Tea drinkers can be even more fussy than coffee drinkers. To the English and the Irish, a good cup of tea is the cure for whatever ails you. I agree - I always feel better after sitting with a cup of tea. For this post, I consulted my great-aunt Ethel Mahoney, who is a 92-year-old Irish lady, and consequently is rather opinionated on the subject of a proper cup of tea.
1) Fill your kettle with COOL water and put it on the stove to boil
2) Bring the water to a FULL BOIL (don't just shut the kettle off when you see some steam starting, let it whistle)
3) While you wait for the kettle, put the tea into the pot (See notes below for amounts to use)
4) Pour boiling water over the tea (don't add water first and then put tea in). Let it steep for 3-5 minutes.
5) Serve tea with sugar and milk on the side. Milk is preferred by avid tea drinkers, not cream or half and half. Lemon can be served instead of milk - don't use both or the milk will curdle. Remember that milk will also curdle when added to citrus teas like Lemon Tea or Orange Zest Tea.
6) Serve tea with some kind of biscuits, cookies or crackers. Most tea drinkers want a little nosh item with their cup of tea.
Loose vs. Bags? There is some disagreement among tea drinkers about loose tea vs. tea bags, but I find that even the old die-hards are open to bags nowadays. Here is a general idea of how much tea to use, though personal taste will vary:
Loose = One heaping teaspoon of leaves for the pot, plus one spoon per cup (a pot to serve two people would be three heaping teaspoons of tea leaves).
Tea Bags = Usually 3-4 bags for a medium pot is good, or one bag per cup.
If you are unsure how much tea to use, brew a test pot before serving company, and see what tastes good to you.