Skip to main content

How to Make a Great Cup of Tea

In the UK people love their afternoon tea so they know how to make a very good cuppa! Here's how they do it.

A Perfect Cup of Tea

Cup of tea and chocolates

Cup of tea and chocolates

The British Way of Making the best Cup of Tea

Here's how to make a great British cup of tea - how am I qualified to advise you? Well, I live in London and I used to work in a 'caff' (cafe) in the heart of Camden, where they taught me to brew the best tea in town!

We all know that there's nothing more British than a good cup of tea. This is a tradition that came about during the 17th Century when China exported tea to British India and the British controlled tea production in the subcontinent.

There are references to drinking tea in Samuel Pepys's Diary in 1660:

"We talked together of the interest of this kingdom to have a peace with Spain and a war with France and Holland... And afterwards did send for a Cupp of Tee (a China drink) of which I never had before, and went away."

Samuel Pepys, Diary, 25 Sept.

Tea is served everywhere in the UK, hospitals, school staff rooms, prisons, and in meetings of every description! It is a social custom that helps breaks the ice, calm the nerves, warm the soul, and lift the spirit.

But should you pour the milk first? Does you little finger make any difference at all to the taste of the tea? Are bone china cups necessary? Should the water be boiling before you pour it in the teapot? What teapot is best?

Find the answers to these and more fascinating questions about the art of making a perfect cup of tea from experts from Fortnum & Mason - scroll down to find their videos.

Please leave a comment before you go. Ta ta from London!

Tea in the Garden

Tea in the Garden

Tea in the Garden

Tea in the UK

Tea drinking is something the British do every day, and although coffee is now also very popular, you will more than likely be offered a cup of tea if you pop next door to visit your neighbour or if someone invites you home in the afternoon. In the summer time people sit in their gardens and are refreshed by their cup of tea, and in the winter that same cup of tea will warm them up.

Although I am Italian, I was born in London and I have lived here all my life so I have completely embraced this wonderful tradition of drinking afternoon tea. We drink tea every day. We usually guzzle it down in large mugs and make it with tea bags bought in the local supermarket, but on special occasions we get out our best china tea service and do it the proper way, with all the ritual, taking great care to follow the tradition completely.

The British Tea Making Ritual

This is how we make a perfect cup of tea in the UK. Have a go!

Step 1: The Water

The water should be drawn freshly from the cold tap. Do not use any water that may be still in the kettle from earlier in the day. Tip that away. I usually use it to water my plants.

The water should be just at boiling point, no more, do not let it boil - this is very difficult to judge, so don't worry if it does!

A kettle

A kettle

Step 2 - Warm Your Teapot

This is a very important part of the process because otherwise the tea will become cold before it has a chance to brew.

When the water in the kettle is about to boil pour some into your tea pot. Swill it around to warm the pot and then throw it away.

Scroll to Continue

The tea pot will now be nice a warm, ready for the tea.


Step 3 - Put the Tea in the Tea Pot

Use one teaspoon for each person, and an extra one for the pot if you like it strong.


Step 4 - Add the Hot Water

Carefully pour the boiling water in the tea pot. Fill it to the brim.

Making a cup of tea

Making a cup of tea

Step 5 - Let it brew

Another very important stage is to wait for the tea to brew. Let it stand for 3 minutes. If you like it stronger then you should leave it for a full 5 minutes. You can use a tea cosy for this if you have one, or wrap a tea towel round the pot to keep it nice and warm.

Tea pot with watch

Tea pot with watch

Step 6 - What you need

China cups are by far the best - nobody really knows why but it does alter the flavor of the tea.

While the tea is brewing prepare the table: With your cup and saucer, tea strainer, a small jug of boiling water to top up the tea pot, milk, (or you may prefer a slice of lemon), sugar, and something sweet. In this case I have chosen to serve chocolate Easter eggs. If you don't take sugar, then a piece of cake, or a sweet biscuit will make the tea taste delicious.

We say that the tea is 'too wet' without a biscuit!

A china tea set

A china tea set

Step 7 - Stir The Pot

Halfway through the brewing time give your tea pot a quick stir. This will make the tea a bit stronger and it will taste richer.

Tea brewing in a tea pot

Tea brewing in a tea pot

Step 8 - Milk Next?

Years ago, when tea cups were not all made of good quality china, it was necessary to put the milk in first otherwise the delicate cup might crack.

These days that doesn't happen, so it is perfectly OK to put the milk in after the tea is poured. That way you can regulate how strong you would like it.

