Victorian London - Publications - Etiquette and Household Advice Manuals - Cassells Household Guide, New and Revised Edition (4 Vol.) c.1880s [no date] - How to Make Tea and Coffee

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Volume 1



THE Scotch do not say "to make tea," but "to infuse the tea," which is more correct in every respect. Good tea is an infusion, not a decoction. By boiling  the tea-leaves, you get from them a bitter principle, and you drive off the delicate perfume of the tea. For this reason, the teapot should never be kept hot by letting it stand on the top of a cooking-stove, over a lamp, or where it is likely to be made to boil. Excessively bad tea is made in some parts of the Continent by people who do not know better, by putting a small pinch of tea into a large kettle of water, and letting it boil till they have extracted all its colouring matter, in which they think the goodness of tea consists. A metal teapot is better than an earthen one, and the brighter it is kept the better is the tea. Rinse the teapot with boiling water. Put in a bumping spoonful of tea for each person, and one for the pot. Pour over it just enough boiling water to soak the tea. Let it stand a few minutes, and then fill up the pot with boiling water. Do not put in carbonate of soda to soften the water and make the tea draw better£ i.e., to make a wretched saving of tea, unless you are in absolute poverty. The water, in fact, is softened by boiling, which causes it to deposit some of the matters it held in solution ; witness the "fur" in long-used tea-kettles, and the lime which settles at the bottom of many waters after boiling.
    A cup of tea is an excellent thing after any fatigue. Its refreshing effects may then be followed up by more substantial nutriment. A proof amongst others (such as steam, railways, electric telegraphs. &c.) that the world is still in its infancy, is that it is scarcely two hundred. years since tea came into general use. Pepys mentions having tasted tea for the first time in September, 1660:£ "Tea £ a Chinese drink, of which I never drank before." Sir Kenelm Digby records, as important, the Jesuits' mode of preparing tea:£ "The priest that came from China [-295-] told Mr. Waller (the poet) that to a pint of tea they frequently take the yolks of two new-laid eggs, and beat them up with as much fine sugar as is sufficient for the tea, and stir all well together. The water must remain upon the tea no longer than while you can say the Miserere Psalm very leisurely ; you have then only the spiritual part of the tea, the proportion of which to the water must be about a drachm to a pint."
    In 1688 the Court of Directors of the East India Company, writing to their agents at Bantam, in Java, ordered them to send home one hundred pounds weight of the best tea they could get ; and the next year there arrived their first consignment of tea, in two canisters of one hundred and forty-three pounds and a half each. Before that date £ namely, in 1671 £ tea had already found a doughty champion in Cornelius Boutekoe, a Leyden doctor, who vaunted tea as a panacea against all the ills that flesh is heir to. He pronounced it an infallible cause of health, and thought two hundred cups daily not too much even for a moderate drinker. The Dutch East India Company is said to have made it worth his while to uphold that opinion. There are sundry and divers "teas" made from sage, camomile, ground ivy, hawthorn, blackcurrant, sloe, and other leaves. They are ptisanes, or herb-drinks, and may be taken in obedience to medical advice or drunk by hypochondriacs, who must be always dosing themselves with something ; but they are not, and never will be tea £ "the cups that cheer, but not inebriate." The Russians (who certainly drink the best tea in Europe, obtained overland from China) as a rule prefer their tea with something which does inebriate in it.
    Coffee in English middle-class houses is often badly served. It should not be boiled, nor made in quantity twice a week, to be heated up when wanted. The kernels should be sufficiently and equally roasted. As it is the roasting which develops the aroma, under-roasted coffee is so much lost, whilst over-roasted is so much driven off and wasted or lost in another direction. Of the two faults, the former is the worse. Unroasted coffee is useless. Most of us remember the cruel cheat of sending unroasted coffee to the Crimea, the purveyors of which might as well have sent horse-beans to our besieging army. Indeed, roasted beans or wheat would have been far better. Circumstances very often compel the buying of coffee ready ground, almost always ready roasted ; but the more quickly coffee is used alter both roasting and grinding the better. It is only a healthy amusement to give a coffee-mill a few turns. Coffee is easily roasted at home (it should be done in the open air) in an iron cylinder or barrel of small diameter, standing on two feet, over a coke and cinder or, better, a charcoal fire, turned by a handle like that of a grindstone. If you make the coffee in a biggin, put into the filter a good dessert-spoonful for every person, and first of all only pour on a few spoonfuls of boiling water sufficient to soak it, and after letting it stand in a warm place for a quarter of an hour, then pour on the rest of the boiling water, and let it percolate. The time to take coffee is either in the morning (with milk mixed in due proportion) or after lunch or an early dinner. In the evening it is to be avoided, unless you intend, like Lady Macbeth, to "murder sleep ;" for which you are sure to be punished next morning.

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source: Cassells Household Guide, c.1880s