George Orwell was an English novelist, essayist, journalist and critic. He once said that There are eleven rules for perfect tea making and in this article, we are going to tackle each one of them and see if it still holds up.
The segment of there are eleven rules for perfect tea making was written in 1946, and many things have changed since then, but some things are still true today.
Let’s dive in and get started! 🍵📚
George Orwell's 11 rules for perfect tea making
1. Only make tea with Indian or Ceylonese tea
There are eleven rules for perfect tea making and using Indian or Ceylonese tea is apparently one of them. Of course the list was likely created by George Orwell during the war years, so this rule is likely a product of that. The British relied heavily on tea produced by India at the time, because that was under control by the allies. Nowadays, incredible teas can come from all sorts of sources, including Japan, Taiwan and China. Looks like this one is debunked!
2. Tea should be made in small quantities
In the list There are eleven rules for perfect tea making this one jumped out as the most prescient (leave it to Orwell). With western style brewing, people tend to use a lot of water and not very much tea. This produces a larger quantity of watered down tea. In the Japanese and Chinese styles, there is far less water and more leaf used. This produces a smaller quantity of super concentrated tea. Overall, this creates a much better drinking experience, as the full breadth of flavors can be experienced in the cup. This rule is a good one!
3. The pot should be warmed beforehand
Another correct point on “There are eleven rules for perfect tea making” This one makes a significant difference when it comes to the question: how to make green tea taste good. When you pour tea into a cold mug, the mug itself will absorb much of the heat from the tea and cool it down significantly. Japanese green tea is prepared at 140-160 degrees fahrenheit, which is just about the perfect temperature for a warm beverage. If you use cool teaware, this will reduce the temperature and make it too cool from the start. Nice job on this one Orwell!
4. The tea should be strong
If there are eleven rules for perfect tea making this one may be what we most agree with. Tea should be strong, flavorful and dense. Many people prepare watered down tea and assume that all teas taste like nothing. True tea should have a powerful flavor to it and not taste watered down. This is achieved through a high leaf to water ratio and an appropriate brewing temperature. If you don’t use enough leaves, the tea will not be strong enough. If you're wondering, what does a strong green tea taste like, checkout our article 👉 What does green tea taste like?
5. the tea should be put straight into the pot
This rule still applies, you should put the tea directly into the pot. In the case of Japanese green tea, you put 5 grams of leaves into the teapot and then pour in the water. The teapot has a built in filter to remove the leaves automatically as you pour, so you can put the leaves straight into the pot as Orwell would say.
6. one should take the teapot to the kettle and not the other way about
In the guide there are eleven rules for perfect tea making a few can be true but they are not really so important. It really doesn’t matter whether you bring the kettle to the teapot or the teapot to the kettle, whichever is more convenient. If I were to say there are eleven rules for perfect tea making, there are other, more important matters I would address but this we will discuss later.
7. after making the tea, one should stir it, or better, give the pot a good shake
This is one of the few rules that is actually incorrect. You should not shake or stir the tea leaves as they are brewing, but rather leave them undisturbed. When you agitate the leaves, you are extracting the bitterness and while the tea might be more flavorful, the taste will have less complexity and more bitterness. You can however shake out the last few drops from the tea leaves as you pour. If you're interested to understand other factors that increase the bitterness of the tea, read our article 👉 Why Green Tea is Bitter & How to Reduce the Bitterness.
8. one should drink out of a good breakfast cup
On the list there are eleven rules for perfect tea making, Orwell seems to get really specific about the type of cup to use. I’m not sure I fully understand what a “breakfast cup” is, but the advice is well received. It is important to use a cup that you really like in order to drink the tea. The cup should comfortable fit on your hand and it should be comfortable to drink out of. We prefer to use a double walled glass because it helps to insulate the tea and you get to examine the color of the tea as you drink it.
9. one should pour the cream off the milk before using it for tea
I’m not sure if they were using unpasteurized milk back in 1946, but this one does seem a bit off. If there are eleven rules for perfect tea making, this one seems to be the most unusual. We believe that tea should be enjoyed without milk, so I think it is a good idea to use milk with a lower fat percentage. I guess the less fat in the milk, the closer it is to water. This rule I will have to put in the third category of “unclear or irrelevant”. So far most of these rules still hold up, but some are not as good as others. And if you're wondering how to make your tea more sweet without milk, read our article 👉 How to Sweeten Green Tea.
