Making a pot of tea or a hot drink is probably the first most basic domestic
skill that you’ll need to learn, as I’m sure you’ll be making more drinks in
your kitchen than anything else. I’ve called this section making a pot
of tea, because its a very British thing to do and tea is my favourite drink,
but, much of the advice given below will apply when making the majority of hot
I’ve given helpful tips and ideas on what to buy and safe techniques
to adopt in the paragraphs below, so that you will be able to make an informed
choice in buying everything you need. If you follow my guidelines and
handle your kettle and teapot carefully and be a little cautious
when using boiling water at first, you’re confidence will soon grow and
you’ll be making and pouring hot drinks safely and confidently, with hardly
a second thought, be it tea in a pot, coffee, hot chocolate or
soup in a mug.
I make no apology for the repetition on these pages, or for the fact that
much of the advice may sound a little obvious or simplistic, as I feel that
its very important to lay out the techniques, step by step, simply and clearly.
Choosing the right equipment
Choosing and buying the right equipment is very important. You need
to feel confident and know that you’ll be safe with your purchases. There
are so many designs, particularly in the shape and size of kettle and teapot
to look at or handle so please, go to your local kitchen cookware supplier or
good hardware store and examine as many different types of kettle, teapot, tray,
mug or cup and saucer etc., as you possibly can.
Choosing Your Kettle
I imagine that you’ll prefer to use an electric kettle, probably a tall jug
shape, like I have, although there are many electric traditionally shaped designs
in both plastic and stainless steel to look at. Whichever electric kettle
you buy, make sure that it sits firmly into or onto its base. And
that the base has adequate non-slip rubber feet underneath to prevent it moving
around on your worktop. The kettle should swivel when its standing on
the base , enabling you to position the power cord safely while its in use.
Because it swivels you can turn and lift it from the base to pour
from it very easily, at any angle without having to re-position the power cord
Pay special attention to the shape of the spout of the kettle, even though
it will be short on most jug styles, choose one that is oval or elongated, and
not squared off at the end. If the shape is right, water should flow to
one point only as it pours, which will minimise the risk of spillage or accidents.
The spout should be wide enough so that the kettle can be filled from
the tap without you having to remove the lid, which is standard in most models.
Operate the on and off switch, make sure that you can locate it easily and
check where the steam vent is. Select a model that has one that isn’t
too close to the switch or near to where you hold the handle, to lessen the
risk of your hand being burned by rising steam as you reach for the kettle
handle to lift it from the base when it has just boiled. The majority
of electric kettles have an automatic switch off as boiling point is reached.
Some whistle and then click off, others click off but keep reheating the
water to a constant drink making temperature over several hours. Eco kettles
have two compartments, the main body is filled then water can be pumped
into a smaller chamber so 1 or two cups can be boiled for economy and to save
electricity. Many of the rapid boil types also change colour to show that
the water has boiled. Some kettles are designed to remain permanently
on their base, you simply tilt the kettle to pour from it. This model
is particularly useful if you have dexterity problems. The
majority of kettles have a concealed element in the base, enabling as little
as two cups of water to be boiled.
Some lids are removable while others are hinged. Some have safety
levers to prevent the lid from lifting as the kettle is tipped. Decide
whether you want to fill it from the tap through the spout or by taking off
or lifting the lid and choose your model accordingly. Most will have a
lime-scale filter, a small, removable mesh, that slots inside near the
spout to catch and contain the grainy lime scale that forms in hard water areas.
This will need to be taken out and rinsed periodically. Practice
removing and putting this back before you buy your kettle. A water gage is usually incorporated inside to visually monitor the
water level as its filled.
There are stove top kettles, which you put on your cooker hob to boil, but
although they may whistle, these do not switch off when boiling point is reached.
They often take much longer to boil and, if left unattended for
any length of time, may boil dry. I personally feel that its much safer
not to have to carry boiling water across your kitchen to where your tea tray
or drink making equipment is, its much safer to have everything together in
one place, but the choice is yours.
