How is tea supposed to be made where you live?
July 8, 2019 8:17 PM   Subscribe

Tea is made differently every place it's made, and every place has standards for proper preparation. How is tea usually made where you live?

I don't make tea like anyone I know. I am hoping to learn that I have unconsciously recreated some regional variety of tea preparation, but I don't know what region I'm mimicking. Also I'd like to learn new ways to drink tea.

As a Midwestern US MiniVat many years ago, I learned to heat water in the microwave, add a lipton tea bag, and let it sit, then after a few minutes I took the bag out and added some sugar and skim milk. Please be assured that I am now aware of the errors of my youth.

Over the years I have moved away from this process and gradually settled on a new process where I boil water in a kettle, pour it over black tea (PG tips for a long time, Barry's recently), let it sit for ~5 minutes, then add a little sugar and a big glug of evaporated milk without taking the teabags out. It continues to steep as I drink it. At one point I was making tea for an English friend of mine and she became quietly very agitated and then apologetically *whisked* the teabags out of the tea after about 3 minutes, so I'm well aware that this process is not English.

I've heard rumors of super condensed Russian tea kept hot in samovars with water added just before drinking, there is something called Thai Iced Tea which is four kinds of syrup and condensed milk over ice (well that's how they make it in the Thai restaurants I've been to, I'm not making any claims for the actual authenticity of this process), and I've had masala chai in Indian restaurants. Nothing is like what I make.

Where are you and how is a well-made cup of tea prepared there? (I mean - I don't need to know where you are. This is the internet, keep whatever shreds of privacy you have managed to cling to thus far, just some vague pointing to a general place is fine.)
posted by Vatnesine to Food & Drink (48 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
American Jews of Eastern European heritage, west coast USA: heat tea in kettle until it just starts to boil. Pour over teabag which is in mug (preferably clear glass, and preferably on a saucer.) Steep until desired shade emerges, not very long; remove before it's bitter. Lemon wedge squeezed in after teabag removed = optional; if yes, observe charming color change when lemon added. Sugar optional. No milk.

My grandfather (emigrated Polish Jew) would hold the sugar cube between his teeth and drink the tea through it :)
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:28 PM on July 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

Where I grew up:

4 lipton family size tea bags
in a 1 gallon glass jar
filled with cold water
go stick it outside in direct sunlight for 4 hours
bring it back in and add a cup of sugar
add another half cup of sugar
and then maybe some more sugar
pour over ice
posted by phunniemee at 8:35 PM on July 8, 2019 [10 favorites]

Boil water in a kettle. Pour it over a teabag in a mug (preferably opaque and ceramic, either diner-style or a promo mug for your plumber or something). Start sipping on the tea once it's steeped for a few minutes.

Now, here's the important part. Time your sipping so that you've lowered the water level in the mug by a few centimeters by the time the tea is starting to get close to overbrewed. Then, sort of winch the teabag up by wrapping its string tightly around the mug handle, holding it up out of the tea. Now you can drink the rest of the mug at your leisure.

(Midwestern US)
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:43 PM on July 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

Hong Kong, complicated post-colonial paradox, checking in. In addition to, uh, the millennia of Chinese tea culture right next door, you might want to check out:

Milk tea

Ice lemon tea

posted by mdonley at 8:58 PM on July 8, 2019 [4 favorites]

It's true that a popular way of preparing tea in Russia and at least some parts of eastern Europe involves making a strong concentrate in a teapot. You then add the desired amount of concentrate to your cup and dilute with hot water. Common add-ins include lemon, sugar, honey, fruit preserves. Two tea-related behaviors that I haven't observed outside of artistic representations (there are many such representations; tea is serious business in Russia) are: breaking off a small piece of sugar and holding it in one's teeth while sipping tea (although see the comment by fingersandtoes above) and pouring tea into a saucer, lifting the saucer up to one's face while supporting it with the extended fingers of one hand, and sipping directly from it (this can be combined with the piece of sugar, of course).
posted by a certain Sysoi Pafnut'evich at 9:20 PM on July 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

Azerbajian -

Boil water. Rinse a small tea pot with boiling hot water. Add 2-3 full tea spoons of black leaf tea. Fill up the pot 2/3rds. Put the pot on low heat. And wait for all the leaves to come up top. It is important to make sure it doesn't boil. If it boils, it js ruined (a.k.a becomes Turkish tea). Take it off the stove. Cover with cloth and let stay for 2-3 minutes. This is now your "brew". Fill up the 1/4th of the tea-cup with the brew and the rest hot water.

Add a slice of lemon and/or one teaspoon of granulated sugar.
posted by k8t at 9:26 PM on July 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

Green tea should NOT be made with boiling hot water. Preparing it with 160-180 degrees Fahrenheit water keeps it from being bitter. I heat water to about 167, then pour it over a bag of sencha (or other green tea), or over some loose tea in a tea strainer. I let it sit for a few minutes, remove the bag, let it cool just a little (the prep temp is almost cool enough), and drink.
posted by amtho at 9:27 PM on July 8, 2019

Tea made with teabags is just not good tea.

