How to make the perfect cup of tea
The expertise of one of the Department’s lecturers (and Admissions tutor), Dr Andrew Stapley, has been called upon to help TV presenter James May solve a controversial and much contested issue – how to make the perfect cup of tea.
May’s recently published ‘Man Lab’ book from the popular BBC TV series, explains how Dr Stapley decided to put George Orwell’s “Eleven Golden Rules” for making the perfect cup of tea to the test. Orwell had written the rules back in 1948 as part of one of his famous essays about the apparently trivial things that make life meaningful. The rules remained the standard on the subject until the Royal Society of Chemistry commissioned Dr Stapley to revisit the topic.
As a result of his research Dr Stapley disputed some of Orwell’s long-established rules such as the need to add milk to the cup after the tea is poured. Adding the milk afterwards causes less efficient mixing and hence excessive heating of parts of the milk, which then leads to its proteins unfurling and clumping together, like they do in UHT milk, resulting in a less pleasant taste. However both Orwell and Stapley concurred that Assam tea is the best (although this was a personal preference in both cases.)
Here is Dr Stapley’s guide to the 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 flavour 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.