Your How-To Guide To A Great British Brew

Red, white and blue text on a brown background reads "your how-to guide to a Great British Brew", there is a picture of a corgi wearing a crown and a mug of tea

Because what better to drink while you’re watching the jubilee celebrations?

Hello Twisties,

For months now I have wanted to bring you this post, and what better time than for Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee? British people are known for our tea, but there are some common British tea misconceptions that I see time and time again on the internet, and so today, I wanted to take this opportunity to put some of those to rest. How do we drink it? What do we have with it and how even how can you make it for yourself? Fear not my friends, this filthy little English rose is here to help you!

Before we begin, let’s first have a wholehearted congratulations and thank you to Queen Elizabeth II! While I’m no Royalist myself, I do love our “Lizzie” and I’m fascinated with the life and work of the Scots Guards! Queen Elizabeth has has been so great for the country, especially during times of hardship (like during the pandemic) and so it’s so sad that she couldn’t make many of the celebrations on her behalf. I do hope that she had a splendid time watching them anyway even if it wasn’t how she’d planned.

Now for a couple of fun facts… I’ve never actually been to London! In case you’re wondering, I’m born, raised and still living in Bristol, which is an industrial port city in the south-west of England. At one time, Bristol was even more important than London because of the trade which travelled up and down the Riven Avon – how cool is that?!. I love my city and I’m a very proud Bristolian, I have no intention or desire to ever leave it! Fortunately I don’t have too much of a Bristol accent, and a Texan lady even once thought that I was from the richer parts of north London! It’s what happens when your mother teaches you to speak correctly, see? 😉

In the UK (and many other Commonwealth countries, for that), there is also a term or two for a cup of tea, and after this post, you will be able to ask your friends or visitors if they want a cup of tea in one of a few very British ways. The first term for you to master is “cuppa”, and it’s short for “cup of”, ie “a cuppa tea”. The other term is “brew”, and it comes to be because you “brew” the tea bag in the hot water. So, how can you use these words to ask people if they would like some tea? Well, forget what you know of us, and get ready for some true English language. You could ask:

  • “Do you want a cuppa?”
  • “Fancy a cuppa?”
  • “Fancy a brew?”

It’s also not uncommon for British people to tell one another to “stick the kettle on”, as in to and make some tea. Tea and a good chat solves everything!

So there you have it! No need for Cockney Rhyme. Relax and have fun with it, and find what works for you.

Alright! Offer made, let’s talk about making that all important cup of tea, are you ready?

We’re going to be looking at the classic “breakfast tea” today, but fear not, breakfast tea is nothing short of a blend of black teas which are enjoyed at any time of the day. Stronger in flavour than Earl Grey, but otherwise fancy-free.

You will need:

  • A teabag (we’re Yorkshire Tea drinkers in this household. The price is worth it)
  • White granulated sugar (or sweetener tablets, if you prefer)
  • Milk (whole, semi-skimmed or skimmed, you can of course use almond milk if you prefer)
  • Water
  • Biscuits, any variety (optional)

You will also need:

  • A mug, or teacup
  • A kettle
  • A teaspoon
  • A compost bin (for the used teabag – don’t worry, we’re not THAT weird 😉 )

How To Make Your Very Own Great British Tea

  1. Decide the mug size you would like to use. Oh what, you thought we still used our finest bone china teacups? Surprise! Most Brits drink our tea from 12oz “coffee” mugs, but I also have 18oz mugs for tea because my mother doesn’t drink from “thimbles” (her name for 12oz mugs!). It doesn’t matter which size you go for, and you can still go for a teacup if you prefer. There are no hard and fast rules.

2. Add in your teabag and add sugar, if you like. How much sugar you add here is up to you – two teaspoons is sort of the standard “sweet” tea, but one teaspoon happens and unsweetened is also perfectly okay. Some people do add more sugar than that even, but it can get you some very sketchy looks when a fully grown adult says they take six teaspoons of sugar (it happened to me!) in their tea. We try not to judge, but…

Golden rule: Do NOT be tempted to put any milk in your cup/mug at this point! It is sacrilegious and riles up many, many British people. Just don’t do it, please? You’ll make us cry.

