Fr. Z’s Kitchen: Concerning the making of tea, biscuits and Zagnut bars

I have recently received from a reader in Blighty a rather nice porcelain tea pot and a little crate of tea.

Remember: You can buy TEA from the Wyoming Coffee Monks.

That said, I am determined to make tea properly.

As I researched the matter, I found that George Orwell, who predicted the Obama Administration, wrote an essay on how to make tea properly.  HERE  There is audio of him reading some of it!

There are, according to Orwell, 11 Points… which I include hereunder in abbreviated form:

  1. Use Indian or Ceylonese tea. CHECK!  The sender sent Ceylonese!
  2. Make small quantities — that is, in a teapot.
  3. The pot should be warmed beforehand. I recall a phrase “hot the pot”.
  4. Make it strong. For a pot holding a quart, if you are going to fill it nearly to the brim, six heaped teaspoons would be about right.
  5. The tea should be put straight into the pot.
  6. Take the teapot to the kettle and not the other way about. The water should be actually boiling at the moment of impact.
  7. After making the tea, one should stir it, or better, give the pot a good shake, afterwards allowing the leaves to settle.
  8. Drink out of a good breakfast cup — that is, the cylindrical type of cup, not the flat, shallow type.
  9. Pour the cream off the milk before using it for tea. Milk that is too creamy always gives tea a sickly taste.
  10. Pour tea into the cup first. This is one of the most controversial points of all.
  11. Tea — unless one is drinking it in the Russian style — should be drunk without sugar.


I shall begin my preparations and have a go.  Perhaps I shall even shine up the ol’ silver biscuit box which I bought at a flea market in Manhattan.

This should help me to get ready for a trip in…. July?

I think I am supposed to have some biscuits.  Or maybe scones.  I used to make scones.  Perhaps I’ll try again.

More later.


I have made tea… I believe Orwell would approve.

First, the new tea pot and the little crate of tea!

There are two kinds.  I’m not sure what they are.  When in doubt start on the right… and it has black.

I brought the teapot close to the electric kettle, as Orwell would have.


Before I added the several teaspoons, I “hotted the pot” as instructed.


Playing the “Jeopardy” theme…

Orwell wanted me to use a straight sided cup.  Hence, one of my Leo XIII quote mugs.


The milk went in after.


They went with…

As for the mug…

The “Libertas praestantissimum 31” Coffee or Tea Mug

Click HERE


I wonder how these would be with the tea… ?

Recently, to console a worker in the chancery here for performing an unpleasnt task above and beyond the call of duty, I obtained for him and for other staff a case of Zagnut bars.

Perhaps they have some left.

Want some?  Click HERE

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. The Mad Sicilian Geek says:

    I prefer my tea with honey and a small bit of lemon…
    Don’t forget to make sure your pinkie is extended… :D

  2. capchoirgirl says:

    Ah, the proper way to drink tea! I love discussions like this.
    I really love my electric kettle for tea making, because I can get the temperature exactly right for whatever type of tea I’m brewing. I do drink a lot of black tea, but I have some lovely white teas as well–I don’t think Orwell would’ve counted them, though ;-)–and with white tea the water has to be much cooler than for black.
    I do, though, tend to add a spoonful of sugar to my tea. And some milk, if it’s my favorite Lady Grey.
    A former chef for Queen Elizabeth and Princess Diana recently wrote a cookbook called “Eating Royally”, which has many lovely suggestions for tea time treats, including the palace scones recipe!

  3. Sri_Sriracha says:

    Because of variations in leaf size, a better way to measure tea is to weigh it out. 3 grams per 8 oz water will yield a good cup. Also, if you use green tea, only heat the water to 170 degrees rather than a full boil as it is delicate and will get bitter.

  4. What? No cup and SAUCER? I faint.

  5. Riddley says:

    Coming to Blighty in July eh, Father? I daresay you already know about it, but if not then perhaps you will consider coming to this:

    I believe (though I may be wrong) that the chapel where it’s held is the only one of Pugin’s chapels not to have been vandalised in the latter half of the twentieth century.

  6. AM says:

    Wait, Orwell was a prelactarian? Very dodgy…


    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  7. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Pour tea into the cup first. This is one of the most controversial points of all.”

    Hmm…it is very difficult to pour the cup into the tea, first.

    Oh, he meant pour the tea first instead of the milk! Milk? Is he one of those, “cow-lovers?” Tea should be bold, biting, and boiling. Milk is for French Toast.

    The Chicken

  8. Charivari Rob says:

    Why would I put tea in the cup first, when I’ve already put tea in the pot?

  9. GloriaDei says:

    Don’t know who said it, but in my kitchen I have a plaque reading “Where there is tea, there is hope.” I was interested to see Orwell’s take on cream. Whenever I order tea in a restaurant I have to insist on milk. No cream, no half and half, no (horrors!) non-dairy creamer. I have learned to say that I am allergic to cream if I want them to actually bring real milk. Definitely tea in the cup, then milk!

  10. Charles E Flynn says:

    The pre-or-post-lactarian distinction seems to be based on the differing abilities of the ceramic goods owned by two social classes to survive thermal shock:

    Are you a Pre or Post-Lactarian?

  11. Gil Garza says:

    Next add 1 heaping cup of pure cane sugar to your hot and freshly brewed tea.

    Pour your sweet tea into a very tall highball glass (Collins Glass will do) filled with large crushed ice.

    Garnish with a lemon wedge or mint leaves.


