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The Perfect Cup of Tea

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© 2012 Helana Brigman
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Over the past few weeks, my life has been speeding through your local town at 20 miles over any legal speed limit you could possibly imagine.  I wake up, I write papers, I photograph food, I (attempt) to get a normal running routine in, I teach classes, I grade papers, and I revise, revise, revise my own writing until I can’t think straight anymore.I’ve always been a stickler for style, the sound of a sentence, the meaning of a thought.  I don’t believe writing should be some simple word + meets + page equation, but a larger process of interaction that both communicates meaning and sounds pretty good.Writing has meant I haven’t had much time for a social life, so when the opportunity to get away this past Saturday to the Jane Austen Festival in Mandeville, LA (although in part for work, I was participating in a talk on “Dirty Dickens” and food), I jumped at the opportunity to get away into Jane’s perfect world of romance and manners.Kind of like this girl.

We started our afternoon at a traditional Victorian tea at Vianne’s Teahouse.

 Cranberry Orange Scones started the afternoon with an authentic (and delicious) feel

Beautiful fresh-baked Cranberry Orange Scones were the epitome of *perfect* tea snacks.

My first sip of tea was all I needed to forget my paper deadlines instantly.  It was warm, freshly brewed and had these top notes of cocoa and sugar that my table-mates and I were just crazy about.  The tea house had even made its very own Mr. Darcy’s Tea” for the occasion and, it did not disappoint…it even tasted a little romantic.

Mr. Darcy’s tea with hints of cocoa, strawberries, rose petals, and sugar made for a romantic afternoon tea. 

And I couldn’t have had better company–with two of my favorite PhDs from our English Department in tow (Doris, Monica), the event felt more like a girl’s weekend than an actual outing for work.  We gushed over tiny cakes, drank lots of tea, attempted to look lady-like while devouring scones, and just had a great time.  Monica even gave a lovely reading from Jane Austen’s letters to her sister Cassandra.

Fellow PhD and Anglophile Doris Raab (right) and me gushing over a few moments in Jane’s perfect world

Before rushing off to a talk on Mr. Darcy and his WWSS (“Wet White Shirt Scene“–you know the one), we were treated to decadent tea cakes, chocolate covered strawberries, baklava, and sugar cookies.

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries and Rich Vanilla Petit Fours

What follows is a little something on how to make Mr. Darcy’s Tea (or any tea) that is loose, rich, and flavorful.  I drink tea daily as I work through my papers, and I’m addicted to the instant calming power a good cup has on my nerves.  The right tea can taste expensive and chic, or make for a perfect cup while watching Pride and Prejudice

.The Perfect Cup of Tea

This recipe recounts my tried and true take on good quality loose tea.  Great for a pot, cup, or herbal hot water infusion, home-brewed teas are a simple luxury that are relatively inexpensive.  Perfect for a rainy day, a mid-afternoon boost, or getting in the mood for Jane Austen, try this perfect cup of Tea with Vianne’s Mr. Darcy’s Tea, a black tea, or any of your favorite herbal blends.


*Water, for filling pot

*1-2 tablespoons good quality loose leaf tea

Special Equipment Needed



*stainless steel tea strainer (like mine, here)

*serve with sugar cubes and/or cream

1.) Pack a stainless steel tea strainer with loose leaf tea, close, clasp, and set aside for infusing your water.

2.) Bring water to a boil until teapot whistles.

3.) Pour hot water into serving teapot while holding your tea strainer underneath the water (I do this so I can instantly activate the tea and watch the water change color).

4.) Place lid on pot and allow to steep for 5 minutes (as with Mr. Darcy’s tea).

5.) Remove strainer from pot and serve tea hot with sugar cubes, cream, and any appropriate tea-time snack.  Enjoy! Makes 6 cups of tea.


Tea (茶)

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  1. Posted March 12, 2012 at 12:31 pm | #

    no, no, no! you must “scald” the pot first. pour little hot water into the pot, put lid on, swirl about until pot is warm to touch. also, use not-quite-boiling water so as not to burn the leaves. 🙂

  2. Posted March 12, 2012 at 12:55 pm | #

    Oh James, why do you only ever comment when you disagree with my instructions? (See Guacamole post 2008 and 2010). I appreciate the feedback though as I read *many* posts instructions on how to warm the pot before adding tea. Orson Wells’s article on a cup of tea says to scald the pot, so yes, let’s add to scald the pot too! 🙂

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