I have a very fine-meshed stainless steel tea strainer that I half fill with loose leaf tea and sit on top of my huge tea mug; then I slowly dribble just-boiled water onto the leaves, keeping the stream moving so as not to favour any particular part of the pile, until the mug is suitably filled.

This pouring ceremony generally takes a focused yet contemplative minute, by which time the tea in the strainer has swelled to twice its original size. The resulting tea is delicious. After drinking it, I dump the cooled wet tea leaves into the pot of the nearest houseplant.

Strength can be adjusted by altering the amount of tea leaves initially put into the strainer. For a normal sized mug, one heaped teaspoon of loose leaves is adequate.
posted by flabdablet at 9:53 PM on July 8, 2019

My Irish grandmother trained me in the sustaining art of the builder's tea: kettle straight off the boil, proper big mug, double bag, four minutes' steep. She alternated between Lipton and Red Rose, though I prefer a midrange Assam, myself. She added one packet of Sweet 'n Low along with the milk; I tend to omit sweetener, though I'll add a spoonful of sugar if I'm in the mood, or if it's a particularly rough day, or on the rare occasions I'm having tea at Actual Tea Time. For Actual Tea Time, round about four o'clock, my grandmother would often favour a few slices of wholemeal bread spread with margarine -- still a nostalgic pairing for me.

I have since worked in a tea shop, and learned all about all manner of teas from all over the place, all of which call for particular temperatures and steeping times. When brewing, we'd prefer to steep in glass vessels with metal baskets. Our water was dispensed at a specific temp, which we'd cool before pouring when necessary, and we used digital timers to ensure a proper brew-time. When you order from places like Adagio Tea, you'll often find specified steep temps and times -- and these make for fine cups of tea, and are often well-heeded. As mentioned above, green teas and white teas call for cooler temps and shorter steep times, perhaps a minute or less; herbals often benefit from five minutes, or even ten minutes, of steeping time.

But the ur-tea, for me, is the builder's tea, and in its soul it is essentially what you've described as your own method -- and it's very "English"! Your friend was just being posh. (Though microwaving does produce an inferior cup, it should be said, and electric kettles are lovely inventions, well worth the investment if you are fond of tea.)
posted by halation at 9:53 PM on July 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

Brit living in the US. Boil water to 204F, pour it over a PG tips tea bag, which is sitting st the bottom of a large ceramic mug. Steep for 3 mins. Remove tea bag. Add a splash of milk. Perfection!
posted by netsirk at 10:12 PM on July 8, 2019 [5 favorites]

UK: 3 teabags or 3tsp loose tea in a 2pt or so teapot, which has been warmed by swishing near boiling water around and then tipping it out beforehand. Then add fresh off the boil water. Steep for 5 minutes or so under some form of tea cosy; it's ready when it's the right colour. Pour cups, strainer required for loose tea. Top up teapot with more boiling water, you'll want more before you're done; if it's less than half an hour later it still counts as good, but you may risk dissolving your teaspoon. Add milk (almost certainly) and sugar (optionally). Slurp.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 10:41 PM on July 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

I was really disappointed to move to the UK and discover that they don't actually like the taste of tea here. It's all "builders" which is just sugary milk with the tea providing little more than a subtle brown dye.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 11:56 PM on July 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

Australian tea, as made by my parents, and by the extended family, and taught to me. (The downside of this method is that it requires several tea drinkers or over consumption of tea.) As a child I was taught these steps with much seriousness!
(I even remember when we were told that a cousin had made the tea all by themselves at about age 8 or 9, and feeling that I wanted to be allowed to make the tea!)

You need: cups or mugs, a tea-pot, some way to boil water - usually a kettle, a tea pot, a hot mat for the tea pot, and optionally a tea-cosy.

