It has been over ten years since my Grandma had passed away but despite the years having rolled by a cup of tea in a proper teacup still reminds me of her. The simple ritual of making a ‘pot of tea’ as she called it, calms me and always makes me smile. The warm memories of her crinkled hands pouring the hot brewed tea into her best china cups always lifts my mood regardless of what is going on in my life.
Grannie had a tea ritual; I don’t think she realised she had one, but she acted out the same routine each and every single time she boiled the kettle for tea. To start with for tea to be served we had to sit at the kitchen table, it was always covered with a pristine crisp white cotton tablecloth, if there were any accidental splashes or spills during teatime the table cover would be whipped away as soon as the last drop had been enjoyed and immediately replaced.
She had owned the giant teapot for years and the handmade striped knitted cosy topped with a with a once fluffy pompom had been a feature of her kitchen throughout my childhood. Grannie’s ritual started with using fresh water when filling the whistling top kettle, any water left from the last boil was poured into her plant water jug which sat on the window ledge. As the water started to boil, she would warm the pot by pouring a full cup of hot water into the pot and swill it around, before tipping it out. After the teapot had been warmed the counting of the loose tea began, she was never a fan of teabags, dismissed them as something for lazy people. She religiously followed the passed down rule of one heaped teaspoon per person and one for the pot.
After she had filled the teapot with boiling water, she would ceremoniously place the pot in the centre of the table, she would cover with the tea-cosy and seat herself so she would be comfy and seated at the head of the table, ready for the family teatime chat. She would allow the pot to stand for six minutes to brew, no more and no less. It had to be six minutes, pouring too soon it would be weak, and one thing Grannie did not tolerate was anaemic tea. Whilst the tea brewed, she would send her younger grandchildren to collect the jug of chilled milk from the fridge and collect the glass dish of sugar lumps to bring back to the table. She would always ask me as her eldest and most trusted grandchild to collect the china cups and saucers from the cabinet. The bone china tea set matched the teapot and although old and delicate it had been cherished and carefully washed and dried after every outing. It had been a wedding present when her and Grandad were married and despite the fragility of the set, she would not entertain the idea of drinking tea out of a cheap mass-produced mug. I always felt grown-up drinking tea out of the dainty gold gilded decorated teacups and used to admire the English rose decorations hoping one day I would have a set.
After the six minutes was up, she would announce she would be mother and whilst holding the teapot ask each person if they wanted tea, even if you said no you were poured a cup full of steaming hot freshly brewed tea which you didn’t dare not drink. After each cup was poured, she would politely ask (despite knowing the answer) if you took milk and then sugar and then after a thorough stir and Grannie was satisfied the tea was how you liked it you were passed your cup and saucer.
Once everyone had a cup and saucer sat in front of them Grannie would take a sip of hers, pronounce it was lovely and then relax into her chair and enjoy a chinwag with her well-watered family.
I do the same to this day using Grannie’s much loved tea set, much to the annoyance of my teenage children. They would much rather grab a can of something cold and fizzy from the fridge and escape into the hovels they call bedrooms, but they know after school we have to have to hold Grannie’s tea ritual and catch-up on all the days news.