George Orwell's essay A Nice Cup of Tea about his rules for brewing perfect tea;
the BBC article "How to make a perfect cuppa", which critiques his rules with input from the Royal Society of Chemistry, and offers a challenging tea-themed quiz;
the h2g2 entry on Tea, which discusses brewing methods, including a convincing argument (with cute flash animation!) for pouring the milk first;
and Wikipedia's as-always very comprehensive article on all things Tea.
So of course I have to throw in some links of my own.
In my sidebar, in the new "Tea" category (formerly under "Specialty"), I have two very nice tea-themed blogs:
ANiceCupOfTeaAndASitDown is a charming blog that discusses tea varieties, biscuit brands, favorite spoons, electric kettles, tea tours, and other aspects of the tea-lover's daily life with cheery enthusiasm. Fun features like "Biscuit of the Week" and their own themed merchandise.
Cup of Tea and a Blog is the personal blog of a tea afficianado, and features brewing tips, photos, notes on tea shops, reviews of teas, and links. Lots of very nice stuff.
Another worthwhile blog, not in my sidebar but bookmarked, is Morning Coffee & Afternoon Tea, which celebrates hot caffeinated beverages of all (or at least two) kinds with recipes, news items, links, art, reviews, and more. In fact, scratch that...I don't know why this blog isn't in my sidebar, I'm going to add it now.
So after reading all the above hints and tips on how to brew tea, I decided to try it their way. I generally brew my tea straight in the mug, using a tea bag -- I would love to switch to loose leaf tea, finances permitting. I pour the milk in afterwards. Before these articles, I'd never heard of another way. But I decided to change a few things, and see if I could notice a difference.
So I dusted off my white teapot and tried a few new tricks. I filled the pot a quarter of the way with water and microwaved it, to preheat the pot. I was uncertain if the pot was microwave safe. I'm still a little unsure, since the water tends to heat slowly but one little spot at the bottom of the spot gets alarmingly hot very fast. I really hope the thing doesn't break. I made sure to keep the water for the tea boiling as hot and long as possible, and not cool down when I took it off the heat -- I knew the water had to be hot, but I didn't realize that it should be boiling when poured. I tried to respect the 3-5 minute brewing time, since I'm apt to just leave the bag in for twenty minutes. I don't mind strong, but I decided to give the short brewing time a try for taste. I realize that strength depends on the amount of tea, not the brewing time. And finally, I poured the milk in the cup first, and added the tea. As I feared, I used too much milk, and furthermore the tea was rather weak from brewing for such a short time. The tea was nice, but too weak and milky for my tastes. A second attempt with a little less milk and a little more brewing time produced a similar result. I think next time I'll use even less milk, and try two bags. I do use a large mug. I'll get it right. I think it will make a difference.