10. one should pour tea into the cup first
Orwell suggests that you should pour the tea into the cup before pouring into the milk. I am inclined to give him credit for this one because if you are preparing tea with milk, you are more likely to be using a teabag. If this is the case, you should pour in the water first, brew the tea and then pour in the milk. The hotter water will be much more effective when it comes to infusing the teabag. This one can be true, but it is a bit obscure.
11. Tea should be drunk without sugar
If there are eleven rules for perfect tea making, this is the one that is most important for people to learn. So many people add sugar to tea and it really destroys the drinking experience. A good quality tea should have a subtle sweetness to it, as well as astringency and some other complexities. All of these are lost when you add sugar to the tea. When you drink high quality tea plain, without milk or sugar, you are able to experience the vast array of flavors, just as the producer intended.
Final thoughts on George Orwell eleven rules
So on the list there are eleven rules for perfect tea making, we found that 7 of these are correct, 1 is incorrect and 3 are either obscure or pretty irrelevant. Not bad for 1946!
There are eleven rules for perfect tea making by Nio Teas
George Orwell rules were very inspiring for us. We believe that there are certain rules to respect to enhance the flavor of your tea.
There is however a better list of rules for tea making, and we would like to start our own here at Nio Teas. Without further saying, here is list of the 11 rules you should respect to brew tea like a tea master 📚
#1 Don't use tea from Teabags
Are tea bags bad for you? Yes. The first mistake people make is making tea from teabags. When you open up a teabag, you’ll find incredibly low quality leaves that have been ground up into tiny pieces. When you drink teabags, you’re getting the leftover leaves from the tea production process. Instead, you want to treat yourself to high quality loose leaf tea, which will have a lot more flavor and nutrients. When it comes to green tea, you’ll also get a more vibrant yellow or green color, rather than the orange or brown color you get from teabags. The flavor of these teabags will tend to be flat and bitter, no matter how well you prepare them. That’s why using loose leaf tea is the most important step when it comes to preparing better tea at home.
#2 Don't use boiling water
The second mistake people make is using water that is too hot. When most people prepare tea, they just use boiling water. This may work for certain types of oolong and black tea, but it can be far too hot for green teas, specifically Japanese green teas. Japanese green teas are very sensitive to temperature, so its best to prepare them using warm water that’s much lower in temperature than boiling. We have found that 160 degrees Fahrenheit or around 70 degrees Celsius works best for most Japanese green teas. When it comes to teas like Gyokuro tea, you may want to go down to 140 degrees Fahrenheit or 60 degrees celsius. The reason for using lower temperature water is because it extracts less of the bitter components from the tea. Even if you use high quality Japanese green tea, it will become very bitter if you brew it with boiling water. By brewing at the right temperature, you’ll be able to extract the best of the chemical composition of green tea, the sweet and savory theanine from the tea, without extracting the bitter catechins. This will make your tea much smoother.
#3 Steeping tea too long is a not good
Another mistake people make is brewing the tea for too long. Many beginners add the water to the tea and let it sit for an indefinite amount of time, hoping that the longer they wait, the stronger the flavor will be. While longer steeping times will indeed extract more from the leaves, it will extract more of the bitter components. The amino acids in the tea leaves are extracted relatively easy, with cooler water and less time. The more bitter catechins and polyphenols in the tea take more time or a hotter temperature. Because of this, you can think of the brewing parameters of a tea, almost like a type of recipe. In order to create the best tasting extraction, you want to have a certain ratio of flavors. That is why it is very important to follow the brewing instructions of each tea. For sencha, 1 minute is enough time to open up the leaves and extract a good amount of their flavor. For Gyokuro, a more tightly rolled green tea, the leaves need a full 2 minutes to open up and release their flavor.
If you are only able to prepare boiling water, there is a trick you can use to bring the temperature down. By transferring hot water into a cool cup, you will bring the temperature down by approximately 10 degrees C or 18 degrees Fahrenheit. You can take your boiling water and pour it into a series of 3 cups before putting it into your teapot and it should be cool enough to brew most Japanese green tea. This is a trick we learned from tea masters in Japan, who you might see doing this when they prepare tea for guests.
