Sod the tea
Where can I get an El Reg cup?
Here at Reg Hardware, we rely on a regular supply of fresh tea in order to function properly. We'd like to think we're rather good at brewing our bevvies too, but apparently there is actually a science to it. Boffins at the University of Northumbria have come up with a mathematical formula that can be applied to produce the …
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At £15 for a large mug though, you'd have to be one to buy one.
A couple of years ago Ben Goldacre covered this kind of nonsensical "research" and called it PR-reviewed data: http://www.badscience.net/2009/08/pr-reviewed-data/ and http://www.badscience.net/2006/12/mediaslut-ideas-money-corporatewhore/. The Daily Mail in particular has a weakness for "equations" like this that are cooked up by marketing companies. I know times might be hard for universities but endorsing this claptrap doesn't make them any more credible or advance proper science. I'd have a lot more respect for Cravendale if they just said "Buy our milk. It makes tea taste nice". As it is they tend to be one of the more overpriced milk brands around: generic supermarket stuff is cheaper. Personally I'd improve a cup of tea by throwing away the tea bag and replacing it with a decent freshly ground coffee.
Oh, and did Ian Brown really mean his "palette"? Most of us use our palate for tasting.
+1 to mhoulden (or specifically Ben Goldacre) as I thought exactly the same when reading the same "news" in a free paper this morning.
Not to mention the fundamental flaws in the "science" that miss out the environmental conditions - how cold is this milk for example that allows for cooling from 100C to 60C within 8 minutes? Is the bag squeezed or left in? What's the mug made of (ie what are its heatsink properties?) Are we assuming that room temperature is below 60C in order to allow the tea to cool to that temperature?
Then I realised I needed to get a life and closed the paper.
Come on, enough with the holier-than-though po-facedness. Are you really so media-illiterate as to genuinely think this kind marketing is claiming to be real science? I think not.
I find it really hard to believe anyone reading this site assumes this perfect cuppa stuff is an endeavour that's even remotely scientific.
Ben Goldacre is quite right to point out bollocks masquerading as science, especially when it's big pharma companies and the like, but this tea business - even if it wasn't a milk marketing exercise -is no such thing.
Thank goodness most Reg readers have a sense of proportion.
I'm fairly sure most people would see through this, but it's not the point. What's happened is that Cravendale have managed to get some advertising masquerading as news, a University has damaged its credibility by signing on (I don't imagine for a second they actually wasted any resources, just put their name to what they were given). It may not seem much on the face of it, but it's the thin end of the wedge in terms of turning credible science into sheer sponsored nonsense - where would you propose we draw the line?
... as Professor Joad used to say. In this case, it depends on what type of tea, the preferences of the drinker (I know several who find 2 minutes stewing far too long, and others like me who prefer longer), etc.
For instance, with a straight Ceylon (Sri Lanka) tea, or a Ceylon/Assam blend with at least 2:1 ratio, I prefer it without milk. Less Assam in the mix also means that a stronger tea can be brewed for longer (over 5 minutes with pure Ceylon) without going bitter. On the other hand a high-Assam blend can taste good after a short brew.
No, sorry, their research is rubbish. They obviously didn't have anywhere near a large enough sample size of either teas or drinkers. 5/10 for effort...
That's crappy instant coffee, not the sort of "builder's tea" you get from Typhoo et all. A good cup of tea as drunk by many a plumber, joiner or decorator demands boiling water and, as others here have suggested, using the teaspoon to squeeze every last drop of potential out of the bag.
Or use a teapot, if you like being archaic and using a tea strainer for straining tea.
I often leave the bag in as it's the only way to get the darn drink strong enough.
Interesting to note, wherever you go in the world - the US, Australia, wherever - the teabags are woefully feeble. Only in the UK do we have bags capable of making a good, strong brew.
It's just a shame so few Brits appreciate it.
FX: Briton waves bag vaguely in the direction of cup filled with lukewarm water
As with any rule, there is an exception. Tazo "Awake" black tea is about the best you'll get in the US, and is surprisingly good.
Even more surprising is that it is the tea served in Starbucks. Their "coffee" may be undrinkable, but they do make a decent cup of tea. With boiling water, no less.
PS. If you want to annoy a Frenchman, tell him that (contrary to his beliefs) the French *do* have something in common with Americans. Neither can make a decent cup of tea...
couple of points - squashing the teabag is considered bad form, allegedly releases bitter compounds best held immobile within the leaf structure. Mixing milk with teabag is also a bit of a no-no. Tea will not brew properly with milk-in-first, an osmotic pressure thing. Removing the bag before the milk goes in is also recommended since the open cellulose leaf matrix will take some of the fat out of the milk, but then i prefer the full-fat to the semi-skimmed, others don't.
"If you want to annoy a Frenchman, tell him that (contrary to his beliefs) the French *do* have something in common with Americans. Neither can make a decent cup of tea..."
