Though I swear by coffee, my earthy early morning stimulant, the tease of cooler weather brings with it a change of pace. As my apartment drops in temperature, I dust off my kettle and restock my tea cabinet. Unlike coffee, I can drink multiple cups of tea a day without feeling jittery; the warm water soothes my throat and my soul.
It is during this season that I seek to master the art of drinking tea. I look for answers and techniques to better guide my practice. How should I drink my tea? How should I prepare it? Today, I found my answers in a weirdly specific but usefully comprehensive guide to all things tea.
Originally published in 1980, the “Method for preparation of a liquor of tea for use in sensory tests” is a six-page set of standards developed in part by the British Standards Institution (BSI). In recent years, the resource resurfaced and garnered significant media attention. According to the BSI, tea drinking is an exacting science.
First: The guide advises milk drinkers to fill their mug with the desired amount of milk before pouring in the hot tea. This allows the milk to heat evenly when it comes into contact with warm water. To further prevent scalding milk, the water should be poured in at no hotter than 185° F. When brewing tea, the guide recommends a ratio of 2 grams of tea leaves to every 100 mL of water. The two should be allowed to infuse together for six minutes for optimal flavor. (The guide does specify what kind of tea, but since black tea ranks as the UK's highest-selling variety, we can assume black tea). The BSI goes so far as to specify tea making materials, noting that a teapot made from “white porcelain or glazed earthenware, with its edge partly serrated” is your best bet.
Whether or not this all seems a little exaggerated to you, some people take their tea drinking very seriously, so these guidelines might come as a welcome roadmap. But feel free to bristle at the dicta and opt instead to drink the way you desire! As my tea drinking days begin, I think I might give some of this advice a chance. I’ll start by finding the perfect pot…
How do you take your tea? Tell us about any specific practices in the comments!