The cup of tea is a British institution that transcends bounds of class, generation and all other societal distinctions.
It is remarkable how uniform the art of tea-making is among the British, almost as if they are taught from the same age-old textbook at an early age.
After much observation and empirical research, here are my recommendations on making the perfect British cuppa.
A clean kettle and fresh water are the first two ingredients. Much of our region of the southern British Isles sits atop substantial chalk deposits. This could create a little more limescale than in your region, but I always recommend flushing out the kettle then filling with fresh water as needed. The quality of water can influence the taste of the end result, so if you are unhappy with the taste of the water from the tap then I recommend trying still bottled water from a spring. Soft water is ideal.
While the kettle is boiling, warm the teapot. I use a John Sadler earthenware pot and usually warm it by filling it with hot water from the tap. You can also warm it on the stove, or even in the microwave. China pots are just as good. Stainless steel teapots seem to be popular as they are not breakable and are often easier to keep clean than their china or earthenware counterparts, but some claim they dull the taste.
After warming, add the tea to the teapot. The amount depends on how strong you like your tea. I generally use one heaped teaspoon of leaf tea per cup, plus one for the pot. If using teabags, one teabag per cup, plus one for the pot.
As soon as the kettle boils, pour the boiling water in to the teapot, stir, replace the teapot lid and cover with a tea cozy. Allow the tea to steep for up to 4 minutes.
While the tea steeps, prepare the cups by adding a small amount of milk to each.
When ready, pour the tea through a fine mesh strainer, aiming to achieve a rich, appetising colour.