The Proper British Cuppa

A charming archival video from 1941 lays out the golden rules for proper tea preparation in wartime England.

The Brits are notoriously fond of a good, strong cup of black tea. This fortifying brew has helped the island nation keep calm and carry on through many a hardship, not the least of which was World War II.

In 1941, Britain’s Empire Tea Bureau produced this charming instructional film on how to brew the perfect cuppa, an important skill during a time of rationing and hardship. The picture opens with two women drinking tea together, one of whom (left) makes tea in a canteen serving the British troops.


She’s eager to share the tea skills she’s learned, and the film cuts to a somewhat scary-looking chap in a lab coat who delivers his six Golden Rules:

1. Always use good-quality tea – despite the price, it’s worth it in the long run because it yields more cups.
2. Use freshly-drawn water. Stale water equals stale tea.
3. Remember to warm the pot.
4. Measure tea carefully in the correct proportion to the water.
5. Use just-boiled water. If it’s under-boiled, the tea will be weak and flavorless, but over-boiled water becomes de-aerated and flat, making the tea “dull in color and insipid in taste.”
6. Last, but by no means least – let the tea infuse properly before serving.

The “distressed people in bombed areas” will thank you for it.


Times may have changed since then, but the woman’s final piece of advice still stands:
“Let every cup you make be a cup that cheers.”

Click here to watch the film in its glorious entirety on the British Film Institute’s YouTube channel.