For a nation of tea-drinkers, we really should be better at doing it (Source: Getty)
It's a question that divides the nation more than Margaret Thatcher's legacy or The X Factor versus Strictly. How do you make the best cup of tea?
Three quarters of us drink tea every day, so it's no small issue. Some – crazy people admittedly – put milk in first. Some want the water to be less than boiling. Others swear you have to let it stew in a ceramic mug. But as part of British Science Week, a group of research scientists claim to have found the definitive method for a perfect cuppa.
They claim that between two and five minutes is the optimum stewing time for tea, but only 16 per cent of us leave it that long – most of us gulp it down after one or two minutes, claiming “the hotter the better”.
More than nine out of 10 of us opt for English Breakfast without sugar, and drink it from a ceramic mug. Some 69 per cent of us agree that milk should be added after boiling water – but those aged 65 and over tend to be more likely to add milk first.
Mark Miodownik, professor of materials and society at University College London, said: “This may be controversial, but the British do not understand how to make tea. Or at least they're not doing it properly. And it's because they don't understand the variables.
“Expediency is causing us to throw chemistry out of the window; we're not allowing our tea to brew for long enough, to release the flavours properly.”
Miodownik believes the decline of the teapot is a factor, noting that the tea-drinking public is unaware how much it alters the taste.
“Fundamentally, of course, what makes the perfect cuppa is a matter of personal preference, but the next time you are making a pot of tea for the family, or are charged with the office tea round, try and test some different variables – from the type of tea to the length of time you brew it for and what you drink it out of – you might find it takes your relationship with tea to a whole new level.”
If you consider yourself a tea connoisseur, this week brings some good news in the form of the first shipment of the 2015 Darjeeling First Flush tea, the hot drink equivalent of Beaujolais Nouveau.
It is produced by The East India Company, which claims that favourable conditions have led to a “vintage year”.
It's not cheap – 40g will set you back £20 while an 80g bag goes for £35 – but EIC claims that for tea enthusiasts “it's as close as we come to tasting nature in its purest form”.