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How to make the perfect cup of tea

I have, on many occasions, been pleasantly surprised by the rational and reasoned arguments presented on E2. Even on contentious matters like putting on a duvet cover, how to create cleavage when wearing drag and how to shave your nuts without permanent injury and/or accidental castration, the points are put across with astounding objectivity.

You can imagine my disappointment, then, when I decided to find out how to make a decent cup of tea, which, although less useful than the other three capabilities listed above, is still a good weapon to have in the ability arsenal. This node is full of interesting ideas and theories, but the almost religious fervour with which people are promoting their subjective views left me unsure of which route to take: green or black, bag or leaf? I had to find information from an impartial, knowledgeable body, a higher source, if you will.

It is through this cuppa curiosity that I found that the likeable chumps at the Royal Society of Chemistry had devoted time, effort and money into a scientific quest for the ultimate tea experience. The Society's recommendations are as follows:

  • Apparatus:
    • Ingredients: Loose leaf Assam tea, soft water, fresh chilled milk, white sugar (optional).
    • Implements: Kettle, ceramic teapot, large ceramic mug, fine mesh tea strainer, tea spoon, microwave oven.
  • Method:
    1. Draw fresh, soft water and place in the kettle to boil.
    2. While waiting for the water to boil, place a tea pot containing a quarter of a cup of water in a microwave oven on full power for one minute.
    3. Place one rounded teaspoon of tea per cup into pot.
    4. Take the pot to the kettle as it is boiling, pour water on to the leaves and stir.
    5. Leave to brew for three minutes.
    6. The ideal receptacle is a ceramic mug. Pour milk into the cup first, followed by the tea, aiming to achieve a colour that is rich, attractive and to your taste.
    7. Add sugar to taste.
    8. Drink at 60-65C, to avoid vulgar slurping which results from trying to drink tea at too high a temperature.
    9. To gain optimum ambience for enjoyment of tea aim to achieve a seated drinking position in a favoured home spot where quietness and calm will elevate the moment.

Obviously, there is a certain level of subjectivity in this report. However, it is also based on sound and rigourous scientific principles. For example the figure of three minutes brewing time was decided upon after considering the balance of caffeine, polyphenolic compounds (tannins) and high molecular weight tannins required to get maximum flavour without leaving a bad aftertaste.

However, I must admit that in independent taste trials (run by me), I couldn't really tell that much difference between a cup produced with this method and a standard tea bag cup.
In the end, using the same method to make two different cups of tea can, and often will, produce vastly diverse brews. You may as well stick to the simple method and trust that one day, you may indeed create the perfect cup of tea.


Factual sources:
The Royal Society of Chemistry - http://www.rsc.org/pdf/pressoffice/2003/tea.pdf