It’s no secret that Team Epic Reads is a big fan of tea, but being total Ammmurrricans, we don’t really know anything beyond hot water + tea in a bag = tea time. So, we decided to consult an expert. Sarah Crossan is the author of Breathe and Resist and an all around tea aficionado. Once, we even gave her a blind taste test to see if should discern the difference between various black teas and she got them all correct. It was magical. So if you’re someone who is from a country where afternoon tea isn’t a thing, here is your complete guide!
A Complete Guide to Afternoon Tea
So how do you enjoy your teatime? Do you make tea with loose leaves and a Victorian teapot, or perhaps you go for a fancy tea bag and a china mug? Are cookies involved? Do you, heaven forbid, dunk your snacks in the tea?
Well, the bad news is that afternoon tea traditionally follows a pretty strict regimen and not all practices are equally valued. However, the good news is that I’m not planning to lecture you about what you’re doing wrong. Instead, I’d like to open the door into my own teatime world and give you some top tips for making your teatime perfectly you!
Okay, let’s make a start.
1. What are we drinking from? If you’re with friends you might use a teapot and some cups, but most of us writers and readers drink alone (you know what I mean), so we have to opt for the single mug option. Choosing a mug is very important and also completely a matter of personal choice. You have to love how the mug looks, but also the feel of the handle between your fingers. I have two mugs I drink from when I write—both with a literary bent—and I like a large mug so I have plenty of tea to drink while I’m wondering how to kill off my characters—it’s emotional.
2. Next, we have to choose our tea. Again, the choice is yours and depends on your palate. Some people like it sweet and fruity, some like it black with no sugar. Experiment with different flavors and also different brands because, like coffee, quality determines taste. My personal teatime favorite is green tea with jasmine, which I take with the minutest amount of honey. My tip is not to overdo the sugar or honey because it interferes with the taste of the tea, especially if you’ve chosen a fancy-pants brand. Another suggestion is to use loose-leaf tea if you can, because it generally tastes way better and you can be much more precise about the strength of your tea.
3. Okay, next it’s time to add the water, and here is where I’m going to get militant: you can bend most teatime rules, but there’s one that I must insist we get right, and that’s to start by boiling your water. I don’t mean get it hot, I mean third-degree burn boiling. And I’m not even sure why it has to be boiled first, but I can tell you from my vast tea drinking experience that it makes a massive difference to the taste. If you’re drinking black tea, pour the boiling water straight in and leave for a few minutes before straining. If you’re drinking green, white, or fruit teas, wait a minute so the tea doesn’t burn the leaves and then leave it to stand for up to five minutes. But beware, set yourself a reminder so you don’t let the tea stew and never, ever leave the bag in the mug while drinking. Eww.
4. And last but certainly not least is to choose your snack. This shouldn’t really be too difficult, but I recommend cookies or cake over chocolate because even though I love it, it tends to melt too quickly in your mouth along with the hot tea. Sandwiches are also an option, and if you’ve decided to go traditional, the best are cucumber sandwiches—just don’t forget to use white bread with butter, no crusts, and peel the skin off the cucumber first.
And there you have it! A perfect and perfectly you teatime. Now all that’s left to do is find your favorite book and curl up on your sofa to read it. Cats optional.
Ah, that’s better.
(My Alice in Wonderland mug and some delicious homemade chocolate-caramel shortcake.)