1. Boil kettle. (Electric, usually)
2. While kettle is boiling, find tea pot, empty cold tea. Leave old tea bags in the sink to be grumbled at by the other person, or empty loose leaves into the compost. (You may have a future use for cold tea bags, or you might be a bin immediately person, or you might be letting the teabags drain before binning them.)
3. Must warm the pot- this involves tipping a small amount of just boiled water into the pot, swish, and dump out into sink. (If this step is neglected it's just not right.) (Yes, there is a lot of tannin build up on the inside of the tea pot, that isn't really scrubbed out!)
4. If using tea bags, 1 per person, plus one for the pot. (In reality three is usually sufficient.) If using loose tea, add to the pot: same number of scoops as if tea bags- either measured with a teaspoon (heaped) or with the little flatish silver scoop that lives in the tea leaves. (When we lived in South America my parents bought two brands of tea: two scoops of that one and one of this, to approximate the right flavour.)
5. Pour hot water in to pot on to leaves/bags. (before pouring: if too much time has elapsed, re-boil kettle, but avoid if possible. (Re boiled water apparently tastes gross, according to our English neighbour of many years.)
5.5 - add tea cosy over pot. (or after initial pour, to keep tea warm, when you actually remember.)
6. While waiting for tea to brew, inquire who is having tea, and what kind- white or black (with or without milk.) Add milk to the bottom of cups. (There is much debate and even scientific research about the order of milk/tea. But to me, a proper cup of tea requires a tea pot, and to put the milk in first.)
7. Spin the tea pot three times anti-clockwise. (if turned clockwise, make sure to 'undo' the incorrect spins before completing the correct three spins. I am not sure how tongue in cheek it was, but this rule was enforced very seriously.)
8. Check colour of tea by pouring a little into the person-who-likes-the-weakest-tea's cup (preferably also a non-milk taker.) (Use a tea strainer to pour through if using leaf tea.) If the colour is acceptable then continue pouring tea, if not stop pouring and wait some more, jiggling the teapot.
9. Pour out as many cups as required. (Optional: remark at the tardis-like nature of that teapot we bought while on holiday that one time. [that pot travelled around the world with us, and is still in daily use.] Alternative, if using an inferior pot: complain about the nature of the pour (dribbles etc) or the size of the pot.)
10. Consume tea. Conversation is encouraged.
11. Check if there is enough tea left for seconds. If not, top up the pot with hot water. Rarely will it be necessary to add another tea-bag / more tea leaves.

How I actually make tea, for just me: Boil kettle. If using tea bag, plop that into mug. If using tea leaves, use the awesome strainer that has lips/arms to hold it on the edge of the mug. Pour in hot water. Wait for tea to brew. Dunk tea bag up and down several times. Watch colour swirl through water. Dispose of tea bag, or set it down for re-use, or put the strainer on a little saucer. Add a splash of milk. Wait the right amount of time for the tea to be the right temperature. Drink.
Adding milk with the tea bag in ruins the tea bag and stops/slows the brew process. I hate it in cafes how they add the milk straight away and don't let the tea brew. It's just not worth getting a take-away cup of tea, I feel.

Microwaving the mug of water: something I didn't even know was a way that tea was made until I started reading the internet- I just assumed everyone had an electric kettle at home, if they were tea-drinkers.
posted by freethefeet at 11:58 PM on July 8, 2019 [8 favorites]


- Work: teabag in mug (we have a wide variety of tea, though you're not supposed to complain about Lipton; feel free to complain about Saga), just boiled water from electric kettle unless it's green tea in which case wait a bit, take bag out after a few minutes, sip. The standard issue mugs are a puny 220ml though, so the teabag usually comes out pretty fast; I keep it in my 450 ml mug for a good five minutes

- Family home: mix of Yunnan and Assam leaves, four teaspoons to a small teapot, pour over just-boiled water, steep for at least 5 minutes and feel free to let it grow tepid, pour about an inch into a glass and top off with hot water. Yes, this is the method from the Russian side of the family. Glasses classically come in glass holders, though my family has switched to tempered glass mugs because the glass holders are usually not dishwasher-safe

In an Iranian-Russian guesthouse (married couple), breakfast came with classic samovar tea - about 4 to 6 teaspoons of Iranian cardamom-flavoured tea in a small pot placed on top of the hot water urn and kept warm, with porcelain teacups. We got fig preserves and honey for it. Best of both worlds :D
posted by I claim sanctuary at 12:03 AM on July 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

UK. I don't drink tea, but how I was taught (and how I continue to make it for family) is:
Put teabag in mug. Pour over just-boiled water. Wait for 20 seconds or so, maybe stir teabag a bit. Remove teabag from mug, add milk. I can't remember the last time I saw someone use a teapot. We don't even own one I don't think.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:29 AM on July 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

Another UK non-tea-drinker. My parents, and most people of their generation, never seemed to leave the teabag in for more than 30 seconds, sometimes with a good bit of stirring. When I've made tea that way, I did notice that stirring causes the tea to darken much faster than just leaving it to infuse. Another part of the ritual seems to be to leave the used teabag next to the sink for the teabag fairy to dispose of later.
posted by pipeski at 3:33 AM on July 9, 2019 [4 favorites]

I live in Australia.
At the office: get special ceramic cup from the cupboard, or look around everyone else’s desks for my special cup no one else is meant to use. Wash it out as needed. Get hot (boiling-ish) water from the Ziptap. Wait a minute or so for it to cool down. Put single-cup filter in, add a few balls of jasmine pearl tea (from T2, because I’m a little snobby but not enough to source my tea more authentically). Wait a few minutes, dive back into work, forget about the tea. Eventually pull out the filter, drink the now super-astringent tea (I kind of like it that way).

