Douglas Adams doesn’t strike me as the type to sack his maid over an improperly made cup of tea, though i can tell he’d want to…
“One or two Americans have asked me why the English like tea so much, which never seems to them to be a very good drink. To understand, you have to make it properly.
There is a very simple principle to the making of tea, and itís thisóto get the proper flavour of tea, the water has to be boilING (Not boilED) when it hits the tea leaves. If itís merely hot, then the tea will be insipid. Thatís why we English have these odd rituals, such as warming the teapot first (so as no to cause the boiling water to cool down too fast as it hits the pot). And thatís why American habit of bringing a teacup, a tea bag, and a pot of hot water to the table is merely the perfect way of making a tin, pale, watery cup of tea that nobody in their right mind would want to drink. The Americans are all mystified about why the English make such a big thing out of tea because most Americans HAVE NEVER HAD A GOOD CUP OF TEA. Thatís why they donít understand. In fact, the truth of the matter is that most English people donít know how to make tea anymore either, and most people drink cheap instant coffee instead, which is a pity, and gives Americans the impression that the English are just generally clueless about hot stimulants.
So the best advice I can give to an American arriving in England is this: Go to Marks and Spencer and buy a packet of Earl Grey tea. Go back to where youíre staying and boil a kettle of water. While it is coming to the boil, open the sealed packet and sniff. Careful—you may feel a bit dizzy, but this is in fact perfectly legal. When the kettle has boiled, pour a little of it into a teapot, swirl it around, and tip it out again. Put a couple (or three, depending on the size of the pot) of tea bags into the pot. (If I was really trying to lead you into the paths of righteousness, I would tell you to use free leaves rather than bags, but letís just take this in easy stages.) Bring the kettle back up to the boil, and then pour the boiling water as quickly as you can into the pot. Let is stand for two or three minutes, and then pour it into a cup. Some people will tell you that you shouldnít have milk with Earl Grey, just a slice of lemon. Screw them. I like it with milk. If you think you will like it with milk, then itís probably best to put some milk into the bottom of the cup before you pour in the tea. If you pour milk into a cup of hot tea, you will scald the milk. If you think you will prefer it with a slice of lemon, then, well, add a slice of lemon.
Drink it. After a few moments you will begin to think that the place youíve come to isnít maybe quite so strange and crazy after all.”
from ‘The Salmon of Doubt’ by Douglas Adams
May 12, 1999