3. Fill and boil your kettle. American friends, if you do not complete this step then your tea is not authentically British, and I know that’s what you came here for. Boil the kettle, then go make small talk while you wait, it’s just how it’s done, okay? The microwave is for your reheated dinners, not for your precious tea.

Psst… if you have a limescale problem (it happens to the best of us!), half fill your kettle, boil it, then half a lemon and drop both halves in. Leave the kettle aside and wait for it to cool, dump out the contents and rinse. If you have more of a build-up, use a couple of tablespooons of citric acid instead. Don’t let limescale ruin your tea! I treat my kettle every two weeks with a descaler because the water is so damn hard around here!

4. Once your kettle is boiled, add water to about 2cm from the top of the mug and stir. Here you have two choices:

a) For a “proper” British breakfast tea, lift the teabag out and dispose of it WITHOUT pressing it against the side of the mug or squeezing it. Squeezing the teabag adds in more tannins, making the tea more acidic.

b) Press that motherf**ker against the side of the mug and squeeze out every last drop. Who cares if it’s not the done thing? You’re making tea for you, not the Royal family! Congrats, you’re now one step away from a proper “builder’s brew”.

5. Add a splash of milk if desired, and stir again. Again, there’s no hard and fast rule here, and how you take your tea is entirely up to you. Brit’s don’t measure, we just know what a “splash” is. Personally I’m a D2 or B3 girl – anything before D2 is too dark for me, and anything after D3 is too milky. I like to be able to taste the tea, but I do like to taste the sugar and milk, too.

6. Serve your tea with biscuits or, if you’re entertaining, maybe some cake! I see so often the idea that we have our tea with finger sandwiches, and outside of tea room, that’s just not the done thing. Working class people up and down the country enjoy a biscuit or two with their tea, and it’s not uncommon to be offered a “biccy” (the term for a biscuit) with your brew. Digestives are a popular choice, but why not track down some British biscuits in your area and let me know what you find?

How many biscuits you have with your tea also sort of matters, and the generally the unwritten rule is that 1 = you’re trying to make a good impression/maybe dieting and don’t want to seem rude or ungrateful, 2 = you’re comfortable but in control – good on ya, 3 = you’re at home and shameless here, and maybe even a bit peckish, 4= wow! Okay, you’re definitely not shy, 5+ = dude, have you even eaten anything yet today?!

Alright Twisties, that’s it for this post! I hope you enjoyed your guide to a proper cup of tea! How do you take your tea? Let me know in the comments!

Until next time,

Stay safe & have fun,

Helen xx

Psst… Enjoyed this post? Take a read of some of my answers about living in the UK, right here!

10 thoughts on “Your How-To Guide To A Great British Brew

  1. My dear Helen, since the moment you introduced me to Yorkshire Black a couple of years ago I have never looked back since! Cheers to you and this wonderful post, my dear friend! As always, your blog is such a treasure! x

    1. It’s a pleasure Penny, and thankyou. By the way, on this stormy and overcast day, guess what I’m drinking while I deal with my comments? Hehe. In the same mug too! xx

  2. I love tea although I make it the brown way haha! Nothing better than some tea and biscuits on a rainy day. I love when the whether gets cold just so I can make tea all the time.

    1. Have you tried masala chai before? I absolutely love it without sugar or milk. It’s great for an unsettled stomach, or just as something different haha. Tea and biscuits in the rain too… under canvas? That’s heaven for me lol

      1. Haha yes, though I like it just as much without. Twinings do a spiced chamomile tea as well, I love that for calming my anxiety.

      2. Twinings Calm, if you can find it. I haven’t seen it in ASDA in months so I get it from Amazon now lol

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