The Science Behind – How to Produce the Perfect Cuppa!

Recently, scientists at the University College London decided to take a look at how to produce the perfect cuppa. They didn’t just look at the chemical and fundamental methods of producing a good cup of tea but also the psychological affects of a nice cup of tea.

The findings from their hard earned research can now be shared by us. This research was done in Great Britain and was obviously focused on black tea with some reference to green and white teas. It’s important to understand the cultural significance of this in British life, after all they do consume over 165 million cups of tea per year. The scientists found that the vessel the tea was served in matter a lot. Many people say they enjoy a cup of tea more in a fine china cup.  What the scientists found was that this was correct, Professor Andrea Sella of University College London explained that the smooth surface of a fine china cup doesn’t allow the tannins in the tea to stick to the surface and so remain in the tea. He also said that the sound of a teaspoon clinking against the hard surface of a china cup was “comforting”.  The psychological aspects of drinking tea from a china cup gives us lovely associations, like drinking tea with your Grandmother.

When it comes to the fundamentals of brewing a good cuppa, the kettle must have freshly drawn water which is full of oxygen, as water that has previously or over boiled loses oxygen. The oxygen is a must when creating a vibrant, fresh cuppa. Next, the kettle water must boil, and the water poured over the tea and allowed to brew for three to five minutes. Milk, if taken, should be added to the cup first at about 5% of the overall volume, with the tea poured in afterwards. This is to prevent cooking the lactose (milk sugars) and altering the taste. The study also showed that pouring milk in first also allows the tannins to bind with the milk better so creating a smooth tasting cuppa. The brew should now be allowed to stand for a short period to allow the temperature to drop to about 60’C for a pleasurable drinking experience. Professor Sella suggests we steer clear of plastic or disposable cups as they just don’t cut it when tea is involved.

In an article covering Professor Sella’s finding, there were one or two items I would like to pick them up on. The first being that they attributed the addition of milk to tea firstly being done by the British. I dispute this as the French would appear to have been experimenting with milk in tea before the British. Secondly, he doesn’t differentiate between a warmed pot or a room temperature cup when brewing. The warming of the pot, I believe is an integral part of creating the perfect cup of tea from black leaves. But, having said all that, I do agree with Professor Sella when he says that the perfect cup of tea is about “patience, love and care”. Now I understand why my favourite cup of Assam tastes so good when drunk from my oversized fine bone china breakfast cup & saucer made by Roy Kirkham, England. 

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