  12. YorkshireStudent says:

    All the spiritual and liturgical controversy in the world cannot match the arguments one can get out of tea.

    Obviously, the question of milk or tea first is the most loudly fought. Some say it is the Yorkshire way to do milk first with everyone else getting it wrong (or right, for those not from Yorkshire…).

    Others – and this is the idea I like – think it is probably a class thing. This is Britain, everything started off as a class thing. The idea was that one put ones milk in first, so that your precious cups (which you couldn’t afford to replace if you were poor) wouldn’t shatter with the hot tea. Who knows?

    Most importantly, however, Fr. is to remember never to clean out your pot (unless you get something really bad in there). Swill the contents round, rinse, but no soap etc.

    Enjoy your tea!

  13. un-ionized says:

    Masked Chicken, Yes, milk only for the more ferocious blends like Irish Breakfast which can take the enamel off your teeth. Darjeeling with a little sugar for me, if taken by itself. With food, something more tannic.

  14. edmontonn18 says:

    Milk in first or milk in last?

    YorkshireStudent is almost right on the distinction of milk or tea in first.

    If you were poor, hot tea would be likely to shatter your lowly earthenware mug.

    If you were rich, your fine bone china cup (with saucer) could cope with scalding tea straight in. As porcelain is fired at a higher temperature, it copes better with rapid changes in temperature.

    If one had been so inclined (and lacking in charity) one migh have described a social inferior as being “a bit milk-in-first”. We Brits have been extremely class conscious in our past.

  15. Someone please be the Garrigue says:

    Zagnuts? Brings to mind an interesting phyllo pastry: with chopped zaganos. Nutty indeed.

    [If memory serves, Zagnut bars have coconut.]

  16. Fr_Sotelo says:

    I agree that only teas from India and Ceylon will do. But it doesn’t get passed my lips without sugar and cream.

  17. Charles E Flynn says:

    The next time you are in St. Paul:

  18. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Between the post-title and the photograph, and distributing the “making”, I had (provincially) concluded ‘Zagnut bars’ were an invention of your own, Father, on account of the ‘Z’.

    One must be a dab hand to add the milk first, without risking getting it milkier than one meant (or be drinking very strong – teabag? – tea). I used nearly to horrify people by having milk in my Earl Grey and Lapsang Souchong…

    I remember being astonished by my first Russian novel (in translation!) with that “drinking it in the Russian style’ (I tried holding a sugar cube between my teeth – not very successful: terribly sweet and short-lived!)

  19. capchoirgirl says:

    My college boyfriend spent a lot of time in England, in the London suburbs, and he INSISTED on milk before tea. I generally, however, add the milk after, now. I brew said tea, then add milk and sugar–and yes, some teas need sugar! Just a tiny bit!

  20. Nan says:

    @Charles E Flynn,

    Tea Source Gold.

  21. Royse87 says:

    I appreciate someone who does their homework before attempting to make a truly English cup of tea. Fr. Z has published his infallible decree for the salvation of souls and the glory of our Holy Mother the Church.

  22. Akita says:

    Lovely post. Loose tea, properly made, is one of life’s pleasures as you have so beautifully illustrated. I agree, NO sugar. Let the sweetness of your biscuit, cake, Zagnut bar be juxtaposed on your tongue with the savouriness of your tea. Try it, you’ll like it!

    Now, lets talk about teabags. Nothing illustrates the abomination of desolate tea flavour as much a Lipton tea bag cup of tea. Let’s look to our friends at Brook-Bond for a much more flavourful cup with Red Rose. PG Tips, Tetley not bad either.

  23. Akita says:

    However, when I was in Singapore, I discovered Lipton’s Yellow Label blend tea bag! Rich and delicious. Blended for a more tea discerning market, I guess.

  24. KateD says:


    I use much less, like enough to fit in my cupped hand two times…..and then I rebrew and regrew again….by adding more water….I thought that was part of the beauty of tea….the third pot is nearly as satisfying as the first.

    We have been displaced for months now, and have been consigned to instant coffee…bleck!. Last week I looked for loose leaf tea at the little local market, but to no avail…Thank you for this post. We are definitely going to have to take a road trip this week to stock up on tea and coffee from the mystic monks.

  25. KateD says:

    And, Father, you’ve forgotten a step!

    12. Top off with 1 jigger of Jameson.


  26. un-ionized says:

    Some tea needs a ton of sugar.

  27. KateD: I always remember to forget Irish whiskey.

  28. Venerator Sti Lot says:


    I tend to let a ‘tea egg’ help me decide how much (but then I suppose they can vary in size as much teapots). I like Jameson’s in Irish coffee, but don’t think I ever tried adding any to my Twining’s Irish Breakfast Tea… (Pleasant to think that many Irish folk seem to pronounce it in a way close to the standard English pronunciation of a couple centuries ago: “Here thou, great Anna! whom three realms obey, / Dost sometimes counsel take—and sometimes tea.” Ah, zeugma and (for all I know) Zagnuts.)

    With un-ionized’s observation, “Some tea needs a ton of sugar”, I, thinking of some all-night teas stands I have visited in London in days of yore, heartily agree – even a ton of sugar and a hogshead of milk would probably leave you feeling you were being tanned from within till you might end up like one of the bog people.

  29. Venerator: zeugma and (for all I know) Zagnuts.)

    Zeugma implies connections between concepts or syntactical components. That seems to exclude Zagnuts, though we ought not bar nut bars or coconut candies.

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