At home: dig out a teabag of orange pekoe (because that’s what my Canadian grandmother drank), boil the electric kettle, pour boiling water the second the kettle beeps, keep teabag in as I drink. No milk, no sugar.
posted by third word on a random page at 3:58 AM on July 9, 2019

My UK family members also are known to use one teabag for more than one mug of tea. The appropriate order of things is to arrange mugs by kettle whilst the water heats. Add splashes of milk and (if required sugar/sweetener) to mugs as per the intended drinkers’ preferences. Add teabag to the cup of the person who likes strong tea. Add boiling water and stir until required shade has been reached. Transfer teabag to mug of the person who likes middling strength of tea and keep stirring until their preferred shade is achieved. Note this will take significantly longer. If you are extremely tight and/or have somebody who likes milky water with a hint of tea/somebody you don’t like you can do one more transfer and repeat. Realistically, if you are making tea for more than three people you need a decent sized teapot, tea cozy etc. The appropriate tea to use is the supermarket own brand that is not the economy/value one but the one up from that.
posted by koahiatamadl at 4:04 AM on July 9, 2019

Canadian here.

Boil water, warm teapot, discard, add teabag (earl grey, twinings by preference,) pour water over. Put tea cosy on and steep 3-5 mins (I prefer the shorter end while my mom likes a longer steep.) We drink it without milk or sugar.

I keep a small teapot for when it’s just me; it makes just under 3 full mugs, which is enough to get me started.

Later in the day I drink herbal tea made the same way. I almost never wash the teapot.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 4:12 AM on July 9, 2019 [3 favorites]

I'm not a tea drinker, but in my parents' (Indian, living in the US for 30+ years) household, masala chai is fancy tea for guests. On a regular basis, my dad's the only one who drinks tea, and his morning routine is as follows:

Measure out one mug of freshly-drawn cold water into the pot. Bring to a boil, then add 1 heaping spoon of ground black tea and take the pot off the boil. Let it sit for about 3-4 minutes. Once ready to drink, add a splash of milk and sugar to taste and pour into mug.

The benefit of this method is that it doesn't require a strainer, as the tea grounds have settled to the bottom of the pot.
posted by basalganglia at 4:15 AM on July 9, 2019

Canadian with British-born parents:

At work (45ish minute intervals):

A mug with a strainer basket and a teaspoon of tea leaves (Murchies No. 10, Murchies Baker Street, Murchies Queen Victoria, Earl Grey). Boil kettle, pour over leaves, steep 2-3 minutes. Drink black as cannot be bothered to keep track of milk in work fridge.

At home (several times a day):

Boil kettle. Dump teabags and old tea out of Brown Betty pot (our pot also is coated in tannins!), add teabags (usual brands include Tetley, Yorkshire Gold, Typhoo, King Cole--never Red Rose or Liptons Yellow Label).

Fill teapot with water that is just off the boil, put cosy on and let steep. Ask who wants tea, get mugs lined up, mediate fights from the kids over who gets the kitty cup, who gets X cup etc. Add milk to mugs, and then swirl the teapot and check brew by pouring a bit into one of the kids' cups. Pour tea, comment on the quantity and configurations of "money bubbles" that appeared. Drink tea, and then line things up again for second cup, which is savoured more slowly.

We usually use mugs, but I prefer a teacup and saucer because it stays hot to the end of the cup. My sister likes her tea to steep until orange with a splash of milk, so she is definitely more on the Builders end of the spectrum.

In the summer, if there happens to be tea left in the pot later, I pour it over a glass of ice cubes and drink it iced. But usually that just means it is time to put the kettle on again.

At restaurant:

Get small metal teapot full of hot water. Add gross Red Rose teabag. Watch as the hot water gets slightly tinted. Remember that you are always disappointed when ordering tea while out. Tim Hortons is a little better, I get Earl Grey, no milk, bag in (but removed as soon as I get it from the handoff).
posted by ceithern at 5:12 AM on July 9, 2019

Pakistan here. This is what we call 'mix chai' and what I drink every morning.

Pan of water, about 1.25 cups. 1 teaspoon of black tea, strong, preferably from Pakistan or India. Optionally, and usually in winter, add 1 or 2 cardamon pods sliced open with your thumbnail. Bring to boil, let it boil until about 3/4 cup remains. Add whole milk to reach previous level. Once it approaches the boil reduce heat to a simmer so it doesn't boil over. Once it cooks down to a cup, pour through a strainer into your cup. Add sugar. Have another cup waiting. Pour back and forth a few times to get a nice foam. Drink.

