A great deal of ink and paper - and more recently, keyboard strokes and RAM - has been devoted to the subject of making tea in the 'proper' British fashion. But popular though this school of tea-making is, on closer inspection, it does have certain disconcerting drawbacks.
Suppose you want a very strong cup1 of tea in the very early morning or when burning the midnight oil. Well, brew a very strong pot or cup, says the Brit. But then there might be another occasion, say, after a stressful day's traveling, swindling or - as a last resort - working, when you want something lighter and more calming. You're in no mood for the same invigorating stuff that was called for before. The problem is if you stick with the traditional method you end up with the same result.
Then there's the problem of brewing constantly, day after day, hour after hour, measuring out more tea and waiting the 2.5 to 3.5 minutes for it to be ready. If the hot stuff is called upon often, then after a while this can be rather frustrating.
Thus, we now enter into a whole new world of tea-making. This method in found in different varieties across Central and Eastern Europe, but all of them revolve around the creation of a base ingredient called 'essence' (Polish: esencja).
To make a cup of tea from essence, you start in pretty much the same way as you would normally. Boiling water is used on the leaves and for warming the pot, but the difference is that you use far more tea leaves than you would usually. In fact, prepare five or six times more than average. For five cups use somewhere between 25 and 30 teaspoons. Six cups, you say? Well then, naturally, you must have 30 to 36 spoons-worth of your favoured leaf. Seven cups, is it? In that case... And so on, and so on arithmetically.
It is, however, crucially important that you prepare two tea pots:
- A smaller one, in which the tea will actually be brewed.
- The (usually) larger one, from which you will actually serve the strong brew.
Before the water comes to a boil, put in the large amount of leaves into the first, brewing pot (which must be warmed beforehand, of course). Add the water and brew for the usual 2.5 to 3.5 minutes. Next pour the liquid through as many strainers as you can get your hands on2 into the second (perhaps larger) serving pot.
If there is space left in the second pot, fill it up all the way with more of the boiling water.
What you now have in the second pot is what's known, in essence, as essence. This incredibly strong brew may not smell too appetizing3, but you will soon find that its powers are immense.
Serving It Up
So now you have a dark brew that is five to six times stronger than you'd like. So how do you tranform it into a light and refreshing drink? Simple! You dilute it.
Yes, whenever you want tea you just pour out a fifth or sixth (correspondingly) cup's worth and then fill the rest with hot water, sugar, milk, lemon, etc. You can then save the rest for later4. Not only that, but you can decide how strong you want to take your tea at any time, by simply using more or less essence. Drink up, and enjoy!
There are, of course, slight differences from region to region in how this is all done. The most famous one is the variant that is indigenous to Russia, where a samovar5 is employed. Of course, there are some who just use tea bags. You can also add various other ingredients such as fresh berry juices either into the tea or directly into the essence. This Researcher has even heard of people adding lemon or orange peel to the mix to give it a fresh, citrusy flavour.