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In search of the perfect cuppa

It has led to family arguments, marital bust-ups and even war (if the Boston Tea Party can be included). Aunt Agatha brews up tea.

How to make a decent cup of tea has exercised the minds of the great, the good and countless maiden aunts since the leaf-based beverage was first sipped in England in the 17th century. George Orwell identified the reason in his essay on the subject in 1942. The author of 1984 said there were 11 rules – but only two were universally agreed and a further four were highly controversial.

In his diatribe it seems none of his 11 rules are widely accepted – and some could lead to domestic arguments. It appears that everyone makes tea differently. Nobody agrees on how to make a perfect cup of cha, char, te, tai, herbata or tea. Ask anyone you know and they all have their own idiosyncracies and often family traditions. I’ve known people to throw away a cup of tea in front of the person

who has made it and then declare they’ll make it themselves. It’s one of the most insulting things you can do – and yet who can honestly say they’ve never tipped away a cuppa made by someone and quietly made it again – their way.

To start with there’s the question of what variety of tea. My late husband (who would declare several times a day that he was dying for a cup of Greyer’s as he called it) would only drink Earl Grey – and sadly it was the reason for his untimely exit from life’s fragile existence. He was run over crossing the road to a café in London where they served Earl Grey. Personally I only drink Builder’s – as I call it. Strong, Assam with milk, with loose leaf tea and four sugars. I know George Orwell wouldn’t have approved of that. He said tea should never be sweetened – something my occasional friend Mrs Pople would agree with. Builder’s of Earl Grey? A simple choice – but of course there are numerous others including black, oolong, green, yellow, white and pu-erh - and they all have their advocates.

Tea bags or loose leaf? I occasionally use tea bags as you can get a decent cuppa as long as the tea is good quality. Almost all cafes and tea rooms serve tea in tea bags dropped into a small pot. They provide you with all the necessities such as milk and sugar allowing you to serve yourself. Even some public houses serve tea these days – something which I think is a great improvement. The standard of tea served in the tearooms of the Strawberry Line District these days is excellent – except on the train from Yatton which serves a tasteless watery brew for £2.10p.

So, having established the tea you want, you must decide on the temperature of the hot water. Boiling or very hot? Call me old fashioned but boiling water is best – and the tea pot should be warmed first – very important. Pour the boiling water straight into the pot and allow it to stand for two minutes and 30 seconds.

Boffins at the University of Nempnet Thrubwell spent 20

considerable time on researching the amount of time you should allow tea to brew. They reckoned on 17 minutes and 30 seconds. That’s bonkers - as are most residents of that village. On average the British allow it to brew for 40 seconds. A scandal – that allows for no real taste to emerge from the leaves.

For quantity: one rounded teaspoon of tea leaves per person and a half for the pot for every other person. It guarantees a second cup – as is testified by Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland:

“Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly. “I’ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone, “so I can’t take more.” “You mean you can’t take less,” said the Hatter: “it’s very easy to take more than nothing.”

If using tea bags - then use one per person - but don’t be stingy and share one between two as Mrs Pople has been known to do. If there’s not a drought then always boil fresh water (even George Orwell agrees with that one) Dr Andrew Dunkabiscuit of Shipham University said: “Use freshly drawn water that has not previously been boiled. Previously boiled water will have lost some of its dissolved oxygen which is important to bring out the tea flavour.” So there.

One rule given by George Orwell which must be challenged is: “After making the tea, one should stir it, or better, give the pot a good shake, afterwards allowing the leaves to settle.” Shake a tea pot? Give it a wiggle maybe – but don’t stir – leave nature to take its course.

I never pour in the tea first – always the milk although those university boffins disagree - as does Mr Orwell. Ahem. We all like our favourite cups and mugs. Mrs Pople has a mug that takes almost a pint or so it seems. And yes, porcelain is best – but for years I used a battered enamel mug for my so-called gardening cups – served in the shrubbery with Rustic Reg – and it tasted just as good.

Although the author of Animal Farm begs to differ. He said: “One should drink out of a good breakfast cup — that is, the cylindrical type of cup, not the flat, shallow type. The breakfast cup holds more, and with the other kind one’s tea is always half cold before one has well started on it.”

