The perfect cup of tea starts with honey. At least, that’s how the royals do it. It’s hard to argue that anyone else would know better. They’ve got history, experience, connections and money. And tea is important in their part of the stratosphere. So how do you do tea, if you want to do it royally?
Begin by putting honey in the cup. Not sugar. Brew the tea – 100C for English breakfast tea, or 70C for green tea, measured with a thermometer. (Butler style, I dunk in a clean finger – you get to know the temperature with experience.) Black tea should be brewed for five minutes, and not consumed at all, while green tea should only get three minutes, then enjoyed vigorously.
If you must use milk, as the Queen herself does, it goes in last. Now, you might sit back and watch the clouds in your tea, but proper etiquette demands that you stir the concoction – never in circles! – but slowly back and forth, like the paddle of a canoe that will never cross a lake. Oh, and never let the spoon clang against the side of the bone china while paddling or you’ll be having tea with the servants before you know what’s happened.
Remember, the honey goes into the cup before the tea. That’s easy to remember – add the best first. What sort of honey should you use? The mildest you can find. It should be white, never amber, and very neutral in flavour. Buckwheat or manuka will turn your tea into medicine. How much should you use? Well, that depends on the type of honey. If you use a high fructose honey, such as tupelo, one or two small drops is probably plenty. On the other hand, honey that’s high in glucose (such as canola), is not as sweet and may take a spoonful. You really should work this out for yourself – I don’t know how well your taste buds control your life. What I do know, however, is that a good cup of green tea with honey in mid-winter will make life worth living.