How to Brew the Perfect Cup of Tea
British people love tea, of this there is little doubt. Despite the recent trend for lattes, Americanos and cappuccinos; tea is still considered the nation’s favourite hot beverage. Tea is as synonymous with our fair isle as rain, queuing and rolling our eyes and tutting when said queue is violated.
We drink it for breakfast, on our breaks, on our own, with friends, before bed – and there is no crisis or issue that can be discussed until the immortal phrase, “I’ll just pop the kettle on,” has been uttered.
In Britain, it is estimated that we consume around 165 million cups of tea per day, which equates to around 60.2 billion cups every year, with the average Briton making their first (presumably pee-weak and milky) cup at 7 and a half years old.
Despite the biblical amount of the stuff that we chuck down our throats each year, you may be surprised to know that most of us make tea wrong. I know, you would think with the amount that we drink, we would have mastered the art of brewing it by now, but alas this does not seem to be the case.
Thankfully, scientists at the University of Northumbria’s School of Life Sciences have come to our rescue. Carrying out painstaking research that took up 180 hours of laboratory time and the consumption of 285 cups of tea by a panel of volunteers, they now believe that they have come up with the perfect method for brewing our favourite drink.
So, read on fair consumer of the ol’ brewed leaves, as we present our quick, easy and scientifically validated guide on how to brew the perfect cuppa.
So, Pop the Kettle On and We Shall Begin
First of all, you need that water to be boiling. Not just freshly boiled, but boiling. Just like water that is too hot will scold coffee and make it taste bitter – water that is too cold will fail to properly release the complex flavours locked away in your tea bags. Just a couple of degrees either way can make all of the difference.
When it comes to pouring the tea you are looking for a ratio of 200ml of boiling water to each teabag. A teapot with loose leaves is the ideal combination for brewing as it gives the leaves more room to move, but a cup or mug with a teabag will work just fine (a mug a little better as it also has more room.) And let’s be honest, most of us use teabags, for the convenience if nothing else.
Leave the tea to brew for 2 minutes and then remove the bag. If you take milk, add 10ml after removing the bag.
Now, and this is the key part of the process, you want to leave the tea to stand for 6 minutes before you begin drinking it. Not only will this allow you to avoid scolding your tongue, but it will let the drink reach a temperature of around 60°C. The study found that this was the optimum temperature that allows the full bodied flavours of tea to be released.
You now have a window of 11 minutes and 30 seconds to drink the tea, as once it hits the 45°C mark, it will be past its best and you will lose a lot of the flavours as a result. This occurs approximately 17 minutes at 30 seconds after you remove the tea bag.
It Doesn’t Matter if you’re Black or White
Well, it does actually, at least as far as your tea is concerned. Taste testing has shown that black or very strongly brewed tea contains prevalent flavour notes of wood and grass, with hints of lemon, rose and geranium.
However, once milk is added, these more bitter tastes are significantly reduced and sweeter flavours of toffee and vanilla come to the forefront. And these flavours increase the more milk that is added. This may go some way to explaining why 98% of tea drinkers take milk with their beverage.
10ml was found to be the ideal amount of milk to create a perfect balance between the astringency (that puckery mouth feeling strong tea gives you) and bitterness, and the sweeter and smoother tastes that the milk brings out.
So, there you have the perfect and scientifically proven method of making the ultimate cup of tea. In the name of full disclosure, the research was sponsored by milk producers Cravendale, but I think that we can all agree that it is a sound, serious and not even vaguely light-hearted piece of work nonetheless.
Look they even made a formula for it, because – science.
TB + (H2O @ 100°C) for 2mins BT + M (10ml) 6mins BT = PC (@ OT 60°C)
TB = teabag, BT = brewing time, M = milk, OT = optimum temperature, PC = perfect cuppa.