In 1946, George Orwell published an essay on a matter that is the subject of “violent disputes”—namely, the making of a “nice cup of tea.” His recommendations include warming the pot beforehand and pouring tea in the cup before adding milk. He also touches on the global reach of the beverage: tea, he explains, is “one of the mainstays of civilization in this country, as well as in Eire, Australia, and New Zealand.” “China tea,” he writes, “has virtues which are not to be despised nowadays—it is economical, and one can drink it without milk—but there is not much stimulation in it.” His final point is that tea, unless drunk in the “Russian” style, must be served without sugar.

In A Thirst for Empire: How Tea Shaped the Modern World, Erika Rappaport places the consumption of tea...

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