Firstly, of course, you must keep your tea in a proper tea caddy, preferably in one of those little wooden boxes that are lined with tea chest paper. Of course, we’re talking “loose” tea here. No teabags, OK?
Incidentally, you may be interested to know that the word ‘caddy’ comes from the Maylay word, ‘kati’, meaning a small unit of weight, that tea was sold by in that part of the world.
Your teapot should be used only for making tea. The pot may be bone china or earthenware, or silver, or plated or cast-iron, or whatever, but it should be one that you love, to - I would say - about the same degree as a favorite cat, more or less.
Let your water be pure, your kettle free of lime scale. If you use tap water, run the tap for a minute or so before using. Never use hot water, or warm water, or even cooled-boiled water. You will need one cup of water for each person, and an extra one to scald the pot.
Do not seek to get more than one cup per person out of each pot of tea that you make. The reason for this is that the tannin in the tea asserts itself after about six minutes, making it bitter and strong to the taste.
Bring your water to the boil - a singing, rolling, no-two-ways-about-it boil, and use it immediately, freshly boiled.
Pour about half a cup of the boiling water into your teapot. Put the kettle back on the heat. Swirl the water about in the teapot, quickly, to rinse and scald the pot. Then throw out the water into the sink.
Now add the tea to the scalded teapot, one level teaspoon of tea for each person.
Pour the boiling water into the teapot, vigorously. Cover the pot, and put on the tea cosy, which, like a sweater, should, -to do its job effectively - hang a little loose!
Your infusion time is five minutes. If you are a tea regular, you may wish to experiment with slightly longer or shorter times, for optimum strengths of different kinds of tea, but – beware the tannin!
To all this, I add my own further refinement of scalding the cups too. I find that it keeps the tea hot for a longer period when poured out, and improves the taste quite noticeably.
Pour the tea as soon as the infusion time is up. If desired, add milk and sugar, or honey, to taste. If you use honey, as I often do, you may wish to choose a lighter one, which doesn’t overpower the tea too much. In otherwords, keep off the buckwheat.
And if you do all this, dutifully and in turn, you’ll end up with a definite Decent Cup of Tea, and may hold your head up in public again. Or for the very first time.
Yes, I am guilty! I use tea bags, at times - like for one mug of tea that is made right in the mug or cup. If you use tea bags in the teapot, I have found that one bag per two cups of tea usually works but this is to your own taste. THE MAIN MOST IMPORTANT THING: MAKE SURE YOUR WATER IS BOILING!!! TAKE YOU TEAPOT OR MUG TO THE KETTLE SO YOU CAN POUR WHILE THE WATER TO STILL BOILING. AND DON’T FORGET TO HEAT THE TEAPOT, MUG OR CUP FIRST.
The only restaurant is Montgomery County (perhaps, Texas) where you can get a Decent Cup of Tea is the British Trading Post in Spring.