We've been making tea all wrong, says a chemical engineer from the UK.
Dr Andrew Stapley of Loughborough University in the UK has studied how to make the ultimate cup of tea, and it appears most of us have been doing it wrong.
The majority of people will heat the teapot with boiling water before rinsing it out, adding the tea bags and then more boiling water before giving it a stir. The milk is usually added after the tea is in the cup.
However, according to Dr Stapley, the scientifically correct way to make the perfect cup of tea is to add the milk to the cup before the tea.
While his unconventional method may leave many tea drinkers horrified, he found that if you pour milk into a hot brew, the milk will heat unevenly. This will alter the natural quality of the milk's proteins (denaturing milk proteins), leaving small white bits floating at the top of your cup and causing the milk to lose its flavor.
Dr Stapley's research also revealed that pouring your milk into the cup before the hot water can help prevent hard water by lowering the mineral content of your water. This will bring back the flavor to an otherwise mediocre brew, reports the Irish Mirror.
Dr Stapley’s research into tea making was partly inspired by George Orwell's essay “A Nice Cup of Tea," first published in the London Evening Standard newspaper in 1946. Since Orwell suggested adding milk after pouring, Dr. Stapley's research would indicate the English author had it scientifically wrong just like the rest of us.
Here is Dr Stapley's scientifically-tested guide for a perfect cup of tea:
- Use Assam tea
- Use a clean, warm china or earthenware pot
- Add one spoonful of tea (or tea bag) per cup
- Use freshly drawn water, boiled once only to retain as much oxygen as possible to bind with tea polyphenols
- Avoid hard water (calcium ions) to prevent tea “scum”
- Best flavor is achieved using a high temperature, but short time infusion
- Stir the teapot
- Leave to brew for 3 minutes
- Add the tea to the milk – rather than the other way around
- Add sugar if you like but only use white sugar and not too much
- Drink tea at 60-65°C
*Originally published in April 2022. Updated in January 2023.