If there’s one thing us Brits feel strongly about, it’s making a proper cup of tea.
The latest piece of evidence is the nation’s particularly strong reaction to a Twitter post shared over the weekend, which depicts a controversial tea-making process.
The video, shared by commissioning editor Holly Harley, shows her boyfriend dumping sugar into a mug before pouring in boiling water, followed by cold milk, and only then dunking a tea bag in before stirring and then removing the bag shortly after.
It has been called “horrible” and “a criminal offence”.
It’s no wonder we care so much about our tea, with six in ten of us drinking at least one cup every day, and 11% managing five or more daily cuppas, according to YouGov data.
And that makes it all the more important that we get it right. We spoke to Dr Tim Bond, from the UK’s Tea Advisory Panel (yes, such a body exists), and Ottilie Cunningham, tea and coffee buyer at Fortnum & Mason, to ask all the important questions, from whether to add sugar to what type of cups to use.
Does the milk go in first?
Some might pour milk in first when pouring their tea from a tea pot, but Cunningham says it’s actually easier to do it afterwards “so you can see how much you’re adding”.
Bond agrees, adding you should wait until the tea bag is out of your cup before you add in the milk.
How hot should the water be?
Both experts agree black tea should be made with boiling hot water, although it needs to be freshly drawn.
“The golden rule is to always use freshly drawn water. The reason for this is that as the water boils, it loses oxygen in the bubbles – if you keep reboiling the same water, the tea will taste flat,” says Cunningham.
If you are making green tea you might want to let your water cool slightly – to around 85 degrees Celsius, Cunningham advises – as boiling water can make it taste bitter.
What kind of cup do you use?
Size is based on preference, but it should always be fine china, says Cunningham.
What kind of tea pot do you use?
Bond suggests using a glass tea pot in order to see the tea colour develop – however, he says any material is sufficient apart from an iron tea pot, which might cause tea to react with the material and give it a bad taste.
How long should a tea bag brew?
You need at least three minutes to allow tea flavours to properly infuse, says Cunningham.
Bond also agrees three minutes is the lower limit for brewing, but some teas can take up to five. “All companies provide on-pack instructions designed to get the best out of their products,” he adds.
Should you add sugar, and if so when?
This depends on preference, says Cunningham, although it’s important to add sugar while tea is hot so it dissolves properly – however there is one school of thought which says you should never add sugar to your tea.