However you will see in the videos that it is a contentious issue!

Use a tea strainer to pour into your cup, relax enjoy your delicious pick-me-up.


A Tea Plantation

Tea Plants

Tea Plants

Different Kinds of Tea

  • Black Teas: These are the teas you use milk or lemon with. The most famous ones are Assam, Darjeeling, Ceylon, Earl Grey, Chai. They can be bought with fruit and spices in them like oranges, vanilla, mint, apricots, mangoes and apple. Or you can buy them with flowers added such as rose and lavender. These should not be served with milk.
  • Green Teas: These are made in a different way than the black tea they are just picked and dried so oxidation doesn't happen. These are very good for you because they are full of vitamins and antioxidants. They are delicious and healthy. Green teas come from Japan and China and can be flavoured with jasmine. Some are so beautiful that they have hand tied jasmine flowers in with the tea. They look amazing in the cup. Milk should not be used with green teas.
  • White Teas: This tea is very rare because it can only be harvested for a couple of weeks the year. They are an antioxidant and detoxifying and have very well documented health benefits.They have names like 'White Pearls' and 'White Peony', and are made in China, and the methods they use for growing it is a secret.
  • Oolong teas: These come from China and Taiwan. They are fermented teas and are good for digestion. Recent research shows that they help the body break down fat so they are becoming very popular. One is called 'Iron Goddess of Mercy', and the best quality is called 'Formosa', which is what the Portuguese called it. Again milk should not be added to this tea.

How to Make Devonshire Cream Tea Scones

These are served at Fortnum and Mason. They are a Devonshire Tradition that has spread all through the UK - and beyond! They are absolutely delicious - try them and let me know what you think by leaving a comment at the bottom of this Hub.

Brewed or Stewed

How to Make a Delicious Very Strong Cup of Tea

I once went to visit a new colleague who greeted me at her front door with these words, 'Hello, so glad you could make it, would you like a cup of ordinary tea or strong tea?'

I was a bit thrown by this because I thought I was a tea connoisseur, so I had to ask her what the difference was. She explained that in her household they have a kettle on the stove that brews slowly all day long and that it is full of tea. They let it simmer gently so that it becomes very strong.

I was astonished because I'd never come across this way of making tea before. We would describe such tea as 'stewed'. So I tried it and it was absolutely delicious!

It was very strong and full of flavor and the aroma was so inviting. It was a complete pick me up, and I remember thinking that I could easily become addicted to it!

When I told my husband about it he was amazed too because his mum used to have the kettle on all day long when he was a boy, and they literally drank tea all through the day.

I enjoyed that cup of tea so much that I have never forgotten it.Has anyone else heard of this way of making tea? Please do leave a comment if you have.

Fortnum and Mason and Afternoon Tea - All About the wonderfully traditional afternoon tea they serve in this historic store

Being a Londoner gives you certain privileges, and Fortnum and Mason is one of them. Taking afternoon tea here is such a special thing to do. It really does make you feel that little bit special!

Are You A Tea Drinker?

Which are you?

© 2013 Giovanna

Is this how you make your tea? - Please do leave a comment

Giovanna (author) from UK on April 29, 2015:

I really couldn't be without my tea. They don't drink it in Italy and when I go there I make sure I bring my own form the UK. Thanks for reading my hub. I really do appreciate it.

Besarien from South Florida on April 22, 2015:

I am so pleased I have been making it right all these years! I have a very sweet little Royal Dalton teapot a relative brought back from over there. It would hurt me if it ever breaks. I am the only one who will drink hot tea at my house. My husband will drink my PG Tips leftovers as iced tea sometimes. My son is against all forms of caffeine. He will be the only person I know who will be functional if the supply dries up.

Giovanna (author) from UK on July 09, 2014:

@junecampbell: Thank you. Do you know my best friend is English through and through and she hates tea! Funny isn't it! I always buy fruity tea bags for her. Thanks very much indeed for your visit and comment. (Your secret is safe with me!)

Giovanna (author) from UK on July 09, 2014:

@Elyn MacInnis: I drink green tea every day because I believe it's very good for you. I'll let the water cool a bit then! I'd love to visit China - it must be a fascinating place! Thanks very much for your visit.

Elyn MacInnis from Shanghai, China on July 09, 2014:

I love black tea - it is my favorite. I live in China, and they mostly drink green tea where I live. It's okay - but I always have black tea for breakfast. If you use green tea, they say you should let the water cool to 90 degrees C to get the best cup. I am impatient, so am also glad that I can just pour boiling water in the pot! Great lens. I especially enjoyed the link to the article on why teapots dribble. Fascinating!