To guests we serve 'dum wali chai' which is basically UK style tea. It used to always be loose leaf tea in a preheated teapot, served with a jug of warmed milk, and with a separate silver tea strainer, but today teabags have made inroads. The milk must always be warm, though.
posted by tavegyl at 5:24 AM on July 9, 2019 [4 favorites]

Oh and Kashmir chai is a traditional winter drink in Lahore's old city. It is made with green tea leaves that are boiled and whisked with a pinch of soda. This yields a pink concentrate. The concentrate is then cooked with milk to make a rich tea. Sugar and salt are both added, to taste. The tea is frothed up by pouring from a height and topped with chopped pistachios. This is the taste of winter in Lahore.
posted by tavegyl at 5:30 AM on July 9, 2019 [8 favorites]

Boil a pot of water. Tea bag waiting in cup. Fill up and steep for a few minutes. Add sugar and lemon. Drink.
posted by beccaj at 6:33 AM on July 9, 2019

Usual method: fill a mug with water and microwave till hot. Heavy mugs take more time since you are heating the mug as well as the water. Remove from microwave and add tea bag. Steep for 2 or 3 minutes. If impatient, stir while steeping.

For dinner, I use a big cup with 1 pint capacity. Approx 10 minutes before dinner is served, microwave 3 minutes, add decaf teabag. Ignore until serving.

For herb tea, I usually put the tea bag in the cup during microwaving. To my surprise, I once saw a suggestion to brew this way on a box of a black tea. I don't remember the brand.

I do not pretend to connoisseurship.
posted by SemiSalt at 6:47 AM on July 9, 2019

Depends on if I'm making tea or Tea. Plain tea- electric kettle to the boil, pour over tea bag in the mug, stir. Add milk sugar. Stir, take out tea bag. I use Tetley normally. PG Tips and a blend called Buckingham Palace from a local tea shop are also in use.

If I'm making Tea, electric kettle to boil, tea leaf into steeper, steeper into mug, pour over hot water, let it set for a 2-3 minutes, remove steeper, add sugar/milk.

If I'm making a pot, I warm the pot (its stainless steel), argue with people over how many bags (2-3), pour over water, let it set while eating dinner, then pour out.
posted by Ftsqg at 6:50 AM on July 9, 2019

  1. While a kettle of freshly-drawn cold water is boiling, find the teapot and dispose of the last brew. Rinse teapot in cold water only. (A teapot is a plain ceramic device designed to enable colonial caffeination. A teapot is never washed, merely rinsed.)
  2. Once kettle is boiled, quarter fill the teapot with boiling water. Let stand until you get the tea leaves and scoop.
  3. Dump out teapot water and reboil kettle. Measure out one scoop per person and one for the pot. (A tea scoop is somewhere between a dessert spoon and table spoon in size. Everyone's own scoop is the right size, everyone one visits uses the wrong size, resulting in either thin or stewed tea to be gossiped about later.)
  4. This is the most important part: Pour boiling water over tea leaves. The kettle still has to be bumping while you are pouring. Anything less is abject failure.
  5. Stir the pot once, put the lid on, and insert into tea cosy. (The ideal tea cosy does not cover the spout and handle of the teapot, for reasons one need not explain.)
  6. Allow tea to mash for five (5) minutes.
  7. Serve tea in china cups. Stoneware is adequate for immediate family. Mugs are for tradesmen.
  8. If milk is requested, enough cold fresh milk is put in the cup to just cover the base. Any more is baby tea, not to be served to those over the age of eight. (Milk in first is of course assumed. None in polite society would do anything else. Hot milk is for coffee. Condensed or evaporated milk is acceptable in the tropics only.)
  9. If sugar is requested, a third of a teaspoon of white sugar is placed in the cup, along with a faint look of disgust and the quiet incantation “Ah, you'll learn to like it without one day.”
  10. The tea is poured through the strainer into the cup. If you don't have a tea strainer, I have no further use for you.

posted by scruss at 7:14 AM on July 9, 2019 [3 favorites]

there is something called Thai Iced Tea which is four kinds of syrup and condensed milk over ice

I've made Thai iced tea so I can explain what it is!

The base tea is loose-leaf black tea with flavoring, usually various spices. (Probably the original version was made with plain tea and whole spices, but most restaurants are definitely using the flavored tea made specifically for this purpose.) In most recipes I've found, you take that tea, add some sugar, and boil the shit out of it - thus the sugar, it would be crazy bitter otherwise. Then you strain it, and now you have a sweetened spiced tea concentrate, to which you can add condensed milk or half-and-half (my preference).
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:37 AM on July 9, 2019 [4 favorites]

Also, as a North Carolinian, I'd guess that 80% of my lifetime black tea consumption has been sweet iced tea. My family used to do annual road trips from NC to Illinois, and we'd always look for the invisible boundary where ordering "iced tea" in restaurants went from meaning "sweet iced tea" to "unsweetened ice tea" (or, in the parlance of my people, "sweet tea" to "unsweet tea") by default.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:46 AM on July 9, 2019

showbiz_liz, for some reason, in Canada restaurants only do sweet tea. It's terrible, and I always forget until my first glass on visits home.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 8:10 AM on July 9, 2019

George Orwell wrote a nice essay about making tea, and ever since reading it I've preheated my mug before making black tea, and it comes out much better.
posted by momus_window at 8:12 AM on July 9, 2019

How my mom (midwestern) traditionally makes iced tea:

1. Open 10-12 Lipton tea bags, place them into the glass coffee pot at the bottom of the coffee maker.
2. Turn on the coffee maker without putting coffee in it, let it produce 4-5 cups of almost boiling water.
3. Get distracted by washing dishes, forget tea is brewing. After sink is empty (5-15 minutes), pull tea bags out of coffee pot.
4. Get out the big, orange iced tea pitcher (about 2L), and stand in front of the refrigerator hoping and praying that there is enough ice in it to fill up the pitcher.
5. Dump the tea from the coffee pot into the iced tea pitcher. Crackling commences. Stir.
6. Add 10-12 packets of Equal (“the blue packets”).
7. Place into fridge, drink by pouring over a pint glass full of ice over the next 4-5 days.

