George Orwell’s Nice Cup of Tea

By William I. Lengeman III

GeoreOrwellGeorge Orwell turned out a great deal of writing in his lifetime but he is probably best known for his novels, Animal Farm and 1984. The latter book, a nightmarish vision of a totalitarian future, is required reading in many curricula today and lent the term “Big Brother” entirely new shades of meaning.

But there was a lighter side to George Orwell, fortunately, one that turned up in such works as his essay, A Nice Cup Of Tea. Being a good citizen of the United Kingdom, it’s no surprise that Orwell was fond of the beverage that has become so closely associated with those lands. But unlike many casual tea drinkers he was very opinionated about how tea should be prepared.

A Nice Cup Of Tea first appeared in the British newspaper, the Evening Standard, in early 1946. In the essay, Orwell notes, “the best manner of making it is the subject of violent disputes” but nonetheless is brave enough to offer “my own eleven rules, every one of which I regard as golden.”

While it would be redundant to cover each of these points here, given that the full text of the essay is so readily available, but a few items stand out. Among them are Orwell’s fondness for “Indian or Ceylonese tea” over Chinese varieties, which he feels does not offer much in the way of stimulation. Of course, given the Brits’ fondness, in general, for black tea, it’s probably not surprising that Orwell’s essay doesn’t even touch on other types of tea.

Other points of interest, tea should be made in small quantities, the pot (china or earthenware) should be warmed ahead of time and the tea should be made very strong. As far as the debate over which goes into the cup first – milk or tea – Orwell stands firmly on the side of the latter. And while he’s okay with adulterating tea with milk, Orwell minces no words when it comes to the question of sugar in tea, “how can you call yourself a true tealover if you destroy the flavour of your tea by putting sugar in it?”

Read more great articles on William’s blog, Tea Guy Speaks!

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