The one exception for this cold brewing. When you use cool or room temperature water, extracting bitterness is less of a concern, so you can let the leaves brew for 3 hours or even overnight. With the cold brew, you can really play around with the brewing parameters and see which brewing time works best for you. Are you interested in cold brew green tea? Our article 👉 Cold Brew Green Tea explained by Tea Experts is made for you!
#4 Use a high leaf to water ratio
This one was borrowed from the list there are eleven rules for perfect tea making by George Orwell, but it was so important we just had to use it. This time, instead of talking about tea quantity or tea strength, we will just talk about using a high leaf to water ratio. For Japanese green tea, we recommend using 5 grams of leaves and 150ml of water. With this ratio, you are able to get a small quantity of concentrated, super-flavorful green tea. This water ratio is the perfect amount for the kyusu teapot, which is the best tool for preparing Japanese green tea.
#5 Don't throw your tea after just one brewing
Another mistake beginners make when preparing tea is throwing out the tea after just one brewing. High quality tea leaves are meant to be reused multiple times before being thrown out. Not only does this make your tea supply last longer, it can also lead to a more diverse tea drinking experience. Each steeping is different, and many tea drinkers actually prefer the second steeping. With Japanese green tea, the first steeping tends to be the sweetest, while the second steeping can actually be stronger on these steamed vegetable or grassy notes. The third steeping can be a bit more subtle, depending on the type of tea, with more emphasis on the minerals in the tea. The tea can even get greener in color when going from the first to second brewing.
#6 Use high-quality water
Water is something that is not talked about enough in the world of tea. 99% of brewed tea is water, so it is important you get it right. We recommend using filtered water, as calcium rich or “hard water” can really interfere with the taste of the tea. What you want is a neutral tasting water, so that the flavor of the tea can really shine.
#7 Don't add too many ingredients
While it can be nice to add a little sweetener or oatmilk to your tea from time to time, it should not be something you rely on. When you add things to tea, it can be really difficult to focus on the specific taste notes of the drink. If you really want to experience the tea just as the farmer intended, you should drink it without milk or sugar.
#8 Use the right teaware
The final mistake beginners make is not using the right Teaware. This mistake is listed last because it is actually the least important. Prepare tea in a teapot like this clay kyusu teapot is the best way to get the most out of the leaves, but it doesn’t make too much of a difference as long as you are preparing the tea in a loose leaf style. A tea strainer can be a great way to get started in the world of loose leaf tea, although technically the cramped space will not give the leaves quite enough space to fully expand and release their flavor properly. The clay teapot gives the leaves plenty of space to open up, and the clay can even accentuate the flavor and decrease some of the bitterness. Don’t feel as if you need to invest in expensive Teaware right away, it’s more important to focus on getting good tea. And if you don't have a tea strainer or an infuser, read our article 👉 how to make loose leaf tea without an infuser.
#9 Don’t use a low quality tea
There are eleven rules for perfect tea making and this is perhaps the most important. It is possible to prepare bad tea with good leaves, but it is not possible to prepare good tea with bad leaves. This is why it is so important to select good quality tea. Ideally you will find tea from the first harvest, produced in a small batch by a known farmer or producer. And if you don't know where to start, checkout our article 👉 Best tea for beginners Selected by Experts. You'll surely find a tea that is your cup of tea!
#10 Get out all the tea
As we mentioned before, it is important to get all the tea out of the teapot. The most flavorful part of the tea is poured out last because it has been in contact with the leaves the longest. Not only is this important to maximize the flavor of the cup of tea, but it is also important to get all of the water out of the leaves so the tea does not overbrew. If the water is left inside the pot after the first brewing is poured, the second brewing will become very bitter.
#11 alternate pouring when you share tea
As we mentioned in the last rule, the most flavorful part of the tea is poured out last so when you are preparing tea for guests, you will want to share this so that everyone gets to experience the same flavor. The best way to do this is either by using a fairness cup (more common in Chinese tea brewing) or by using the alternate pouring method (more common in Japanese tea brewing). This method alternates the pouring between cups so everyone gets the same amount of flavor!
I hope you have enjoyed our take on there are eleven rules for perfect tea making. If you have any questions or have some of your own rules you’d like to see on the list, please feel free to leave them in the comments below. Until then, we’ll see you next time.