour the cream off the milk before using it for tea. Milk that is too creamy always gives the tea a sickly taste.


One should pour tea into the cup first. This is one of the most controversial points of all.  Indeed in every family in Britain, there are probably two schools of thought on the subject. The milk-first school can bring forward some fairly strong arguments, but I maintain that my own argument is unanswerable. This is that, by putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk, whereas one is liable to put in too much milk if one does it the other way round.

Lastly, tea

Unless one is drinking in the Russian style, tea 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 flavor of your cup of 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 your tea, 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. Some people would answer that they don’t like tea in itself.  They only drink tea in order to be warmed and stimulated, and they need sugar to take the taste away. To those misguided people, I would say, try drinking tea without sugar for, say, a fortnight.  It is very unlikely that you will ever want to ruin your cup of tea by sweetening it again.

(The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of Tea George Orwell)


Glynis Chapman

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to Top