Choosing your teapot
I use a stainless steel teapot which is fairly lightweight yet extremely
durable. but there are many to examine, some designs being much more decorative
than practical. Whether you decide to buy the traditional ceramic, plastic
thermal or stainless steel , choose one that is going to be large enough for
your needs but not too heavy to lift. Decide whether the lid
should be removable or hinged, but please remember its extremely important that
the lid fits tightly so that it won’t come off when the full teapot is
tipped. Check that you can quickly and easily find the knob in the centre
of the lid. Now, practice taking it on and off until you can
do it quickly and easily. Tip the pot up as though you were pouring
from it to make sure that the lid stays firmly in place.
This procedure is important as you don’t want to spend any extra time putting
on the lid after you’ve filled the teapot because of the rising steam or be
at risk of being scalded by hot liquid if the lid should come off when you’re
pouring the tea.
Make sure that the teapot you choose is wide enough at the top to give you
ample room to pour in the boiling water from your kettle. I would strongly
advise that you buy one that isn’t too tall, with a wide, flat base and
straight sides. I have found those with a hinged lid often
have a wider opening which makes for easier filling from the kettle. Because
the lid is fixed in position, you Know exactly where it is at all times
and, by using the knob in the centre, you can just flip the lid open or
closed, very easily. If your teapot has a wide base and isn’t too tall,
there will be less chance of it tipping over while its being filled.
The teapot handle must be long enough for you to be able to put all
the fingers of one hand through and thick enough for you to grip and hold firmly.
Make sure that the teapot’s spout is long and slim, it should
curve upward and outward away from the body of the teapot so that it will reach
well over the rim of a mug or cup, as you pour from it.
Choosing a safety tray
Another thing that you should purchase at the same time as your kettle and
teapot, is a large, good quality stainless steel or metal tray with shallow
sides. Make sure that there is enough room to Stand your teapot and mugs
on it with enough space to move them around and arrange them to your liking
so that everything is to hand. The reason why a tray is so important is
that it will catch any spills and you won’t get burned by boiling water.
Make sure that your mug or cup has a handle that’s easy to hold, and that
you can get your fingers through it comfortably, as this will mean that the
mug is less likely to tip or tilt as you lift it, again preventing scalds or
spillage. Your mug or cup should have a wide base and not be too tall.
If you are blind or visually-impaired, anything that has a narrow base
or is too tall can become a hazard, being easily knocked over when only
your hands are being used to find things and move them around.
Sue’s Kitchen – Making the Tea
Filling your kettle – Please follow these guidelines until you get used to filling your kettle
and being able to judge how much boiling water is needed to fill your teapot.
Take your empty kettle from its base, stand it on your draining board or
worktop and remove or lift the lid. Now, fill your teapot with cold water
from the tap, but not right to the top. Now pour the water into the kettle
through the spout of the teapot. Put the kettle lid back down or back
In time, you’ll be filling the kettle from the tap with confidence as you’ll
know by the sound of the water going in and the weight of the kettle in your
hand, exactly how much water it contains and you won’t need to fill your teapot
with cold water first.
Don’t ever fill your kettle from the tap from a distance, always press or
push the end of the tap into the space that you can feel between the edge of
the lid and the spout. Turn the tap on slowly so that you can judge
and monitor the water flow. If you turn the tap too quickly the water
will just flow over the top of the kettle instead of filling it.
Making a hot drink in a mug
Initially, until you become more proficient, the same procedure applies if
you want to make a hot drink in a mug. Almost fill the mug with cold water
from your tap, leaving space for the milk if needed. Lift the kettle from
its base, take it to your draining board or worktop, lift or remove the lid,
locate the top edge of the kettle with your free hand, rest the edge of the
mug on it as centrally as you can, then pour in the water.
Boiling the kettle
Switch the kettle on and listen to the sounds it makes as it heats up before
it reaches boiling point. It will probably start hissing fairly quietly,
but eventually it will make quite a roaring noise which will gradually decrease
as it comes up to the boil. The bubbling sound which shows
that the kettle is boiling will be a little louder, lasting a few seconds, then
you’ll hear a click as it switches off. The steam will still be
rising from the spout and the steam vent for a few seconds after switch off.
Pouring the boiling water from the kettle into the teapot
Make sure that your teapot is standing on the metal tray. Lift or remove
the lid, but put it down so that you can find it quickly.