These days she uses an electric tea kettle, Splenda, and a couple of oversized “iced tea”-sized bags of Lipton, but that’s not the traditional recipe.
posted by asphericalcow at 8:24 AM on July 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

My American husband does Sun Tea. Which is basically a tonne of tea bags in cold water in a big gallon jar stuck in the sun for a few hours. It makes great Ice tea.

I was raised by working class British parents in Australia so the British side of me is all about tea that is hot, strong, milky with a tonne of sugar in and a biscuit to dip on the side (biscuit is NOT optional).

The Australian side of me goes screw this I'm going to the coffee shop for a Flat White but then my favorite coffee shop used to do the most amazing tea it was almost like a weird British Tea ceremony. You'd get these old industrial commercial metal jugs & pots with a teapot, pot of hot water, jug of milk, strainer, dish with sugar. Saucers & cups, a little plate with dipping biscuits on. Seriously the washing up costs alone for a $2 pot of tea must have eaten all the profits, but man I felt like an alchemist sitting there making the best damn cup of tea I've ever had.
posted by wwax at 8:31 AM on July 9, 2019

Your description with the long steep and evaporated milk reminds me a lot of how the Newfoundlanders I've known drink their tea. My mother, Canadian with Scottish war bride mother, drinks tea the colour of "river water" with milk of no greater fat content then 2%. Sugar optional. I have a tea snob partner, she's really very polite, with an account with a tea wholesaler (so pretty serious tea drinker) - she's a long steep (loose leaves or good quality bags) with milk (not skim but definitely not cream) and sometimes sugar. Me I'm loose leaf tea drinker almost exclusively, 2 minute steep and a 30 second rest, and have come to prefer estate and single origin teas as I generally don't take milk or sugar but I do sometimes take honey. Water quality I find greatly affects the final product - we have hard water so I prefer it generally weaker. When I'm having it in softer water I prefer it stronger.

There's, perhaps unsurprisingly, a lot of science out there on how to brew a perfect cup of tea. The Royal Society of Chemistry has weighed in on the subject (TLDR - Soft water, boiled, loose leaf tea, steep 3 minutes, warm mug, MILK first then tea and drink at 60 to 64 Celsius. Science on green tea in bags seems to indicate that microwaving is a good idea and that PH impacts the brewing.
posted by Ashwagandha at 9:19 AM on July 9, 2019

US, east coast; my family were coffee drinkers, so this is something I've come up with myself, though my aunt took me to fancy little tea rooms when I was younger so maybe that's where this comes from . . . .

1. Excellent quality loose leaf tea. My local tea source is closing this year and now I'm going to have to order from Simpson and Vail or maybe Harney and Sons. Sigh.
2. 3 teaspoons in the teapot--one for me, one for my partner, one for the pot. (I usually use the tablespoon measure)
3. Boil water in tea kettle. Ready when it whistles.
4. Pour boiling water over the tea leaves.
5. Steep properly. Typically 2-5 minutes, but this really depends on the type of tea. When I first buy a batch of tea, I'll test out the steeping times and then stick with that. My current black tea is a two-minute tea.
6. Strain into mugs. If it is winter, mugs will be pre-heated with extra boiling water while the tea steeps; the water is then dumped into the dish bin before the tea is strained into it.
7. Drink (black) over breakfast while watching squirrels and sparrows in the tree outside the window.

This is my usual breakfast tea. I make herbal and fruit teas/tisanes similarly, and will use bagged tea at the office or on trips or whatnot. I'm more likely to add milk or half and half to bagged black tea. Honey sometimes to mint tea. Iced tea is usually made the same way then stuck in the fridge to cool in quart jars. Or, pour a mug of extra-strong hot tea over a glass of ice cubes if you're in a hurry.
posted by carrioncomfort at 9:47 AM on July 9, 2019

It's not where I'm from, but I once visited a family friend in Guangzhou, China and he insisted on teaching me what he considerd the right way to make tea, as Gong Fu Cha. You can read about it in great detail here.
posted by Quonab at 10:01 AM on July 9, 2019

In The Village:

Number 6 Makes Tea in "A Change of Mind."
posted by Rash at 11:18 AM on July 9, 2019

I always preheat the mug, because otherwise the tea gets cold halfway through the cup unless I slam it down. We get a lot of tea from Adagio, and are especially fond of some of the fandom teas. Warm Hugs and Bone Daddy are both household staples.

