Orwell’s Recipe for Tea


Poem: Heathcote Williams
Video and Narration: Alan Cox

Orwell’s Recipe for Tea

Orwell was concerned about Big Brother
(Who’s now morphed into CCTV);
He was troubled by the totalitarian state
But he also enjoyed a cup of tea.

Orwell exposed the state’s Ministry of Truth,
As controlling man’s desire to be free
With its lies and doublespeak and doublethink,
But he’d always break off for tea.

He knew that tea could warm the cockles of the heart
And was a therapy that gave you a breather:
Heat the pot, mash the leaves by pouring hot water from a height
Onto six spoons of loose tea-leaves per litre.

The tea should be strong and from India or Ceylon.
You stir it, then for five minutes leave it be –
After you’ve taken a pot to the kettle, not vice versa,
With a tall mug, not a dainty cup, at the ready.

Finally you pour out the steaming pot’s reviving nectar.
Add milk. No sugar: neither one, two, nor three,
And if it doesn’t waken you to the world’s radiant glory
Then you’re not following Orwell’s exact recipe.

To Orwell tea “made you feel wiser, braver, more optimistic”
It was “the mainstay of civilization”
And if someone can’t make you a decent cup of tea
Then avoid them without hesitation.


Heathcote Williams

George Orwell, ‘A Nice Cup of Tea’
first published in London, Evening Standard, January 12, 1946; reprinted in ‘The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell’, 1968




By Heathcote Williams

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