Back in 1946, George Orwell famously wrote an essay on how to make the perfect cup of tea. It contained important rules like:
One should drink out of a good breakfast cup — that is, the cylindrical type of cup, not the flat, shallow type. The breakfast cup holds more, and with the other kind one’s tea is always half cold before one has well started on it.
Over 70 years later, some of us still wonder how to brew the perfect cup, as tea has become an intricate part of our daily ritual. There are many theories and ideologies behind making the best tea and everyone has their own favorite way, the way their mom taught them. If you want to find out more about making that perfect cuppa, here are some tips and tricks from experts in the science of making tea.
Depending on the tea you are choosing, the temperature of the water is essential. Generally, black teas should be brewed at 100°C and green teas at around 70°C. There are even kettles today that let you set the boiling temperature but if you don’t intend on buying one, you could easily check the water temperature with a thermometer. Remember, tea requires oxygen so don’t re-boil water. This takes a lot of the oxygen out and will leave your tea tasting a bit metallic.
Experts and scientists say that you have to brew tea for precisely five minutes for the tea to reach its full taste potential. This will not only guarantee the best tasting brew, but it will ensure that the tea is fully caffeinated. Evidently it also boosts its health properties as it naturally releases more antioxidants at this point. After brewing, let the tea cool down and sit for six minutes. The temperature will drop to about 60°C, which is the optimum temperature to let the flavors flood out and avoid scalding. But leave it after 17 minutes and 30 seconds and the tea will be past its best. The team at the University of Northumbria’s School of Life Sciences spent 180 hours of testing and a panel of volunteers consumed 285 cups of tea in the laboratory to come up with an equation for the perfect brew.
They also concluded that if you are using a tea bag, the best method is to add boiling water to the tea bag in a mug and leave it for two minutes. Then remove the bag and add the milk and leave for six minutes until it reaches optimal temperature of 60°C.
Here is a brief set of instructions for a perfect cup of tea using teabags:
Quick tip: Don’t squeeze the tea bag. Squeezing the tea bag will release the tannins (a bitter compound of tea), which will make it taste too bitter.
As George Orwell said, “One should drink out of a good breakfast cup.” So, never drink tea from a Styrofoam cup, as experts believe it absorbs the flavor molecules and will reduce the tastiness of the tea. Don’t use plastic cups either because the tannins will stick to the side of the cup. No metal cups as well, unless you want your tea to taste metallic. It’s common to use ceramic mugs but even that’s not ideal as it’s porous so it will make your tea cool down too quickly. Porcelain is perfect. A porcelain mug will keep your tea tasting delicious and it was actually how tea used to be served when it first came over from China.
Do you know that fascinatingly the color of the cup you drink from can affect how your tea tastes? According to Dr. Stuart Farrimond, an expert in the science of making tea says that if you have a sweet tooth, choose a red or pink cup, as these colors will accentuate the tea’s natural sweetness. On the other hand, white or blue cups can bring out the saltiness of your tea bag.