Is there such thing as a perfect cup of tea? And if there is, how do you make one?
As a born and bred Londoner I grew up in a house of tea drinkers. My mum likes her tea piping hot and very strong; my sister likes her tea even stronger (known as builder’s tea in the UK, so strong your spoon can stand up in it!); and personally, I like my tea most importantly in my favourite mug!
There are several considerations when making a good cup of English tea correctly. Many of them come down to personal taste. For example:
- Will you use tea bags or loose tea?
- Will you make your tea in a teapot, a cup, or even in a stylish mug?
- How long should the tea steep before adding milk?
- And speaking of milk, do you even need to add milk? And how much?
Tea Bags vs. Loose Tea
Purists will always choose loose tea because the leaf size is larger and the loose tea circulates through the boiling water, swelling and eliciting maximum flavour and colour. On the other hand, tea bags are much more convenient, create less mess, and you can always buy the best quality tea bag possible to ensure your tea tastes delicious.
Choosing the Best Teaware
This comes down to personal taste and of course occasion. If you are hosting afternoon tea for friends, then using a teapot and tea cups with saucers feels luxurious and grown up! If you are simply having your morning cuppa, a favourite mug might be more suitable. Don’t belittle the importance of choosing the right cup – sometimes it’s worth it to dig through your sink of dirty dishes and wash your best tea mug so you can fully enjoy your tea drinking experience.
Tea Steeping 101
You should wait 3 to 4 minutes before adding milk to English Breakfast Tea according to the experts at Artfultea.com. What happens if you’re just too impatient or in a rush? Well, you just won’t get the full-bodied tea taste that you’re meant to. If that’s ok with you, then so be it, but for the perfect cup of tea, you’ll need to take some deep breaths and just wait. Unload the dishwasher or strike up some yoga poses while you wait.
When your tea is done steeping, you should remove the tea bag from the cup.
To Add Milk Or Not to Add Milk?
Most Brits drink their tea with milk, but many abroad prefer it black, so milk in English Breakfast Tea is not a prerequisite. Nowadays there are a wide variety of milks to choose from including vegan milks such as oat or almond, as well as skimmed milk and full-fat milk. Some people like just a dash of milk, others prefer a more milky consistency.
Advice From the Tea Pros
There are so many different avenues to take here so let’s see how Twinings, the British company who have been making tea for over 300 years, recommend making a proper cup of tea!
- You should always start with fresh cold water that you then bring to the boil.
- If using a teapot, it should be warmed first with hot water and if you prefer a cup or mug ensure that it is sparkling clean!
- They recommend using one tea bag per cup of tea and advise pouring the water over the tea as soon as it reaches boiling point.
- Then leave the tea to brew until the desired colour and taste is achieved.
When to Add the Milk
Twinings suggest adding milk to your cup before pouring in your tea to allow the milk to cool the tea. However, this is a matter of debate. Many of my family and friends have had heated arguments over this very topic, so I think it’s time to get some answers!
It seems that some tea lovers have rules for when to add milk depending on whether you are using a teapot or not. If you are making your tea using a teapot, you should add milk to your cup before pouring in the tea from the pot. If you are making tea directly in a mug or cup using a teabag, it is better to add milk after the hot water has been added and left to steep for a few minutes (since the tea will steep better in hot water that’s not cooled by the milk).
Why Do Brits Add Milk to Tea?
All this thinking about tea (whilst sipping my steaming mug of PG Tips intermittently) led me to question why the British started putting milk in their tea. In the past, black tea was made to be drunk without milk. However, in England people drank their tea in delicate china teacups that would crack when the boiling water was poured in. This problem was solved by putting a dash of cold milk in the cup first, hence lessening the likelihood of the teacup cracking. Another possible reason for adding milk to tea is that it saves money – lesser quality teas can be enhanced with milk and sugar.
One of the wonderful things about tea is that it bridges the social divide in society. On one hand you can find a couple of friends having a home brewed cup of tea at home, having a good old chat and putting the world to rights, whether it be a cup of Typhoo tea or a mug of Twinings Breakfast Tea. Conversely you can take your mum or best friend to enjoy afternoon tea at the Ritz or Claridges hotel in London, where your tea will be served using the finest china tea set. The Ritz even has a certified Tea Master who travels the world sourcing the best teas.
What Matters Most? Enjoy Your Tea!
So how does one make the perfect cup of tea? The best cup of tea is the one you enjoy the most, so experiment with different makes of tea bags, different amounts of milk, try with and without sugar or sweetener until you find the perfect combination that brings you joy and pleasure.
Check Is Tea Good For You And Learn More About Tea.