An Introduction To English Low Tea

Do you fancy an english low tea party? Learn how to do it properly.

English teas are renowned throughout the world for their flavor and relaxing qualities. For a while, however, tea was considered an older, almost "quaint" drink. Today tea is rapidly becoming hip in the United States. Tea houses and coffee shops are being combined into a new social hub for gatherings and work.

History first officially records tea drinking in China around 350 BC, but it could have been used as far back as 2000 BC. It reached Japan in 590 AD. Brought from Asia into England, the first mention of tea in English literature actually came from a monk in 1557. There is another, more famous mention in 1559. During the seventeenth century in England, coffee was extremely popular, tea was hardly anywhere to be found. When Charles II took the throne with his tea-drinking Portuguese wife, tea suddenly spread through the English Court to become the rage in London. This custom spread to the American colonies until members of the Boston Tea Party urged a boycott against tea and all things British, for that matter. For this reason, British citizens still drink several cups of tea a day, while in America tea is just becoming popular.

There is, therefore, a proper way to brew English tea. The teapot itself should be warmed in a stove or in a tub of boiling water before the tea leaves are placed into its bowl. Then boiling water should be poured over the leaves to step for five to seven minutes. Sugar cubes should be added after tea is prepared; milk before the tea enters the teacup. An infuser can be used to extract a richer taste from tea leaves. Water should never be boiled twice, as this creates a flat taste. Water may be added to the teapot to allow the tea leaves to steep fluidly while the first cup is drunk, and a tea cozy is necessary for keeping the teapot warm.

It follows naturally that there is a way to serve English tea. No cup of British tea is ever served simply in a saucer. There must be a small teapot, a tray, a sugar holder, a milk pitcher, tongs for sugar cubes, a saucer, a cup, and the tea itself. Tea should be poured with one hand carefully on the top lid so that it does not fall forward. English four o'clock tea should be served with cakes or cookies. Dipping things into tea is never acceptable in polite company. The word "tea" is sometimes another word for lunch.

It is possible, in this day and age, to use an instant tea bag to make a cup of tea. The use of these bags is becoming popular in Britain, but only in the use of pots of tea. The British have no use for smaller teabags and cups. Tea by the potful is the proper way to do things. Iced tea is always brewed by the pot as well, and as a consequence it usually needs much sugar before serving. To distinguish a British tea from another sort, note that British teas are almost always black teas that retain their flavor when diluted.

Therefore, for the converted British tea connoisseur, the following is a list of the five most popular British teas and a description of each:

Darjeeling: An Indian tea. Contains a slightly exotic flavor with hints of darker spices.

Imperial Gunpowder: The dried leaves have the color and texture of old Gunpowder. A strong, slightly bitter taste.

Earl Grey: Refers to London Fog, a highly flavored tea that utilizes the oil of bergamot, an orange-like citrus fruit.

English Rose: So called because roses are steeped to flavor it. A musky, full taste that is good for tea parties.

In conclusion, English tea is a ritual that demands respect. Take care to follow the rules of British presentation, and you'll never languish for a proper tea party again.

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