Much like jam before cream on a scone, the debate over how to make a perfect cup of tea is a tricky one, but luckily, a former butler to the royal family has revealed the secret to a perfect cuppa – and it turns out the way you stir the tea makes all the difference.
Grant Harrold, who was a royal butler between 2005 and 2011, and still lives on the Prince of Wales’ Highgrove Estate, has some opinions about the process.
Speaking on BBC Three comedy series Miss Holland, he revealed the four steps to the perfect cuppa, and while the milk-to-tea ratio is important, there’s another important technique that often gets missed: stirring.
Harrold told viewers to stir the drink back forth — not in circular motion.
The ex-butler told Business Insider that using a spoon to swirl the liquid around in a circle, risks spilling liquid over the sides of the cup, which ‘we should never allow’.
“If the spoon touches the sides it makes a clinging sound and we don’t want that at the afternoon tea table,” he said.
He also confirmed that one should always pour the tea first and add the milk to the cup afterwards, never before.
Harrold explained the tradition of pouring tea first dates back to the 18th century, and English potter Josiah Spode made popular the idea that china tea cups should be crafted from animal bone to prevent them cracking when hot tea was added.
From then on pouring tea first became a status symbol among the upper class.
He went on: “I am sure the Queen enjoys her Assam or her Earl Grey the traditional way, made with tea leaves in a teapot and poured into a fine bone china teacup. She will also use a strainer.”
He also shut down the myth that members of the royal family stick their pinky out when they sip their tea, saying: “I have never seen that happen once”.
The other two steps include pouring freshly brewed tea from a teapot and to sip, not slurp from the cup.
Last month, the Queen’s former chef Darren McGrady settled the great scone debate in a tweet that revealed the royal’s preference. According to McGrady, it’s always jam first, then cream for the Monarch.
“The Queen always had home-made Balmoral jam first … with clotted cream on top at Buckingham Palace garden parties in the Royal tea tent and all Royal tea parties,” he wrote on Twitter.