Tea – the Australian way

I was reading Chuck Wendig’s blog last night, where he appealed to his reader-base to help him learn how to make a good cup of tea. I don’t often dive in and leave a comment, but I’ve been thinking a bit about this topic recently and felt compelled to put down my thoughts.

A reproduction of my comment on Chuck’s blog follows. The three main purposes of this post are:

a. I liked my response and wanted to preserve it;

2. I thought of a couple of edits about 1.5 nano-seconds after I clicked submit on the comment; and

gamma. I was interested to see if anyone violently objected to my tea making style.

I get my loose leaf teas from T2. I generally prefer the stronger black teas (English Breakfast, Irish Breakfast, Morning Red) for the morning, a lighter black tea (Assam, Darjeeling) for the afternoons. I have these kinds of black tea with milk and sugar.

If making a pot of tea:

1. Pour hot water in the pot first to warm it up. What, are you going to make tea with a cold pot? Work on those barbarian tendencies.

2. One teaspoonful of tea per cup plus one for the pot (i.e. if the pot is big enough to pour out three cups of tea, put in 4 teaspoons of tea). I don’t know why the pot insists on its own extra teaspoon of tea. It just does, OK? Maybe it was a middle child.

3. Water as close to boiling as possible when you pour it in. You want to be standing by the kettle, so that when it starts to whistle or goes bing or plays the Lithuanian national anthem or whatever it does when the water is boiled, you can immediately snatch it up and pour that angry, restless water into the pot.

4. Steep for about 3 or 4 minutes. Don’t be tempted to steep longer, the tea starts to get bitter. That sounds obvious, but you’ll want to steep it for longer. You’ll say “my tea must be strong, strong like me.” You might even feel the urge to beat your chest. Resist. Over-steeped tea tastes like arse. Bitter, bitter arse.

5. If I’m pouring a cup of tea from a pot, I prefer to have the milk and sugar already in the cup before pouring. I recognise that this is a hotly debated step in tea circles. Seriously, amongst tea aficionados you could lose yourself for days in discussion about tea/milk/sugar order. Actually that brings me to my number 1 tip: avoid getting into a discussion about tea with tea aficionados.


6. Of course your cup was warm before you poured in the tea right? Did you learn nothing from step 1 above? Sigh.

7. If you’re going to attempt to preserve the remaining tea in the pot for a second cup, remove the leaves. Some prefer to go through a complicated process involving a moonshine still, a magical straining handkerchief woven from the hairs of a pixie and three guinea pigs turning a hamster wheel for power, but I bought a teapot with a removable strainer built in. Six of one…

8. Enjoy!

Tea bags:

If you are stuck in a post-apocalyptic icy wasteland, where all that remains for sustenance is cockroaches, tinned peaches and tea bags, the order is slightly different. Note that this scenario is one of only two circumstances in which you should use a tea bag of your own volition. Laziness is the other.

1. Still warm the cup. You might be fighting for survival against the worst scum that post-apocalypic {insert country of choice here} can offer, but that doesn’t mean you should abandon all sense of propriety.

2. Water still as near to boiling as you can make it. If the lack of modern conveniences that come from the fall of civilisation means you no longer have your Lithuanian-national-anthem-playing kettle, stick your finger in to gauge exactly the right moment (*). You’ll thank me later.

3. For tea bags, do not, I repeat do not, put the milk and sugar in first. Why? The answer to that is so obvious I refuse to insult your intelligence by explaining further.

4. Steep for 3-4 minutes, or as long as you can hold off the radioactive, mutant cockroaches.

5. Remove the tea bag immediately. If you got the temperature of the water right, you could even use the bag as a makeshift sling shot to hold off the hordes that are, as we speak, descending on you in order to steal your near-perfect cup of tea.

6. Add milk and sugar to taste. I like to add just enough milk that you can see it cloud up just below the surface of the tea, like the mushroom cloud that started you on this non-tea-leaf-journey-to-hell to begin with.

7. Stir anti-clockwise or clockwise as your hemisphere dictates, and sip gently. It is traditional at this point to burn your tongue on the first sip, ruining the rest of the tea experience, but that should not be considered compulsory.

For green tea:

1. Exactly the same as above, but no milk and no sugar. Oh, OK you can add a little bit of sugar if you want to. I’ve been known to. But for the love of your favourite deity, don’t tell anyone. There are few social faux pas greater than mentioning to a green tea drinker that you’d like a little sugar in your cup.

2. For the purposes of milk and sugar, any royalty associated with the Grey family should be treated as green tea (i.e. Lady Grey, Earl Grey etc).


1. Sugar should be those misshapen lumps of refined and raw sugar that you see in your fancier cafes. I think the feeling of superiority that comes from using them actually makes the tea taste better.

2. If a cafe brings you a tea bag for the cup of tea that costs exactly the same as your friend’s cup of coffee, NEVER GO TO THAT CAFE AGAIN. Even if it is the only cafe still standing in your post-apocalyptic world.

3. I’ve tried lemon. I’ve tried honey. I don’t care for either. So they’re not going to make an appearance in this post.


Right, so that’s it from me. What about you? Are you currently frothing at the mouth as you consider my blasphemous tea making way? Let fly with both barrels. Have the perfect way of making a cuppa, handed down from father to daughter over many generations? Spill the secret.


(*) My legal advisors tell me that recommending this step is not sensible and that I should tag it with an appropriate caution. WARNING: sticking any body part into boiling water is likely to cause pain.

Author: mark

A writer of speculative fiction and all round good egg. Well, mostly good. OK, sometimes good.

2 thoughts on “Tea – the Australian way”

  1. I know from now on you are going to pretend not to know me, but this is how I do tea:

    No tea pot (omgosh why make an entire pot for one cup!!?!!!)
    Go go the tea bags

    go go reusing the tea bags ALL DAY!

    darn my tea went cold while I was writing. That's okay, I'll just shove it in the microwave and heat that puppy right up again.

    1. You're going for efficiency – I can respect that!

      I didn't mention my single cup tea leaf infuser that I use when I want to cheat and make a single cup without having to wash up the teapot. Perfect for work. And it's light weight for carrying on trecks through post-apocalyptic wastelands!

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