Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 134

US cup of tea vs UK cup of tea

I met a British woman today, out of the blue, and we chatted for a while whilst she was working at her desk.

I didn’t realise she was British at first and the conversation started like this:

Her: ‘Where are you from?’
Me: ‘The UK.’ (I always say this a) because I am, and b) because if I say ‘The Cotswolds’ generally Americans don’t know where this is šŸ™‚ )
‘Me too. Where abouts?!’
‘Oh, the Cotswolds.’
‘I’m from Northampton.’

She proceeded to tell me that she’d been here for nearly 20 years, and she still did have her accent, all said and done.

We mulled over the vast cultural differences between Britain and America, and discussed, as I often do with Brits out here, the very important thing that is the Cup of Tea.

That's a right proper looking British cup of tea, that is!

That’s a right proper looking British cup of tea, that is!

It is hard to get a good cup of tea here. I haven’t found one yet, though I feel it must exist somewhere!

I have spied some Americans making their cup of tea by putting a tea bag in cold water and, heaven forbid, microwaving it! Lord above, I am shuddering as I type!

A document has been drafted by the British Standards Online which shows how you really should make a cup of tea, though I know it even differs between Brits – milk first or hot water (from a kettle) first…..? Oh, the choices and preferences!

Mind the Gap also has an article on How to Make a Cup of Tea in the USA, as does Christopher Hitchens for the Guardian.

My favourite quote from his article about asking for tea, or getting a cup of tea out here in the USA, is this:

“Next time you are in a Starbucks or its equivalent and want some tea,” he writes, “don’t be afraid to decline that hasty cup of hot water with added bag. It’s NOT what you asked for.”

He adds that it is “virtually impossible in the United States” ā€“ his home for the last 30 years ā€“ “to get a cup or pot of tea that tastes remotely as it ought to”. His main gripe is that Americans seem to offer only cups of tepid water, with teabags served separately. Tea drunk like this, he says, is not worthy of the name ā€“ and is “best thrown away”.

It’s true – water is never hot! How can my tea bag infuse properly? I wonder if there is concern about being sued in case the hot water scalds…’s entirely possible that this is the case, since you can sue for just about everything else out here! And I’ve yet to find a teapot being used anywhere…..

Make mine a hot one!

Make mine a hot one!

In all this important tea discussion we realised that we were referring to our American cousins as ‘them’. How rude of us! Her boss must have also noticed and called out from the back office ‘I can hear you talking about us!’ How we grimaced!

I’m off to put the kettle on šŸ™‚

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30 Responses to Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 134

  1. Andy says:

    A teapot is the only way to go. My wife (American, god bless her) will make it in the cup, but if I’m only making a cup for me and nobody else it still gets made in the pot. I even still use the tea cosy that was hand knitted by my old Mum about 4 decades ago. I’ve yet to find a tea cosy for sale in all of the USA – but of course I really don’t need one!

  2. I lived with some girls from the Outer Hebrides when I was a student, and they taught me the best way to make tea. Put two teabags in a metal teapot, boil on the hob for about five minutes, milk in first, add tea. Keep another pot full of hot water for topping up. The tea is STRONG and milky.
    They even bequeathed their metal teapot to me, and I was (and am) distraught about leaving it behind in the UK. Tetley’s British blend is okay, but you know, not like home.

  3. thebonnierose says:

    Yes. Might I add the dreaded milky hot water mess that you can get too from Starbucks am like cages in the USA. So gross. Not too mention they don’t freshly boil the water hardly anywhere in the US which doesn’t help the tea to infuse. I have tried while living in the US to ask for two cups so that I can brew my tea in one cup and then pour it into the milk but usually that makes the cafe upset to use two cups on me bc Im too picky about my tea. But honestly after having hot water with milk and the tea not brewing properly so it really tastes like the description I just gave I gets frustrating. People ask why I moved from Hawaii to England and I’ll joke bc in the USA they cannot make a proper cup of tea. Which people here do not understand bc honestly…how can you screw up tea?

    Bonnie Rose | A Compass Rose

  4. Marie says:

    Gasp…. You didn’t mention ‘their’ ice tea! How rude Mrs English Desperate Housewife!! I’ve grown to love ice tea, although not my first choice. Raspberry being my fave. My mother-in-law sends over bag fulls of rather lovely British tea (if ever you want to grab some!), which goes in teapot lass, or in mug…… milk always last!!!! Now where’s the kettle, off to dunk a Rich Tea šŸ˜‰ Biscuits….. now there’s another discussion right there!

  5. Robyn says:

    It’s a good job Americans have amazing creations like Reuben sandwiches and crab cakes to make up for the lack of good tea…

  6. Nicole says:

    Love this post. I love tea, but growing up in America I must be missing out on something epic. I propose we do tea, and you can instruct me on the proper ways to tea. In exchange, I will make you some iced tea that you won’t barf over, have you ever hear of an Arnold Palmer? Mine has a twist that being British I think you will find interesting.

    Oh, and isn’t that video hilarious?! That is the phone I use, love love love it!

  7. EmmaK says:

    I don’t think you can get what we think of as a good cup of tea here. In New york I went into one of those mega tea emporiums and just ordered tea with milk and they put foaming milk on the tea.I was livid but I drank it! It was not good.

  8. Pingback: Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 135 | ukdesperatehousewifeusa

  9. Pat and Pam says:

    Hello, It’s the American in UK here — tea in USA, I agree, is hopeless. At least you can buy Twinings, which means you have some hope of making your own decent cuppa. I must defend iced tea, the drink of the South, though. If made PROPERLY, it is NOT pre-sweetened, Brew the tea fairly strong in a pitcher. When cool, pour over plenty of ice in a tall glass (one or two cubes will NOT do). Squeeze in a WEDGE of lemon, not a dinky slice which just gets the lemon all over your fingers. Sweeten as desired, My mom used to use her lovely pink crystal glassware, which tapered to a point at the bottom. She used real sugar (not too much), which always left a little undissolved in that pointy spot. That last slurp from the bottom of the glass was a treat, rather lemony, very cold and sweet.

    Also, don’t mess with the canned swill called flavoured ice tea. Some people used to think it was a healthier alternative to sodas (or pop, if you prefer). Check the can — there are as many calories in that can of “tea” as there are in a can of Coke. Blech.

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