Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

Fancy a cuppa? How to make the perfect cup of tea (and why most Brits are getting it wrong)

92568949.jpg

Tea drinking is a national obsession here in Britain, so it's a bit galling to discover that - despite guzzling 165 million cups of it a day - most of us aren't get it right. 

A new study commissioned for British Science Week has found that only 16% percent of us stew our tea for the optimum time of two to five minutes. 

Researchers from University College London quizzed 1,000 people about their tea-drinking habits. 

They concluded that English Breakfast tea drunk without sugar from a ceramic mug is by far the most popular formula of choice, with more than nine out of ten people questioned opting for that variation.

And the time-honoured debate of when to add in milk appears to have taken on an age-related angle; 69 percent of us agree that milk should be added after boiling water, but those aged 65 and over tend to be more likely to add milk first.

Tea

What's clear, however, is that our national stewing habits are not up to scratch.

More than 80 percent of us gulp our tea down after letting it stew for less than two minutes, either because we lack time or because we adhere to the logic, "the hotter the better".

Researchers claim this sloppy habit robs our tea of its taste, with the decline of the teapot exacerbating the trend.

Mark Miodownik, professor of materials and society at University College London, said: "This may be controversial, but the British do not understand how to make tea. Or at least they're not doing it properly. And it's because they don't understand the variables. 
 
"Expediency is causing us to throw chemistry out of the window; we're not allowing our tea to brew for long enough, to release the flavours properly."

Tea

Golden rules for the perfect cuppa

(according to 2013 report from University College London scientists)

Steer clear of plastic, disposable mugs and use a porcelain cup

Only use freshly drawn water for the kettle

Once water is boiled, wait five second before pouring into cup or warmed teapot

Brewing time between three to five minutes for optimum balance of flavour and strength

Add five per cent of semi-skimmed milk to the cup before adding tea


Tea drinking

So what does make the perfect cuppa?

Naturally, it's a matter of preference, but - as well as the above rules - Miodownik suggests a little experimentation is in order.

"The next time you are making a pot of tea for the family, or are charged with the office tea round, try and test some different variables – from the type of tea to the length of time you brew it for and what you drink it out of – you might find it takes your relationship with tea to a whole new level," he says. 

Ladies drinking tea, circa 1840

Ladies drinking tea, circa 1840

Tea drinking is, of course, a central part of the social fabric here in the UK. Whether we use it to relax, to comfort or to motivate ourselves, it's hard to imagine a situation that isn't improved by a nice cuppa.

But it took several hundred years to evolve into a widespread national habit.

Shipments of tea from its Asian homeland began in the UK from around 1610 onwards, and for some time remained a luxury that only the rich could afford. By the mid 1700s, it had filtered through to become the favoured drink of the working classes - but ale and gin sellers were unhappy at the dip in sales, meaning tea was subject to huge tax levies. At one point, medical experts even referred to it as a "hot liquor", with warnings that it could cause blood clots.

Nowadays, the health benefits of tea are well-documented; we know tea of all varieties to be bursting with antioxidants. So three cheers for tea drinking - as long as you get the method right!

Photos: Getty Images

Related

abrownies-5-2.jpg

Nourishing, delicious and creative avocado recipes

10 items desk.jpg

11 brilliantly versatile items that make for a happier work space

choc.jpg

Introducing the new generation of tantalizing food blogs

Eelbrook_Interiors-57.jpg

The al fresco bars, cafés and restaurants perfect for spring

DSC_0121-622x933.jpg

Posh toast anyone? 15 of the most delectable toast toppings

452406305.jpg

Book smart; the unexpected health benefits of being an avid reader

Comments

More

Bright, beautiful and bold Easter cake inspiration

Stylish bake ideas to nick and claim as your own

by Amy Swales
24 Mar 2017

An Avengers-style Disney princesses film could be in the works

24 Mar 2017

All the new emojis set to light up our keyboards

From breastfeeding to broccoli

24 Mar 2017

There's a sex side-effect which benefits you for 48 hours, study finds

It's all about what's known as the sex "afterglow".

by Hayley Spencer
24 Mar 2017

This is how much the houses in Big Little Lies cost

Spoiler: they're VERY expensive.

by Hayley Spencer
23 Mar 2017

Scientists reveal why you need to stop flaking on plans with friends

Don't flake it 'til you make it

by Kayleigh Dray
23 Mar 2017

Revealed: the number one reason that women break up with their partner

The truth hurts

23 Mar 2017

Been zombied? There’s now a name for this confusing dating behaviour

It's time to talk about the zombies of the dating world...

23 Mar 2017

10 female anthems to share with your mum this Mother's Day

The most moving anthems about motherhood by our favourite female artists.

by Alice Vincent
23 Mar 2017

Londoners share messages of unity and defiance after Parliament attack

“Londoners will never be cowed by terrorism”

by Kayleigh Dray
23 Mar 2017