British Tea Primer


A British tea primer, including how to brew the perfect spot of tea and meal ideas at

Since the 18th century, the British have been the largest per capita consumers of tea in the world. I’m told they like it strong, with plenty of milk and at least 2 teaspoons of sugar. Well, how delightful does that sound? As you watch the Olympic Torch Relay, treat yourself to a perfect cup of British tea … oh, and perhaps a scone with fresh preserves on the side. Cheerio!

MORE: A New Twist on Tea Parties

How to brew a perfect spot of tea:

  • Fill a tea kettle with cold water and bring to a boil.
  • After the water has boiled, pour a small amount into your teapot. Swirl it around to heat your teapot and then discard the water.
  • Place loose leaf tea in the bottom of your teapot; 1 teaspoon per person plus one for the pot.
  • Pour water into your teapot over the leaves and let steep for three to four minutes.
  • Using a tea strainer, pour water through the strainer into individual teacups.
  • Serve with milk and sugar, never creme as it will mask the taste of the tea.

Most common British tea meals:

  • High Tea –  the common British supper and usually served after 5:30 p.m and accompanied by a pot of tea.
  • Afternoon Tea (also known as Low Tea) – a leisurely afternoon tea meal usually served elegantly in high fashion with several courses.
  • Cream Tea is a term used when a pot of tea is accompanied by scones with clotted cream and preserves. Cream refers to the clotted cream or Devonshire Cream served with the scones rather than a cream served in the tea.

MORE: Currant Buttermilk Scones

If you’re interested in learning more about British Tea Etiquette, here is a link with lots of detail on everything from proper service-ware to placement of utensils.

One of my favorite resources for tea and tea parties in general are books by authors Shelley and Bruce Richardson of The Elmwood Inn. I especially love their book, The Tea Table.


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