What makes the perfect cuppa? It’s a topic as fiercely contested as the age-old cream and jam debate.
And while most of us might think we know what we’re doing, research into the nation’s tea tastes has revealed 80 per cent of us are doing it wrong!
So what’s the problem? According to a study conducted earlier this year by British Science Week, the most common mistake people make is not leaving tea long enough to brew; a cup of tea needs two to five minutes to steep to get the best flavour, but according to the study, only 16 per cent of tea drinkers can be bothered to wait around.
That wasn’t the only revelation – the study also lifted the lid on the best way to brew tea and when to add the milk. As it turns out, age is also a factor; tea drinkers over the age of 65 tend to prefer a china cup over a mug and like it piping hot. 18-24 year olds in contrast prefer a standard mug and will often leave their tea to cool before taking a drink.
And as to the best tea? English Breakfast remains the most popular flavour by a long ways, and most drinkers prefer it with milk but no sugar.
The scientific method
The perfect pour is a matter of chemistry – once you know the basics, you an make a great brew every time. Here’s all the variables to keep in mind:
- Choose tea leaves – While tea bags are most convenient, tea leaves will bring a better flavour since they are often less processed than bagged tea.
- Pull out the teapot – A warmed ceramic pot is ideal for a great cup of tea and will ensure every cup has great flavour.
- Use fresh water – Freshly boiled hot water is the foundation of any cup of tea. Dump out any remaining water from the kettle and fill it up fresh every time. As soon as it’s boiled, pour it over your tea bag or tea leaves and let it brew.
- Set the timer – Your tea needs two to five minutes to steep to get the full flavour. How long you leave it depends on what type of tea you’re using.
- Milk last – When to add the milk is arguably the most debated part of the whole process, but scientists and tea experts agree: the best time to add your milk is after the tea has been poured. Adding the milk to a mug first will lower the temperature of the tea and prevent it from steeping as effectively.
- Let it cool – An ideal sipping temperature is somewhere between 60 – 65C, so let it stand for a few minutes to let it cool.
Testing the variables
At the end of the day, how we like our tea comes down to personal preference, so experiment to find out what works for you. Spend a few days testing the variables one at a time; compare the taste of tea leaves and tea bags and steep for one minute, then two minutes, then three minutes, and so on each day and take note of what you like best. When you’ve found your perfect pour you’ll have the magic recipe for a great cuppa wherever you go.
So tell us: have you put any thought into your perfect pour? What’s your method for a great cup of tea?