Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tea, British Army, 1945

     No serious discussion of British Army food could be considered complete without tea. There were four meals per day: breakfast (morning), dinner (noon), supper (evening), and "tea", a light meal normally served around 4:00 PM. Tea would be served 2-3 times daily, usually at breakfast and during afternoon tea.
In 1933, the British Army authorized a daily ration of 2 pounds of loose tea per 100 men. 

     This is how the British Army brewed “a nice cuppa tea”. In the first half of the 20th century the majority of tea supplied to the British Army came from India and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). The quality of tea was, and remains, critical. In order to ensure that we have reproduced an acceptable brew, use a good quality loose black tea such as Assam, Ceylon, or Darjeeling. Please be aware that teabags quite often contain lower quality teas. While a metal container is not optimal for brewing tea, British Army tea was commonly prepared in metal “tea buckets” or in insulated containers of 6 gallon capacity.
     Muslin bags could be used to hold the loosely packed tea leaves while brewing, after which they were removed and squeezed fairly dry. They were then emptied, rinsed in cold water and dried thoroughly. A muslin bag or a mesh tea ball may be used, but do not pack the tea tightly. Alternately, the tea may be brewed with loose tea and then strained off into another container for serving.
     The brewing container is referred to here as the “tea bucket”, but any food-safe metal or ceramic (preferred) container will do.

Yield: 4 servings of one British pint (20 Imperial fluid ounces=19.2 US fluid ounces=570 ml).

U.S.                 Metric             Ingredients    
½ oz                15g                  tea
72 fl oz            2.15 l               water
4.5 fl oz           135 ml             milk
2 oz                 60 g                 sugar

1.      Store tea in a container covered with a tight-fitting lid.
2.      Rinse out the tea buckets with boiling water prior to use. This preheats the buckets and ensures cleanliness.
3.      Place the tea into the tea buckets and as soon as the water reaches a boil, fill with boiling water.
4.      Set the tea buckets in a warm place and let brew for 8 to 10 minutes; wait for it!
5.      Strain the tea (if using loose tea) or remove the bag or filter.
6.      Add sugar and milk, and then serve immediately.

1.      Water must be at the boiling point when poured over the dry tea.
2.      Do not let the water remain boiling for an extended period of time.
3.      Tea must be loose, not packed tightly into the muslin bag or mesh tea strainer.
4.      Do not add the sugar and milk until after the tea has finished brewing.
5.      The sugar may be mixed with a little brewed tea to form syrup and then added to the tea.


  1. First of all, thank you for creating this blog! I'm a WW2 British A.T.S. reenactor. My unit is participating in a judged event in the middle of March, and I'm going to be in charge of field rations and meal prep. Since we have to be authentic to the time period, your blog has been so helpful! I was wondering if there was a chance you would allow me to contact you to ask you a few questions? Thank you so much for you hard work preserving this knowledge and sharing it with others! ~heathyr

  2. You're most welcome, and thank you for visiting. Please feel free to email me at You may be interested in my current project (my most ambitious one yet). I'm constructing a British Army improvised "combination cooker" out of bricks, mud, etc., with an oil drum oven and a frying/boiling plate, large enough to cook for 50 soldiers. I'm about 75% done, but the weather has been terribly uncooperative. I'll post the results once it's complete and been tested, hopefully within the next few days.

  3. heading out to Burning Man next week, I'm in charge of the camp tea time, this entry has been a great help!

    1. A fascinating use for the British Army's tea recipe. Please let me know how it turns out.
      Kind regards,