A Nice Cup of Tea

George Orwell wrote about tea in the Evening Standard in 1946. In this article Orwell made observations about tea that are insightful and interesting. Firstly, Orwell suggested that a “nice cup of tea” really refers to Indian tea. In relation to this he suggested that China tea is cheaper and of lesser quality. Evidence today suggests that tea quality varies considerably, and cheaper tea tends to be of lesser quality and taste, corroborating Orwell’s observations. Lesser quality tea, often referred to as brick tea may also have much higher levels of fluoride. Another observation he made was that tea should be made in small quantities, with army tea from a cauldron tasting like grease and whitewash, and tea from an urn being tasteless. In terms of teapots, Orwell suggests that earthen teapots are superior, with silver and Britannia Ware pots producing a poor taste, something evidently even worse for enamel pots. Orwell also suggests that pots should be warmed before use, something that is often stated as improving the taste of tea, perhaps because it increases the brewing temperature which enhances the flavour. 

In his article, Orwell clearly prefers strong tea, and in this regard clearly makes his tea with loose leaf black tea. The idea that the pot should be taken to the kettle, as suggested by Orwell, is claimed to increase the temperature of the water as it makes contact with the tea, and this likely relates to the same benefit as warming the pot. Orwell also suggests that the cup from which the tea is drunk can considerably impact taste, an anecdote shared by many who favour a particular cup or mug. In this regard, Orwell recommends a good breakfast cup. The last comment by Orwell relates to drinking tea without sugar, and this is perhaps his best advice. Orwell’s reasons for this are the negative effects on the taste that sugar has, which is evidently true, because sugar is very sweet, whereas tea is quite bitter. However, further than this, sugar is unhealthy and can cause disease, whereas tea is healthy and can treat disease. Adding sugar is therefore the antithesis to drinking tea, whether one is interested in the taste, or its health effects. 

Eat Well, Stay Healthy, Protect Yourself


Orwell, G., 2017. A nice cup of tea. SFCB.

About Robert Barrington

Robert Barrington is a writer, nutritionist, lecturer and philosopher.
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