‘Bawarka’ is Not My Cup of Tea!

“Why is there some lemon in my tea? And where’s the milk?” asked my bewildered English friend when ordering a cup of tea in a little restaurant-bar-cafe in Poland.

I hate it when Polish people tell me they don’t like English tea. Please, feel free to like and dislike what you want. So why do I hate it? Because most Polish people don’t know what English tea is. It’s lovely when I’m treated with such great hospitality here. You want me to feel welcome, so you put some sweet cake on the table and make me a cup of tea. “Milk?” you ask. “Yes, that would be lovely!” I reply. It is never what I expect it to be.

I admire the effort put in to making me tea the ‘English’ way, but I’m afraid that it is far from it. Sometimes you put the milk in yourselves – big mistake. The tea then looks like a pale latte. You always put in far too much milk. No wonder you often say, “yuk!” to ‘bawarka’. I also hate ‘bawarka’. ‘Bawarka’ is not English tea! Sometimes you put the teabag in the cup or on the side, and you fill the water half way up the cup, leaving the other empty half for the milk which your pour into a little jug, perhaps for hospitable presentation purposes. I say, “thank you,” and pour about 2 or 3 drops of the milk into the cup. The milk jug stays full and the cup of tea is raised by less than half a centimetre.

Milk by Default

I was on a British Airways flight with my newly-wed Polish wife.; it was our honeymoon. She fancied a cup of tea fairly soon after take off. I told her to ask the stewardess for no milk. “No milk?” she replied, “of course they aren’t going to just give me tea with milk.” When she got her cup of tea, milk was already in it. So I had to drink it!

In England, in most cases, we are not usually served with a cup of hot water, a tea bag on the side, and a little jug of milk. When served, the tea is perfectly brewed with the perfect amount of milk already added, leaving our only option to be whether or not to add sugar. Hopefully, my wife, who likes tea without milk, will be wiser next time she just asks for tea.


How to Make a Cup of Tea

Let me tell you how to make a real cup of English tea. First of all, no lemon unless it is Earl Grey – never use Earl Grey for tea with milk! You need a black teabag, intensive. Once the kettle screams, “ready!” pour the boiling-hot water into the cup with the patiently ready-and-waiting black teabag.

Leave it to brew for about a minute of two – feel free to dunk the teabag up and down to speed up the process. Now, ladies and gentlemen, take the milk and raise it over the cup, and with precise calculation,  gradually pour about 10-20ml of milk into the cup.
The colour of the tea should be a radiant, golden orange; if it is beige, you’ve gone too far. You can still revive it by adding another teabag and dunking it for another 30 seconds. Feel free to add some sugar and put a little biscuit on the side.

The taste should be strong and vivid. If done correctly, after taking a sip you should be left nodding your head and sighing, thinking, “wow, that’s really good!”

It’s 5 o’clock!

Afternoon tea was introduced in England by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in the year 1840. The Duchess would become hungry around four o’clock in the afternoon. The evening meal in her household was served fashionably late at eight o’clock, thus leaving a long period of time between lunch and dinner. The Duchess asked that a tray of tea, bread and butter, and cake be brought to her room during the late afternoon. This became a habit of hers and she began inviting friends to join her. This pause for tea became a fashionable social event. During the 1880’s upper-class and society women would change into long gowns, gloves and hats for their afternoon tea which was usually served between four and five o’clock. Nowadays, in the average suburban home, afternoon tea is likely to be just a biscuit or small cake and a mug of tea.

Try it Yourself!

Make yourself a cup of tea and taste its rich flavour. If it’s too strong for you, don’t give up. I didn’t like beer the first time I drank it. If you’re in any way like me, you’ll get used to tea just like I got used to beer – and you will love it! If you still don’t like it after a few tries, it’s either because you haven’t made it correctly, or simply that it’s not your cup of tea, just like ‘bawarka’ is not my cup of tea.*


Rob Wolff


bewildered – oszołomiony

feel free – nie krępuj się

treated – traktowany

hospitality – gościnność

feel welcome – czuć się mile przyjętym

admire the effort – podziwiam wysiłek

mistake – błąd

pale – blady

no wonder – nic dziwnego

pour – wlać

jug – dzbanek

perhaps – może

purposes – cele

drops – krople

raised – podniesiony

honeymoon – miesiąc miodowy

(to) fancy – mieć ochotę

fairly soon after take off –

in most cases – w większości przypadków

served – podany

unless – chyba że

once – kiedy

boiling-hot water – wrzącą wodę

patiently – cierpliwie

brew – zaparzać

dunk – maczać

gradually –stopniowo

radiant – promienny

revive – ożywiać

vivid – żywy

sip – mały łyk

nod – kiwnięcie głową

sighing – westchnienie

introduced – wprowadzone

household – gospodarstwo domowe

thus – a zatem

period – okres

tray – taca

habit – zwyczaj

a fashionable social event – modne wydarzenie towarzyskie

society – społeczeństwo

likely – prawdopodobne

flavour – smak

get used to – przyzwyczaić się

it’s not my cup of tea* (idiom) – to nie jest w moim guście


Rob Wolff


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