Just about everyone wants to tell us how to make the perfect cup of tea – from Stephen Twinning of Twinning’s London (and he should know a thing or two about tea!) to Heston Blumenthal, just about every tea shop expert, and seasoned granny around the world has something to say about the right way to make tea. We all have our own idiocycratic ways of making a brew, and no one should change your style, but sometimes its nice to take a look at an age old process – like making a good cup of tea – from a different angle.
A group of British scientists from the University College London revisited how to make the perfect cup of tea. With the research conducted in the UK, the focus was on black tea – but with some reference to white and green tea. They looked at the usual fundamentals and chemical interactions of making a good cuppa, then took it a step further to also examine the psycological affects of a nice cup of tea.
The significance of creating the perfect cup of tea should not be underestimated when talking about the British and their cuppa. The British alone consume over 165 million cups of tea per year, which equates to a lot of tea leaves!
Many of us will regularly explain that we enjoy our tea served in a fine china cup, and as part of their research the scientists found that the vessel had an immense effect on our enjoyment of the brew. Professor Andrea Sella of University College London explained that tannins found in tea were unable to stick to the smooth surface of the china and so remain in the tea. Professor Sella also believes that the clinking of a teaspoon against the hard surface of the china is somehow comforting to us. Drinking tea from a fine china cup can also offer us warm, heart felt associations with memories that create a positive psycholgical response.
When brewing a good cup of black tea with milk, the following are some of the hard and fast fundamental rules.
Always use freshly drawn water, as it contains higher levels of oxygen, which is required to brew a vibrant, fresh cup of tea. Previously boiled water has lost much of this vital oxygen and so should be replaced.
The teapot should be pre-warmed with a little hot water.
The water in the kettle should reach boiling, 100 degrees Celsius.
Take the teapot to the kettle and pour the boiling water over the leaf tea and allow to brew for three to five minutes.
Milk, if taken with the tea should be added firstly to the cup at around 5% of overall volume. Some may prefer more or less.
Now pour the tea over the milk, this helps prevent cooking of the lactose(natural milk sugars) and prevents altering the taste.The study showed that pouring milk in first allows the tannins to bind with the milk better, to create a smooth tasting cup of tea.
The cup of tea should now be allowed to stand for a short time, giving the tea time to cool slightly to an optimum drinking temperature of 60 degrees Celsius. Professor Sella also suggests we steer clear of plastic or disposable cups as they just don’t cut it when tea is involved.
In an article covering Professor Sella’s finding, there were one or two items I would like to pick them up on. The first being that they attributed the addition of milk to tea as being done first by the British. I dispute this, as the French would appear to have been experimenting with milk in tea before the British. Secondly, Professor Sella doesn’t differentiate between a warmed pot or a room temperature cup when brewing. The warming of the pot,I believe is an integral part of creating the perfect cup of tea from black leaves.
But, having said all that, I do agree with Professor Sella when he says that “the perfect cup of tea is about patience, love and care”. Now I understand why my favourite cup of Assam tastes so good when drunk from my oversized fine bone china breakfast cup & saucer made by Roy Kirkham, England – it’s because it’s wrapped up in nostalgia and my own slice of the perfect life.