An American wants to teach Brits how to make tea properly. Really?
NOT since the Boston tea party of 1773 has Britain’s national beverage caused such a transatlantic fuss. Back then a difference over tea taxes started a revolution. Today a different kind of storm is brewing. The Americans are trying to turn the traditional British cuppa into a “biochemical journey” that will transform nutrients and antioxidants into “a tasty aqueous solution”.
The forthcoming publication in Britain of an American guide called “How To Make Tea: The Science Behind the Leaf” claims that the British have lost their pioneering role as the world’s primary promoters of tea.
Brits may still drink their way through a lot of teabags but, according to the guide, “North America is now considered the launch pad for a global interest in speciality tea and a vibrant tea culture”.
‘North America is now considered the launch pad for a global interest in speciality tea and a vibrant tea culture,’ writes brave – some might say foolhardy – Seattle-based tea researcher Brian Keating. According to the guide’s publisher Ivy Press, it is ‘a fascinating and invaluable handbook for anyone who doesn’t want to settle for less than the perfect brew.’
The book describes said ‘perfect brew’ as ‘an ethereal infusion, the ghost of a scent walking across your taste buds’. Right.
Speaking to The Sunday Times about the controversial guide, Bill Gorman, director of the UK Tea And Infusions Association (UKTIA) admitted that, despite putting away 165 million cups of tea every day, Brits today seem confused about the science of tea-making. ‘I can tell you that there are differences even in my office at the centre of the British tea industry. I like my teabag to sit 4-5 minutes, making for a zingier flavour, but my colleague is a 30-second dunker,’ says Bill.
Mark Miodownik, Professor of Materials and Society at University College London concedes we may have lost our way: ‘This may be controversial, but the British do not understand how to make tea! Or at least they’re not doing it properly.’ He adds: ‘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.’
The death of the teapot isn’t helping either apparently. ‘What you make tea in, and drink it out of, is also important. It alters the taste,’ he explains. So, because we can’t let the Americans beat us, here’s a recap on how to make the perfect cup, according to British Standards Institution’s best practice guidelines:
How to make the perfect brew Use a porcelain teapot.
None of this wacking it straight into your giant ‘I love tea’ mug malarkey.
The BSI stipulates two teabags for a small pot of tea and four for a large pot.
Pour freshly boiled water into the pot, up to 4mm and 6mm below the brim. Then put the lid back on the pot and allow the tea to diffuse for six minutes.
If you want your tea with milk, the milk must be poured into the cup FIRST, before the tea is added. The temperature of the water must not exceed 85°C to ensure it doesn’t scald the milk, but should be above 60°C for ‘optimum flavour and sensation’.