Expert says we've been making tea wrong and it's not about milk

Human hand squeezing a teabag against the side of a mug with a silver teaspoon whilst making a mug of English tea
Expert settle the debate on how to make the perfect cuppa -Credit:Getty

According to recent stats, a whopping 8.2 million people in the UK consume tea 2-3 times a day. With so many people making tea daily, it is fair to say it has become a quintessential British brew.

Whether you prefer yours strong and red-hot, or milky with extra sugar, there are plenty of ways to make a cup of tea. But, despite everyone having their own preference, experts say there are some things you should never do.

Ahead of National Tea Day, on April 21, experts at Wren Kitchens, Taylors of Harrogate and Whittard have teamed up to finally settle age-old debates over how to make a ‘proper’ cup of tea. Together they warn of one particular action Brits should avoid - and that's squeezing the tea bag.

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"Never squeeze your teabags, as this can make your tea taste bitter due to the release of tannic acids", they explain. Instead, they suggest: "Lift it out carefully after 3-5 minutes of brewing".

The experts have also weighed in on whether milk or water should go in first and how long the brewing time should be. Here's a look at what they said.

What goes in first – milk or water?

It seems the biggest debate is centred around what first goes in a cup of tea, milk, or water. However, one method can help you to achieve your desired taste better.

Angela Pyrce from Whittard says: "I recommend water first, before adding milk. This method will help you get the best from your brew as you can make the tea to your taste and strength, before adding in the milk."

How long should you leave your teabag in?

The length of time you leave your teabag in is dependent on your ideal strength. However, Angela says there is an optimum time for black tea.

“Leaving your teabag in for around 3-5 minutes is the key to your cuppa reaching the perfect strength. It’s also important that the temperature of your water is 100 degrees," she says.

You should also avoid leaving your teabag in for the entire drinking process. The longer you leave in, the more chance your tea will become bitter as the hot water will draw out an intense taste.

Does your choice of water matter?

The water you use for your tea can make a real difference to the overall taste. “Always use water, which is freshly out of the tap, and if you can, a filter jug," Angela adds.

"This is because the higher levels of oxygen in fresh water will make your cup of tea much cleaner and allow the rich flavours to come through."

Where should you store your teabags?

It’s important to keep your teabags dry and away from moisture, as moisture can quickly damage the tea leaves, causing them to become stale. Angela advises: "Store teabags in a cool, dry place such as a tea caddy or an airtight container, and far away from strong light and odours. This will help to maintain the tea’s freshness and flavour.”

Other common mistakes when making a cuppa

Besides squeezing the tea bag, Angela has revealed other common mistakes you should avoid when making your cup of tea:

  • Never hit your teabags on the side of the mug - this could cause a tear in the material and the tea leaves escape into your cuppa.

  • Avoid using the wrong temperature water for your tea - stick to 100 degrees for the perfect blend of milk, water and tea leaves.

Katie Kippax, tea buyer at Taylors of Harrogate, also warns: "Don't put it in the microwave! My top tip is don't re-boil the water.

"Each time your kettle comes to the boil, the oxygen levels in the water reduces. Tea loves freshly boiled, well oxygenated water and stale water will negatively affect your brew."

Katie also shared that for those taking milk in their tea to choose full fat, claiming it will enhance the flavours and give the final brew a rich and satisfying flavour.

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