For a brief period in the early twentieth century, God himself descendent from the heavens and took on a mortal form. In this guise, he adopted the name George Orwell. When not starting fights with wildlife and Oxford professors, George Orwell loved nothing more than A Nice Cup of Tea. In an articled published in the Evening Standard, Orwell wrote of his eleven golden rules for making the perfect nice cup of tea. These rules ranged from which type of tea to use and whether the tea should go in before the milk (yes) or the milk before the tea (only if you’re an uneducated savage).
While this humble author would never dare question the word of Orwell, whose every rule proves true, he does suggest that Orwell neglected one prescient point: how to hand a cup of boiling hot tea to another person without burning either your own or their hands. The ignoring of this issue is most likely because it was not an issue for Orwell, whose palms were famously thicker than tanned leather. But for those of us whose bodies are made of little more than flesh, this is an important (and painful) point of contention; for if you do not hand the cup of Nigerian Sunset to someone, you have not made a nice cup of tea—you’ve just made some tea.
To correct—for lack of a better term—this oversight, I present the twelfth and final rule for the nicest cup of tea.
Rule 12: One should never pass a cup of tea to another person’s hand; one should always set it down on a surface.
In a way, it fascinates—and shocks—me that this is not already a well-known rule and well-practised routine. I ask you, Reader: have you ever seen a cup, a mug? I’ll presume you have. And tell me, dear Reader, what is the most notable feature of a mug? That’s right, dear Reader: it has but one handle. A handle is a very useful thing. Not only does it let you pick the tea up with relative ease, it also stops you from grabbing the middle of the cup; that is, of course, the place where the beverage that lists boiling hot water as a key ingredient is concentrated. But despite only having one handle (and thus, only one place to hold it without scolding yourself) people still insist on handing the cup the recipient’s hand, like a game of Hot Potato. Except the punishment isn’t elimination, it’s second-degree burns. There are only really two scenarios when this happens: one either has to grab the (boiling hot) centre of the cup and one’s self to a short but still painful burning sensation while they find a place to set it down; or they try to grip the handle itself, risking all loss of structural integrity and the inevitable conclusion of that (boiling hot) tea spilling on their hands, their legs, or their cat.
Rule 12, then, is the only* solution to this conundrum. So from this day go forward, to your friends and loved ones spread this message: Thank you for the tea. But please, set it down on a flat surface, preferably on a coaster so as to not stain the table. Until you do, the act of making tea is not complete. Now, where are the biscuits? I would like to have a Custard Cream, for this is the only acceptable biscuit for tea.
I would also suggest a rule saying you warm your cup with some boiling water before making your tea. But I do not wish to push my luck and risk Orwell’s ire.
*You could always buy one of those novelty two-handled cups. But if you ever hand one to me, I’ll disown you.