Really - some people seem to make just too many rules for a brew up. So just to recap: instructions for the perfect cup of tea for two

1 Warm the pot 2 Put in two teaspoons of tea and one for the pot

3 Pour in boiling water and allow to brew for two minutes and 30 seconds 4 Add milk to taste to your cup and pour in the tea 5 Add sugar to taste and stir the tea and drink

Do you agree with Aunt Agatha? How do you make your tea? Email your recipe to

Almshouse Tea Shop The Square, Axbridge, Somerset BS262AR. Tel: 01934 733720. www. Open: Mon-Tue, Thu-Fri: 9am-5pm. Sat-Sun 10am-4pm. Weds: Closed. Closed 27 Dec-9 Jan. New opening hours from 9 Jan are Wed-Fri 9am-5pm, Sat, Sun and Bank Holidays 10am-4pm. Teas, coffee, cakes, snacks, breakfasts and light lunches. Plus hot and cold food and drinks to takeaway. Gifts including paintings, mirrors, hand- made Christmas crackers and a variety of crafts and landscape paintings by Martyn Wrench. The Strawberry Line Cafe. Station

Where to find a decent cuppa in the Strawberry Line District

Te Almshouse Tea Shop

Teas, coffee, cakes, lunches, gifts, breakfast, take-away food and drink

Open: Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri 9am-5pm; Sat, Sun 10am-4pm; closed Weds. Closed 27 Dec-9 Jan. New opening in Jan: Wed-Fri 9am-5pm, Sat-Sun and Bank Hols 10am-4pm

The Almshouse Tea Shop, Axbridge, Somerset BS26 2AR., Tel: 01934 733720;

Approach, Yatton, North Somerset BS49 4FF. Tel: 01934 835758. www. Open Mon-Fri: 8.30am-4.30pm, Sat: 9.30am–4.30pm, Sun: 9.30am-4.30pm. Delicious meals and cakes made on the premises and fair trade organic coffee, half of the employees have a learning disability, including a full time apprentice. The café is a social firm, meaning any profits are used to create more opportunities for people with learning disabilities.

Also in the district are Oak House Hotel The Square, Axbridge; The Sitting Room Cafe Riverside Cottage, Church Street, Cheddar; Derricks Tea Rooms The Cliffs, Cheddar; Lattetude. 2 Union Street, Cheddar; Banwell Garden Centre Coffee Shop Castle Hill Road, Banwell; Barley Wood Walled Garden Long Lane, Wrington; The Mousehole The Cliffs, Cheddar; Hillside Cottage. The Cliffs, Cheddar; Wishing Well The Cliffs, Cheddar; Edelweiss The Cliffs, Cheddar; Cafe Blue Old Fire Station, Silver Street, Congresbury; Five The Beach Clevedon; Murrays 91 Hill Road, Clevedon; Butterflies 77 Hill Road, Clevedon; Cafe Solo 22 Old Church Road, Clevedon; Arnett’s Cosy Kitchen Old Street, Clevedon; Corrister & White 45 Hill Road, Clevedon; Tiffin Cafe 11 The Beach, Clevedon; Cafe Piano 9 Heritage Courtyard, Sadler Street, Wells; Coffee One High street, Wells; Daniels Cafe Queen Street, Wells; Goodfellows Cafe Sadler Street, Wells; Goodfellows Cafe High Street, Shepton Mallet; Cottage Cafe Winscombe. Did we miss your cafe? Email us your details so we can include them next time.

Strawberry Line Times December 2012-January 2013

Hinkley Point C Connection Draft route announced

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Aust Village Hall - Main Road, Aust, BS35 4AX Mark Village Hall - Vole Road, Mark TA9 4NY Portishead New Library - 24 Harbour Road, BS20 7AL Stogursey Victory Hall - 31 Victory Close, Bridgwater, TA5 1RN Woolavington Village Hall - Higher Road, TA7 8DY Yatton Library - 48 High Street Yatton BS49 4HJ

High quality and reliable dog boarding, doggy day care, dog walking, pet sitting, house sitting and small pet boarding in the Strawberry Line District. For more details email us at or call 07584 050544.

Open every day for breakfast, lunch, snacks and afternoon cream teas.

Fresh food made onsite from quality ingredients, including our cakes! Dogs welcome and bikes safe in our garden. Children’s menu, toys and books.

*Offer for Strawberry Line Times Readers - please present this advert for a free tea or coffee when you buy any of our delicious homebaked cakes!

01934 835758 Yatton Railway Station, Station Approach, Yatton, North Somerset BS49 4FF

Strawberry Line Times

December 2012-January 2013




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