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What is a Cuppa?

A cup of tea.
Honey is often used to sweeten tea.
Green tea.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 29 July 2014
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In British English, a “cuppa” is a cup of tea. Britain has a long association with tea, with many Britons consuming gallons of the substance every year. Some people may use the term to refer to a break in the work day, as in “I'm stepping out for a cuppa,” and most British businesses provide ample tea-making facilities. There is also a great deal of debate over the most ideal way to brew tea, and this discussion is taken very seriously in this tea-loving nation.

Australians and New Zealanders may also refer to a “cuppa,” reflecting their close association with Great Britain. In other countries, coffee is more popular than tea, and therefore the cult of tea is not quite as highly refined. However, the two beverages are treated in very similar ways in the nations which love them, suggesting that many people are very serious about their source of caffeine. Daily tea and coffee are rituals in many nations around the world, and most people express a strong preference for one or the other, paired with a personal opinion on the best way to make tea or coffee.

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Tea has been a part of human society for thousands of years. Both India and China have natural plantations of tea plants, and these nations have long histories of tea harvesting, preparation, and drinking. When European explorers began to visit and colonize places like India and Ceylon, they naturally picked up the tea drinking habit. Numerous black teas were brought back to Europe, along with strict specifications for how they should be handled and prepared, and the cuppa was born.

Most people agree that the best cuppa starts with looseleaf tea tossed into a warm pot. Bags and teaballs are not generally recommended, as they do not allow the tea leaves to properly expand. Boiling water is poured over the tea leaves, which are allowed to steep for two to five minutes. The tea should be poured into a cup through a strainer to remove the tea leaves, and the consumer adds ingredients like milk, sugar, honey, and lemon, though these ingredients are generally not added to the same cup of tea all together.

Brewing the perfect cuppa can be an important part of someone's day, and it is not uncommon to hear people expressing irritation or distaste with the way in which a cuppa has been prepared. The availability of tea is also a crucial negotiation point in a job; an office without tea supplies, for example, may face a riot. There are also intercontinental tea rivalries; many British tea drinkers, for example, do not approve of the way in which Americans prepare their tea.

For tea drinkers, a cuppa is a cure for all ills. Many people brew a cup of tea when they are distressed or thinking out a problem, as the act of preparing and brewing helps to focus them. A cuppa may also be offered to someone in distress, as a small gesture of kindness. Tea in thermoses is also a common feature at worksites all over the world.

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