June Campbell from North Vancouver, BC, Canada on July 09, 2014:

My dirty little secret is that I do not like tea. That is scandalous to admit, because my mother was English and my father Irish. Nevertheless, I am a committed coffee drinker. I don't mind herbal teas though. Incidentally, You have some wonderful photos on this lens. I loved looking at them.

Giovanna (author) from UK on May 11, 2014:

@Gypzeerose: Thank you so much - I'm so happy that you like it. Thanks for sharing it and for your visit.

Rose Jones on May 11, 2014:

This is a fabulous lens. Pinned to my tea and coffee board, social bookmarked and linked to my own lens: - a tribute lens to my Anglophile sister.

Giovanna (author) from UK on May 10, 2014:

@ChocolateLily: Ah! Then you'll miss all the ritual. Never mind a nice mug of strong tea goes down very well! Thanks for your visit.

ChocolateLily on May 09, 2014:

Loosely, haha! I usually use tea bags as they are more readily available here.

Giovanna (author) from UK on March 29, 2014:

@glowchick: They are so beautiful and delicious. Thanks for your visit and your kind comment.

glowchick on March 29, 2014:

Since my family discovered Teavana teas we have all these wonderful items to make the perfect cup of tea. Great lens!

Giovanna (author) from UK on February 27, 2014:

@Sir Daniel UK: Enjoy! Do you have a delicious chocolate biscuit to dunk in it? Tea is too wet without one :)

Danny Gibson from Northampton on February 27, 2014:

How true, all of it. This lady tells no lie!Right, I'm off to make a ...

Giovanna (author) from UK on February 08, 2014:

@Andy-Po: Hello - I'm afraid the dust from the floor is used! I was visited a tea plantation in Bangladesh and the powder on the floor was swept up and piled high ready for bags!! I must say I was shocked by the working conditions so I always buy fair trade. The tea leaves were divided just as you describe. Thanks for your visit and for your very informative comment.

Andy-Po on February 08, 2014:

I do love a proper cup of tea, but even here in England it is becoming harder to find a proper pot of tea in a cafe (rather than a pot with a couple of teabags in) and even my parents have started using teabags! I went to a tea plantation in Malaysia where on the tour they said the first three leaves are picked from each twig and the first leaf from each is put in one basket (The highest quality tea), the second in another and the third in the lowest quality basket and the tiny "tips" (the bud of the next leaf to be formed) they kept for themselves. This is how the tea was graded into different qualities; The older, larger leaves contain more tannin and are more bitter. Someone asked which leaf they used for teabags and they said (jokingly, I assume) that they used the dust from the floor.

Giovanna (author) from UK on January 29, 2014:

@Brite-Ideas: Hello my husband is Scottish and his dad left a pot brewing on all day - just simmering -perhaps that's what your friends did. I've never tried that!! Thanks for your visit and comment.

Barbara Tremblay Cipak from Toronto, Canada on January 29, 2014:

I remember my Scottish best friend back many decades ago - her family made the best tea I ever tasted in my life! still haven't been able to match their tea - will try your tips to see if it helps me make a better cup of tea :)

Giovanna (author) from UK on January 23, 2014:

@Justillin: Lol! Absolutely right! Thanks for your comment.

Jill Hart from Weston, Idaho on January 23, 2014:

important information here :)

Giovanna (author) from UK on January 19, 2014:

@evawrites1: Sorry! me must be catchy!

evawrites1 on January 19, 2014:

I love tea and now I feel like I need that Breville thing...

Giovanna (author) from UK on November 18, 2013:

@Richardisonline1: Don't forget that tea is too wet without a biscuit! Enjoy -there's nothing like a nice cup of tea. Thanks for your visit and for your great comment.

Richardisonline1 on November 18, 2013:

Oh I love a nice cup of tea especially green tea. My favourite and has been for some time now. But after reading through your content and seeing all your great pictures I really would like a nice cuppa tea right now. So i'm off to make one. Cheers

Giovanna (author) from UK on October 29, 2013:

@smine27: That's great to hear! Thanks for leaving a comment.

Shinichi Mine from Tokyo, Japan on October 28, 2013:

OH I love love love tea make in the British way. I especially like them with scones!

Giovanna (author) from UK on April 06, 2013:

@anonymous: Great are you in the UK?

anonymous on April 06, 2013:

No, but my wife usually makes it this way.

Related Articles