Reg readers scuffle over the ultimate cuppa

Brews for all tastes, with a nasty dash of 'cofftea'

Poll We weren't much surprised that last week's call for readers to explain just what makes the ultimate cuppa resulted in a rush of experts eager to chip in their two bits' worth, offering some strong opinions, and even stronger brews, as evidenced by tales of billy-can-boiled industrial-strength infusions sweetened with condensed milk and shovelfuls of white sugar.

Mug with our Vulture logoWhile such concoctions may offend the delicate sensibilities of the tea-sipping gourmet, they do at least fall within the broad classification of "cuppa", unlike the satanic melange which is known to its disciples as "cofftea".

Yup, it didn't take one Reg reader to stray from the path of righteousness with a chilling recipe for this "fatigue-defying nectar" comprising "mug of boiling water + 2 teabags, stew to oblivion and add 2 or 3 spoonfuls of good instant coffee...add milk or, ideally, powdered creamer like CoffeeMate".

"You sick, sick man," responded one shaken reader, who presumably then needed a sit down and a nice cup of tea with a healthy shot of whisky to recover from the shock.

A man shouting angrily

Cofftea? NOOOOOO!

By way of warning, the perpetrator of this outrage is banned from El Reg for a month, as are those who interpreted our invitation to discuss tea as a cue to bang on about their favourite coffee. As one participant put it: "This is no place for coffee drinkers. Let them go to perdition for the nasty foreigners and traitors they surely are."

Quite so. Now, having dealt with the punitive formalities, we can get down to business. The following selection of contributions demonstrates the breadth of ritual practised by worshippers at the Church of Cha:

1. Mug
2. Tea, normal English (e.g. Yorkshire) brewed strong as death
3. Milk, skimmed or semi-skimmed, just a spot
No sugar. That's for coffee, and even then it should be brown.

That's Richard 81's basic take. Seanmon, "a man who used to run a cafe", reckoned:

Old lady with cuppa

Don't forget the cosy, dear

First, you need a teapot. Decent tea can't be made in a cup. Second, you need a teacosy for that pot. Your Gran didn't get to be that old without learning a few things y'know.

The correct ratio is 3 teabags to 750ml of water - i.e approx 1 per mug. Many teabags are acceptable - Nambarrie for me, however Yorkshire, 99, co-op own brand or, in a pinch, Scottish blend are OK. The only thing that's not really acceptable is Tetley's.

The water should be poured into the (warmed!) pot at boiling point, so a little splashes out onto your hands. Anything worth having requires a little sacrifice. Also, the pot should contain the very dregs of the last brew - a useful technique here is to drain the pot, then squeeze the dregs out of the discarded teabags back in.

Leave it for at least 5 minutes - this is where that teacosy comes in. In the meantime, fill your mug with boiling water to get it nice and hot. Discard before serving, obviously.

The tea should be poured onto the veriest dribble of milk - I define the amount as "slightly more than no point."

Adam Titmus is also a pot aficionado. Here's his recipe:

1. Warm the pot.
2: Loose tea (I use Yorkshire Gold normally, although I've had good Kenyan and Assam blends at one time or another) - 1 heaped teaspoonful + 1 per mug.
3: Fresh boiling water, roughly half a pint per half pint mug, but reducing per mug (the amount absorbed by the tea leaves offsets the volume of milk for the first mug, less so for multiple mugs.)
4: Stand for 3 minutes.
5: 60ml full fat milk and one and a half heaped teaspoonfuls of sugar (down from NATO-standard two in my youth) per half pint mug.
6: Pour tea in last, through your favourite strainer.
7: Stir!
8: Drink.

If that seems like a right palaver, here's another no-frills approach, favoured by Jim Barter:

I prefer Yorkshire tea, 1 clean mug, boiling water onto the bag (Sheffield water is the best in the country) (and not just off the boil either...pah) Steep for 2 minutes then agitate and compress the bag on withdrawal, add a dash of milk, no sugar.

No ginger nut warning signJim then breaks the "no discussion on biscuits" rule by adding: "A nice shortbread or Rich Tea is entirely suitable, sometimes a Ginger Nut if feeling adventurous."

As we've already said, we're leaving the ultimate biccie debate until a later date, at which point the Chocolate Digestive will most certainly triumph. Furthermore, we have no desire to hear about Jim getting adventurous with his Ginger Nuts.

So, moving swiftly on, let's hear from Mr Davis, who admitted to becoming "pretty obsessed with my tea brewing:

Mr Davis's mug covered in tinfoilMug must be pre-warmed. One tea bag in cup – Yorkshire Gold or Yorkshire tea if no Yorkshire Gold available. Anything else then teabag must be left in. The second the water boils get it into the cup. Cover the top of the cup, I use tinfoil (see attached).

This really does work well and improves the flavour better than using two bags. Leave for 10 - 15 minutes. Any longer and it needs a re-heat for 15 seconds in the microwave. Add the tiniest drop of milk.

Interesting methodology. Joe Beaumont opined:

Bag: PG Tips for a work-a-day brew or Yorkshire Gold for a more mellow infusion.
Water: Tap (not filtered) and freshly drawn into the kettle.
Pour: Bag in first. Pour the just boiled (NOT boiling) water directly onto the bag. Pour in from a great height so you get more air (and thus more oxygen) in the mix. I swear by this bit, although it does look (and sound) odd.
Brew: As long as desired.
Milk: In last.
Sugar: I’m not even entertaining the idea.

Shultz agreeably proposed a quick shufti at The Register might form an integral part of the tea ceremony:

(1) Start the boiler
(2) Read a climate change / no change article on El Reg (gets your blood pressure high enough to get up again)
(3) Pour hot water over tea / tea bag
(4) Post an 85 word comment about the (lack of) science on climate change
(5) Remove tea / tea bag and add a little milk
(6) Read the rest of El Reg, sip your tea, and relax

And finally, here's TRT's method for the engineers among you:

Man stoking boiler in steam engine cab

Right, I'll just stick the kettle on

(1) Throw a scoop of tea leaves into the stoker's pot with water drawn off from the cylinder cock drain valve. Stir with a spanner.
(2) Leave on the hotplate next to the firebox for about six miles.
(3) Tie a rope onto the handle and spin furiously around out of the cab between stations to centrifuge down the leaves.
(4) Pour the supernatant into two enamel mugs, each with a generous splash of unpasteurized milk. Use a coal hammer to knock a lump off the sugarloaf kept wrapped in brown parcel paper and drop in mug.
(5) Hand one mug to the driver and enjoy, ignoring the oil slick on the top, as that's what gives it the flavour.

Next page: What tea?

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