We asked Tour Director Matthew B., for the scoop on British tea and its illustrious history. Here, he shares how to brew the perfect pot of tea—and includes a delicious scone recipe to make with it.
Making the perfect tea
There is a huge difference with taste between tea leaves and bags—in my perfect cup of tea, I use leaves. There are a few more rules you must obey!
First, you’ll need a tea pot, tea leaves, a strainer and milk. Sugar is optional. I would also invest in a good bone china cup and saucer—the shape and feel of delicate china (and the larger surface area of the cup) really makes the tea taste far better than in a mug!
1. Warm your tea pot with hot water, then empty.
2. Fill the kettle with fresh water from the tap.
3. Into the teapot put one rounded tea spoon per person of tea leaves and one extra spoonful ‘for the pot’.
4. After the kettle has boiled, pour the water into the pot.
5. Leave to steep and brew for 4 to 5 minutes, then serve using a strainer.
6. Add milk and sugar, if desired.
In my house the dogs always have the last splash of tea, they love it—just don’t tell my vet!
Milk in first or last?
Putting the milk in first or last is a much debated subject—milk going in last has often been seen as the ‘correct’ way in snobbish circles. This is probably due to the fact that the bone china of the wealthy could easily withstand the hot tea, whereas inferior quality tea cups may have cracked so often the lower classes would add milk first to cool it down.
My advice on your trip to the U.K. and Ireland: take every advantage of your daily tea time—and invite other Go Ahead travelers to join you as it is a really delightful and sociable way to relax.
Scones to go with your pot of tea
This is my recipe for the perfect light scones, which are delicious when served slightly warm. They freeze well so you can take them out and reheat the day you want to eat them.
3 1/2 C self-rising flour
2 heaping tsp baking powder
1/3 C butter, cubed
2/3 C caster sugar*
2 large eggs, beaten
1 C buttermilk
1. Preheat the oven to 430 degrees. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
2. Mix the flour, baking powder and butter in a bowl. Rub with your fingertips until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Slowly stir in the sugar (you could also mix this in a food processor).
3. Mix the eggs and buttermilk together in a separate bowl, then pour all but 1 tablespoon into the dry ingredients (save this tablespoon for later). Lightly mix together until combined—it should be a fairly moist dough.
4. Lightly sprinkle your worktop with flour and gently knead the dough until smooth and soft. Roll out the dough until it is about one inch thick. Use a 2.5-inch round scone cutter (or any round cookie cutter) and stamp out 12 scones.
5. Put the scones on the baking sheet and brush the tops with the leftover egg and buttermilk mixture.
6. Bake for about 12-15 minutes until risen and lightly golden.
These are best eaten or served with lots of clotted cream and jam (or alternatively, butter and jam). If you can’t get clotted cream, just whip heavy cream, spread generously on half a scone and top with jam.
Where was the best cup of tea you’ve ever drank? Tell us in the comments!
*Caster sugar is sold as “superfine sugar” in the United States and can purchase it online. It’s also easy to make your own by simply grinding granulated sugar in a food processor for a couple of minutes.