Fancy Tea Prep:
Preheat mug (fill with hot water from tap). Turn on electric kettle.
Measure tea (1 tsp? more? Daughter usually does this) into strainer that sits on top of mug. Optionally, use tiny teapot that holds about 12 oz of water.
When kettle whistles, empty mug.
Put strainer on mug. Pour boiling or near-boiling water over tea. Cover.
Wait an amount of time daughter has decided works for tea (2-5 min, depending on instructions that came with the tea).
Remove cover, remove strainer and let daughter whisk that away to wherever she puts dirty dishes.
Add brown sugar (1 heaping teaspoon) & stir.
Sometimes add splash of half-and-half. Do not stir; the motion from the sugar stirring will blend that in by the time it's cool enough to drink.

Less Fancy Tea Prep:
Prep cup and water (this is the same for everything.)
Put tea in a strainer that goes in the water. Usually one of these but occasionally we use the cute one. (The cute one is not as good; the holes are too big and you wind up with leaf bits in the water. But it's cute enough that that's okay sometimes.)
Wait 2-5 minutes, as above. Take out tea strainer and place it on edge of small plate of cookies served with tea. If no plate exists, grumble to daughter that cookies are missing.
Add brown sugar, stir; add half-and-half if desired.

Degenerate Fake Tea Prep:
Heat cup. Turn on water.
Put 1 scoop of Trader Joe's Spicy Chai Tea Latte Mix in cup.
Pour hot water over. Stir. Wait 2-5 minutes for cooldown. Drink.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 12:12 PM on July 9, 2019

"Tea" in my life occupies some very distinctly different periods, as a result of various life influences and experiences. For the record: Born in Eastern CT, USA, to British-Isles-and-Canadian-mutt mother and British-Isles-and-Polish-Mutt father.

Birth to College:

Tea is rarely drunk at all. When it is, it is a mug of something made using a tea bag, laced with milk and sugar (if black tea) or nothing (if a tisane).

1988 to 1991:

Usually loose leaf, in a spring-loaded mesh doohickey thing that I could use in a mug in lieu of a tea bag. Edging towards black tea exclusively, still with milk and sugar.

1991 through the late 1990s:

The I've-been-to-Ireland years. Loose, in a proper teapot. I am given a complete - if charmingly mis-matched - tea set by a set of neighborhood mums where I grew up as a collective college graduation gift, and I am ridiculously proud when a friend admiringly tells someone that "EC makes tea the real way." Irish Breakfast takes focus. Alternately - pure peppermint iced tea, made by shoving a handful of teabags into a pitcher of water and sticking it in the fridge. Discovered to be a lifesaver in a sweatbox of a Lower East Side Apartment that had no airconditioning.


The Theater Years. No time for tea, coffee is the bigger caffeine hit. Although a late discovery of Genmai green tea causes a dusting-off of the mesh doohickey because of genmai's fascinatingly different popcorn smell. Genmai is drunk straight, with no milk or sugar.


Re-adoption of tea as a beverage, partly for the enjoyment of same and partly because of several years' worth of friends and family members resorting to "I know! Tea!" when stuck for a gift idea, and a dear friend's gift of his late mother's tea service when he was cleaning out her house, because "she always loved you and I know she'd love you to have it." (you cannot say no to that kind of comment.)

Currently takes one of the following forms:

* Tea bag from the finally-dwindling collection of tea bags (Barrys' Irish Breakfast, which was stumbled upon in the local grocery store, or one of the hodgepodge of tisanes still lurking in the house), in a mug.
* Loose tea in the springloaded doohickey, in a mug, if a single cup. Can be either black or genmai or jasmine; all of which have been procured at one of the various foofy tea shops I've been to on various travels or at the adorable little startup tea spot I discovered in Bed-Stuy where I ended up being their first customer at their brick-and-mortar location and they were wildly excited. (Plus they have chocolate Earl Gray so HELLO THERE.)
* A pot of tea made from the smaller pot that I picked up to go with my friend's mum's tea set. Sometimes loose, sometimes bags, sometimes herbal. Sometimes even chai. Always served with a plate of cookies.
* An even bigger pot of herbal tea made when I prune my overactive lemon verbena plant on my windowsill, using the giant-monstro teapot found abandoned on a stoop. Invariably I only have two of the resultant ten cups and then decant the rest into a jar to be iced tea.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:14 PM on July 9, 2019

I've become partial to the style used in many Chinese restaurants, where tea leaves (or bags, at cheaper places) are left in the water and the character of the tea changes (from lighter to richer) as poured. Then when you need a refresh/ just add more water and let it resume steeping. Note it has to be drunk fairly quickly to avoid getting very bitter and over-steeped. Though if over-steeped, adding more water is fine.

