Deanna McFadden on The Perfect Cuppa

Growing up, I lived in a house where a cup of tea was served as a solution to just about any problem. My British grandmother made the most perfect cup of tea. She used just enough milk, no sugar, and steeped the bag for exactly the right amount of time. Since losing both my mother and grandmother, I’ve been searching for that ever-elusive perfect cup. Of course, I can recreate the basics at home: Earl Grey, milk scalded by boiling water, and a giant mug. But there’s an element missing–the comfort that comes from someone you love caring enough to make the tea for you. What I want to do is to reclaim the discussion and find five great pieces that have absolutely no reference to the Tea Party.

Deanna McFadden has published short stories, and written abridged classics for kids. She blogs at My Tragic Right Hip and spends her days taking care of her son and trying to finish a cup of tea before it goes cold. Follow her @tragicrighthip

1. Christopher Hitchens on How to Make a Decent Cup of Tea

The best cup of tea I’ve tasted in years was in Brixton at a café called The Phoenix Restaurant. There’s no doubt the Brits know what-for when it comes to tea. In fact, Hitchens references a New York Times op-ed written by Yoko Ono in which she says that John Lennon always made the tea in their house, because he was British. But it’s Hitchens’ acerbic nature that amuses me, and his instructions are nearly perfect. Although, he’s quite incorrect on one point: you always put the milk in first.

2. Always Travel With Your Own Teapot

The idea of tea as liquid comfort comes across loud and clear in Alexander McCall Smith’s lovely series, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. Mma Ramotswe, the aforementioned lady detective, often sits down with a cup of bush tea and solves all kinds of problems. The author’s own obsession has him never leaving home without a teapot, and he seems to have integrated tea into every facet of his existence. He even takes tea-inspired vacations.

3. Tea: A Literary Tour

Like most avid readers, I think sitting down with a good book and a cup of tea is the perfect way to spend a few stolen moments. While no one has three hours at tea time to dedicate to scones, sandwiches, and china cups, one can at least hide away and read about such luxuries. While getting over the shock of Twinings having moved its tea production to Poland (Poland!), New Yorker blogger Eileen Reynolds tours through some of the West’s most enduring classics and discovers tea references are, rightfully, everywhere.

4. Eight Reasons to Drink Tea

While reading is a sedentary activity (for some) more inclined to relaxation, it’s nice to know that there are health benefits to a tea addiction. Reading might be for the brain but tea is for the body, which makes for a nice bit of balance in terms of the traditional Cartesian dichotomy. Canadian Living finds eight great reasons to drink tea for your health–and these seem a lot more rational than a crazy tea diet book that I came across.

5. Green Is More Than Just a Type of Tea

There’s a lot of talk about ethical coffee–shade grown, organic, fair trade-–but the same level of rigorous environmental activism doesn’t surround discussions of tea at the consumer level. Deborah Huff’s excellent blog, Tea & Travel, highlights some of the great companies creating green tea opportunities around the world. And the photography is just beautiful. In this post, she talks with the owners of BOH, a Fair Trade, environmentally responsible tea company.