As dark as night, plenty of milk, six tea spoons of sugar or drink it with the teabag still in? Everybody likes their tea in different ways but is there a formula to making the perfect cup of tea?
Over the years many households up and down the country have argued over what is the best way to prepare the drink which originated in China over 5000 years ago, but on most occasions it has ended unresolved.
If the time is available (chance would be a fine thing!), brewing your tea in a pot appears to be the preferred way forward but let’s face it, when you’re rushing out, looking after the kids or busy at work you don’t have the time to do all that teapot malarkey. If you do, then lucky you!
With over 60.2 billion cups of tea consumed each year in the UK, we don’t need to give you step-by-step instructions on how to make one but what we can do is give advice on some of the common unresolved issues surrounding one of Britain’s most favourite past times.
What type of cup should I use?
First things first, make sure you have a porcelain cup at hand when having your tea. It will keep it tasty for longer and more importantly that’s how tea was first served when it came over from China and who are we to break tradition!?
With your fancy porcelain mug at the ready, another clever trick to improving the overall experience of drinking tea is warming your cup or pot. Simply do this by swirling some hot water round them from the tap or if you really want to make it warm, use a bit from the kettle before you brew your tea.
It may not be a common procedure for most people when making a cuppa but it certainly adds to the experience!
Teabag or loose tea?
It’s completely up to you! The general rule is that loose tea is best for a teapot, while teabags are more suitable and convenient if you are making it straight into the mug but the choice is yours.
Remember however to have a tea strainer to hand if you are making it with loose tea leaves because nobody wants a mouthful of those little black things!
For some however, the ritual of preparing the drink using loose tea is quite a pleasure in itself and it can actually taste nicer.
What do I do with the water?
With your mug and choice of tea sorted, it’s time to grab the kettle and head for the sink. Unknown to many, there are quite a few simple tricks involving water to enhance your cup of tea.
Firstly, empty the kettle of any old water and then run the tap slightly to ensure the water is well aerated. Fill your kettle and then flick that little switch.
One of the most important steps when making a good cup of tea is boiling the water only once. Any more and the water can lose its oxygen content which ruins the taste. If you are from an area with hard water, try and boil mineral water instead if possible.
How long do you leave it to brew and what temperature is best?
With that water boiled only once and poured into your mug, how long do you leave it to brew? For a pot, the British Standards’ Association found that leaving it for around six minutes resulted in the tastiest tea.
For a mug, most research agrees that 2-3 minutes is enough for the flavours to extract properly. Yorkshire Tea however suggests 4-5 minutes but the stronger you like it, the longer you should leave it.
Those timescales are very much based on what temperature your tea should be at. The majority of findings suggest that you don’t want your tea to be over 85 degrees celcius or under 60 degrees celcius.
Finding that happy medium can be difficult but a study in 2011 by the University of Northumbria’s School of Life Sciences states that once the milk has been added (that’s coming next so prepare yourselves) you should leave your brew for around six minutes to allow it to reach that optimum temperature of 60 degrees celcius.
Milk first or last?
You’re probably wondering why we have left the most important issue until last but let’s face it, it’s the last step in making the perfect cup of tea, so it makes sense!
Just like the teabag or loose tea debate, the decision is yours but here’s some guidance on what brings the best results.
Historically milk first was always the way forward to protect the fine bone china that tea was served in. The British Standard’s Association is also ‘team milk first’ with the organisation a fan of brewing your tea in a pot before adding it to a cup with the milk already in place.
In regards to using a teapot, adding milk first to your mug does not make a huge deal of difference with the tea already brewed pre-mug. This is something Yorkshire Tea agrees with. They however insist that if making your tea straight into the cup it should always be milk last.
That is because making a good cup of tea is all about the heat. Tea brews to its best in very hot water, so by adding the milk last it allows your teabag to do its job before you cool the temperature with your milk.
Renowned novelist George Orwell was also a big advocate of ‘milk last.’ Orwell said: “The milk-first school can bring forward some strong arguments, but I maintain that my own argument is unanswerable.”
He added: “This is that, by putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk whereas one is liable to put in too much milk if one does it the other way round.”
We know we said you didn’t need any step-by-step instructions but here’s a little insight into how we make our tea in the office…
1) Warm your cup
2) Add fresh water to the kettle and boil only once
3) Place your teabag into the cup
4) Add boiling water to the cup and leave to brew for roughly three minutes
5) Take the tea bag out and add the amount of milk you prefer
6) If you’re not sweet enough, add sugar (white rather than brown) and then drink away!
That’s how we do it but everyone’s different. We’d love to hear how you make your perfect cup of tea!