Add your teabags to the pot.
Lift the kettle from its base and take it to your teapot. Use
your free hand to find the place on the rim that’s about mid way between the
spout and handle.
Now, without tipping the kettle, bring it up to where your other hand is,
take that hand away, then lightly rest the edge of the spout, a little way down
from the end, in the same position on the rim of the teapot. Now,
slide your free hand further round the outside of the rim so that you can make
sure that the teapot doesn’t tip and remains stable as you pour the water in.
Remember that because you have already measured the water accurately, whatever
happens, you can’t possibly overfill the teapot and the tray is there to catch
any spills. Now, put the kettle back on its base and the teapot lid down
or back on. Please, however experienced you are, don’t ever pour any liquid
from a height. Keeping spouts and rims touching when pouring, from
kettle to teapot, then from teapot to mug, will lessen the risk of burns or
spillage. Another important thing to remember is, that when the kettle
is full, the less you will need to tip it before the water begins to pour. When
the kettle is only half full it will need to be tipped at a more acute angle
before the water will pour.
This may all sound a bit daunting and complex at first, but with time and
practice, you’ll feel confident, and get used to the sound the water makes as
it goes into the teapot. You will also be able to stop pouring, put your
kettle aside and lift the teapot up slightly, feel the weight of the pot and
know instinctively whether it will contain enough tea to fill your mugs or cups.
Putting in the milk
With your mug or cup standing on the tray, Add a little milk from a milk
bottle or a small jug. With the container in one hand, locate the rim
of your mug with the other. Rest the neck of the bottle or spout of the jug
on the rim of your mug and give one quick short tip then, if you want to, use
your first finger to feel how much milk you’ve added. Once again, if the
bottle or jug is full the less you will need to tip it, before the milk will
pour. If there is only a little in the bottom of the container you’ll
need to tip it up quite a bit more.
I would never advocate pouring from a cardboard or plastic carton, even with
one of those so called pouring spouts inserted. Cartons are squashy to
hold, unwieldy to lift and unpredictable to pour from.
You can always practice this by pouring a little cold water, instead
of milk into your mug or cup while its standing on the tray so that you get
used to how fast your bottle or jug pours. With practice and in time,
you’ll find that you can often hear the milk drop in and one small short tip
will be enough.
Pouring the tea
Locate the edge of your mug or cup with one hand, hold the handle of the
teapot with the other, lift the pot, keeping it fairly level and bring it close
to the edge of your cup adjacent to your other hand and rest the edge of the
spout a little way down from the end, on the rim of the cup. Tip the pot
steadily but confidently.
If you use this method, you’ll be sure that as you pour, your tea will go
right into the centre of your mug. Do not ever pour from a height.
Remember that the fuller the teapot the less you will need to tip it before
the tea starts to pour into the mug.
If you haven’t measured your water beforehand, and you think you might over
fill your mug, you can buy a battery operated liquid level indicator which sits
on top of your cup, it will beep when the hot liquid touches the short prongs.
Another method which you will adopt as you become more confident, is to quickly
and lightly dip the first finger of your free hand into your mug just below
the rim to monitor the liquid level as you pour it in, removing it as soon as
the water touches your finger.
If you are worried about pouring boiling water from the teapot why not practice
filling your mug with cold water from your teapot while its standing on
the tray. This will give you practice in judging how long it takes
to fill your mug and how quickly your teapot pours.
Making a drink in a mug
When making a drink in a mug, I would always advocate adding anything dry
be it coffee granules or a sachet of instant chocolate, or soup powder or granules,
first, before adding any milk or boiling water. Please follow the pouring
method as above when using your kettle, keeping the kettle spout in contact
with the rim of the mug while you are pouring to prevent scalds or spillage.
Chocolate powder or soup granules will float to the top of the mug when
boiling water is poured in, so add the water gently and carefully. Stir
immediately with a teaspoon to redistribute evenly.
You may find it easier to carry your hot drink if you don’t fill the mug
or cup right to the top.
Now, all that it remains for you to do is sit down and enjoy your nice hot
drink or cup of tea.