Excerpted from “COOKERY FOR MEN ONLY” (or “I. Y. G. T. T. L. A. F. -“) by Wilson Midgely, 1948.
The 24-hour drink:
“This is no earthly liquid . . . but a special nectar sent
down by the gods to sustain mankind in every sort of trial”
ERNEST BRAMAH, “Lai Lung unrolls His Mat.”
Cancel your present order for tea, whatever it is, and economize [sic] by ordering tea twice as expensive. When you think how many cups of tea you can get from a quarter of a pound, and when I assure you that a good brand of tea will give you at least twice as many cups, and good ones, as a cheap brand, you will realise the economy. Only do not make the charwoman’s mistake of judging tea by it’s colour. If this has been your life-long habit, shut our eyes when you drink it and train yourself to realise the flavour.
The next point is that the tea-pot must be hot. If you can put the tea-leaves in while it is dry but has some steam in it, so much the better; this will begin to take the curl out of them. Then pour on your boiling water with a wallop so that it stirs the tea all round the pot, and let it brew for five minutes. This usually ruins cheap tea, but it is the making of good tea. The only other advice I ca give you about tea is to brew it like this and drink it at any hour of the day or night. If any drink can be harmless and enjoyable, this is it.
Before the war and rationing, there were two literary men (save the mark) whose tea you could buy under their name in London. The Army and Navy Stores continued to sell a mixture they had made for George Meredith. Twinings in the Strand, who had an old-fashioned trained tea-mixer behind their counter, made a special mixture for me to my particualr fancy. It included a little of that wonderful China tea with the noble name of Lapsang Souchong. This I used to give to Americans and other foreigners who, poor things, in their addiction to coffee and chicory mixtures, had no idea either how to make tea or how to enjoy it. They would say, “If this is tea, then we can enjoy it” and go off secretly to Twinings and secure some of “Mr. Midgely’s Mixture’ to put in their homeward-bound luggage.
If however you want to economize in tea, here is a method I got from a Chinese [sic] and which many old country wives have long used. I am not quite sure whether it makes better tea; but there is no doubt at all that it makes far stronger tea, and it answers a problem I have never seen raised yet. Many experts are very keen in insisting that Indian tea must be brewed for exactly three minutes, and China tea for exactly five minutes, but none of them ever realise that if this is right for the first cup it will be all wrong for the second.
The Chinese method seems to to avoid this dilemma, and by using it you will find that 11/2 tsp will be enough for the ordinary tea-pot. Make sure of course that the pot is hot when you put in your tea, then splash over the tea enough boiling water just to cover it, and at intervals of about half a minute pour on more boiling water until with the last fill up of boiling water you have your brew ready. I must confess that in practice I do not go in for all these stages, because, for one thing, I cannot bear to have a kettle steaming about the place for any length of time; but merely to drown the leaves with boiling water and then to fill up twice or even once makes an incredible difference to the strength of the tea. Do no argue that my Chinese friend and I are both wrong. Disbelieve us if you like, but try it once for yourself.