George Orwell was one of the major figures of 20th century English literature. His works are known for their powerful social commentary, political satire, and exploration of fictional dystopian future.
Still, Orwell’s bibliography is not limited to somber anti-totalitarian narratives. One of his essays, entitled “A Nice Cup of Tea”, proves that he was a true Englishman who greatly enjoyed traditional English customs.
“A Nice Cup of Tea” was an essay published in the popular daily newspaper The London Evening Standard. It was published on January 12, 1946, a year after Orwell published his famous satirical novel Animal Farm, and three years before he wrote his most famous novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four.
In the introduction to the essay, Orwell wrote that “tea is one of the mainstays of civilization in England and causes violent disputes over how it should be made.” He elaborated his eleven golden rules which one should respect in order to make a perfect cup of tea. He even dedicated a small section of the essay to describe the shape of the perfect teacup.
Orwell thought that the biggest issue amongst English tea drinkers is conflicting opinion over the correct way to add milk to the tea. Some people argue that it is better to pour the milk before the tea, and others swear that the best way is to pour the tea first.
Orwell favored the second approach because one could ruin the whole cup of tea by pouring too much milk before pouring the tea.
Obviously, Orwell was a huge fan of tea. He preferred strong black tea and drank it often. His love of tea found its way into some of his works: in Nineteen-Eighty-Four, the protagonist Winston Smith is frustrated because the government doesn’t provide its citizens with regular sugar.
Instead, they are forced to use saccharine, a cheap substitute for sugar that makes the tea taste like muddy water.
The United Kingdom became one of the world’s greatest consumers of tea during the 18th century when the culture of tea-drinking spread through trade with India and China.
Nowadays it is estimated that an average British citizen consumes almost 2 kilograms of tea per year. Orwell’s consumption probably exceeded even the British standards, because he used every available opportunity to make a nice cup of tea.