At home, I pull out the strainer with leaves when it starts to get overdone, but I do make multiple pots with the same leaves.

Sugar and milk are both insults to good tea, as is steeping for too long.
posted by Lady Li at 2:28 PM on July 9, 2019

My ``how it's done where you are'' is either incoherent or comprehensive, depending on how you look at it -- one grandmother is of the sweet premade tea region but never made any that I knew of; the other went to (also eloped from) a Yankee finishing school and made tea with a full set including slops bowl on the rare occasions she wasn't having gin. I was a kid and teenager in the pre-boom PNW and my friends and their parents were (approximately) more-than-fourth-generation British or Nordic extraction, usually post-tea, maybe Red Rose bags; second to fourth generation Japanese extraction, crazy strong green (looseleaf) tea for everyday but at least some of their mothers occasionally performed the tea ceremony; slightly more recent Chinese extraction, oolongs or other fermentations drunk with many washings of the leaves; and very recent immigrants/refugees/mathematicians/chessplayers from the USSR or Middle East: so black. So bitter.

But mostly the espresso revolution was sweeping all dried leaves away to Valambrossa.

I like tea all these ways, and used to have way too much equipment for it, but now mostly use a tilting teacup that is fine for strong black tea and excellent for re-brewing. Needs a lid for cold days -- maybe I'll print one.
posted by clew at 3:03 PM on July 9, 2019

Hyderabad, Deccan (Irani Chai):

50/50 milk and water. Bring to boil and then lower to simmer. Add 1 tsp Black Indian (Assam or Nilgiri) tea per cup of liquid + 1 for the pot. Simmer for 2 minutes. Strain, add sugar to taste.

For Spicy Chai. Add one of Cardamom(2 pods cracked), Cloves (2-3 lightly bruised), or Cinnamon Stick (1/2 inch) with the tea.

For Colds: Add freshly grated Ginger (1/4 in piece) in the last 30 seconds of the steeping of the tea before straining.
posted by indianbadger1 at 4:14 PM on July 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

omg I love tea culture

Growing up in the Midwest: place water and Bigelow tea bag in mug. Place mug in microwave. Microwave 2 min. Remove tea bag, add sugar, drink.

As an adult married to a Brit/Australian: boil water in kettle. Warm mug with boiled water; discard. Pour boiled water over teabag (Yorkshire for my husband, UK Twinings English Breakfast for me). Allow to steep 3-4 (me) or 5-6 (him) minutes. Add spoonful of sugar (me) and milk. Consume immediately, or alternatively set it down while chasing small children around, forget about it, and forlornly pour out the full mug a half hour later when it’s rediscovered.

Literally the biggest point of tension between my husband and my mother is whether or not teabags are reusable (husband is horrified by this) and whether kettle boiled water is better than microwaved water (mother scoffs at this).
posted by olinerd at 4:41 PM on July 9, 2019

Put rolled green or oolong tea in a mug, maybe a tablespoon or more. Pour boiling or near boiling water in. Wait about 30 seconds and taste to see if it's good yet. Drink, trying not to swallow the leaves. If the tea gets too strong, put in some more hot water. If you want a drink, but there is no more liquid, add more water. You can add water several times. I started drinking it like this after being influenced by a Chinese friend. I recently learned that people call it grandpa style. I like it because it's flexible with respect to nearly every variable and easy to adjust if it isn't quite right.
posted by SandiBeech at 8:40 PM on July 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

New Zealand.
PG tips, usually.
Tea bag in mug. Boiling water over it. Steep 3-4 minutes. Tea bag gets removed or stays in depending on how you feel. Splash of milk. Sugar if you have had a rough day, but usually not. Drink.

Boil kettle for the next cup as soon as you're finished the previous one.
posted by gaspode at 9:30 AM on July 10, 2019

I once bought a Japanese teapot that had an informative card on it. The instructions on that card suggested that you fill each mug with boiling water, and tip the mugs into the pot. Perfectly measured, and the mugs get pre-warmed. Rather clever, really.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 2:40 PM on July 10, 2019

1. Boil water in an electric kettle.
2. Pour over a Red Rose teabag in a mug with one packet of artificial sweetner.
3. Steep 2 or 3 minutes
4. Pull bag, add a dash of almond milk and stir.

Repeat twice daily.

I've been through years where it was loose leaf tea only, but I got lazy recently.

Also, the mention of barry's above reminds me I haven't had Barry's in a couple of years. It may be time to change tea brands again.
posted by COD at 6:11 PM on July 11, 2019

every place has standards for proper preparation

The international standard for how to make tea is ISO 3103, "Preparation of a liquor of tea for use in sensory tests". Note that they carefully avoided controversy on the highly-charged issue of whether to pour the milk or the tea first:
Prepare the liquor as described in 7.2.1 but pour it into the bowl after the milk, in order to avoid scalding the milk, unless this procedure is contrary to the normal practice in the organization concerned.
posted by offog at 4:36 AM on July 14, 2019

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