That's because we focus our efforts on the much superior beverage that is coffee, but the French have no excuse.. :)
Ok, that's a joke. In truth, I can drink neither regular tea nor real coffee anymore. I have to subsist on herbal imitations of each and miss them both equally. Stupid caffine sensitivity...
you really need to ty 'Yorkshire Tea' (http://www.yorkshiretea.co.uk/) - from a happy user with no share in the company :-) While they might be marked down for using flash as the only way in to the site, they do blend their teas well and have different variants for different regional waters.
"FX: Briton waves bag vaguely in the direction of cup filled with lukewarm water".
Funnily enough, this is exactly how my stepfather likes his cuppa milky water (I'm not going to dignify the foul concoction with the name "tea"). Frankly, given his background as a plumber, it's an utter disgrace.
I'm not overly fussed about how strong the tea is, as long as the bag has been in the water for a sensible amount of time (anything from a few minutes up to an hour is fine). Dash of milk and we're sorted.
Back in my uni days I did a little informal experimentation myself and I found that by far the most important variable was the temperature of the water. The quality of tea flavour was exponentially proportional to the temperature of the water. The upshot of that is that you want to transfer water from the kettle to the teabag/leaves as quickly as possible, before it starts cooling down. Mere seconds of waiting makes an appreciable difference. They should be emphasizing that.
Just put the loose tea/leaves in the cup, pour on boiling water. Same applies to black/green/oolong/longjing*/whatever.
*with longjing, just add more water once drunk for a second brew
PS. Kudos to your cleaner, that's all amazingly clean, no hint of spilled sugar/water/milk/tea. Even the toaster is looking polished.
Never ever pour boiling water on anything but black tea. Green and white teas especially get ruined by anything over about 75C - the high temperature rinses out the tannins and they develop a nasty bitter taste. Green/white tea should be smooth and almost sweet. Also by brewing over 2 minutes - pour hot water into a gaiwan or teapot, decant, drink, repeat. You can get about six or seven flushes (ie: fresh hot water onto used leaves) from a quality green/white tea, and the flavour develops and changes each time.
I was shocked, while having a cup of £12-a-go first flush jasmine tea in a certain very famous 3-star restaurant the other week, to have it served at near-boiling.
As any other fule kno, that depends! However, I discovered the worst cup of tea: freshly brewed tea from a tea/coffee/hot chocolate machine (other means of teamaking were not allowed in the office). It took the machine almost 60 seconds to complete a cup and the tea tasted like hot, caffeinated water. I was hooked on this stuff within weeks (2 cups an hour? bah! That wouldn't make me type one word).
First of all, the "tea" itself is just some scrapings from the factory floor at Twinnings or Lipton. The official trade name for the "tea" used in "traditional" teabags is "dust". If you're lucky they will put some "fannings" in the bags too...
And second - if you put milk in tea you get soup, not tea.
Considering that 80%+ of tea drunk in the UK is in teabag form, the process for creating the >20% of loose tea must be seriously wasteful to provide enough "scrapings" for all those teabags. That, or you are talking rubbish.
Give me a properly brewed MUG of good, solid breakfast tea, with a dash of milk. No more, no less.
As a Yorkshire Tea enthusiast, I was fascinated to read about the work their blenders have to do. They claim (and I don't have any reason to disbelieve them) that the tea they choose for their teabags has to be extremely good and well chosen as the bag 'dampens' (my summary not theirs) the tastes
The UK teabags are not 'dust', they contain proper selected tea. I think in America tea bags use dust which is one reason why the tea there is not as we'd like it (to be polite....)
Water temp is a big factor. Pour in just as the kettle has finished boiling then here in London(ish) the tea will be ready in 30-60 seconds.
You need to understand that fannings and dust make the "strongest" tea quickest. That's why they are being used for teabags.
You cannot use proper tea leaves in small paper bags because the restricted flow of water in combination with the smaller surface area of loose tea leaves (BOP, OP and higher) will make them ineffective. Also, larger tea leaves are highly hygroscopic, they will absorb water, expand and fill the volume of the teabag, further restricting the water flow.
Because of this, expensive teabags with more or less proper tea in them use larger volume nylon mesh bags instead of paper...
Dust and fannings contain more caffeine (which is produced through oxidation) because of their high reactive surface area. For the same reasons they release the soluble substances more easily and quickly. So a small pinch of fannings will make your a "stronger" (more bitter and with more caffeine) infusion than a larger (and more expensive) pinch of leaves.
The problem is that the "strength" was not the original idea of tea. As sometimes happens, Europeans imported something from a different culture, misunderstood the purpose and the recipe and came up with a drink which is completely different from what was intended in the first place.
Keyboard dyslexia today. I blame not having enough tea.
I just thought though, there's no adjustment in that formula for altitude. What happens if you can't get boiling water at 100C? I lived in Mexico City at ~2,200m altitude so water boiled at about 90C. By the time you poured it in a teapot it was probably down to about 80C.
In the end I found that putting the loose leaf tea straight in the kettle (one of those whistling stove kettles rather than an electric one of course) just as it came to the boil, turning off the heat and leaving it to brew for about 5 minutes seemed to work.
It has become routine to the possible extent of OCD that I must have tea at least 3 times in the working day, more usually 4 or 5. This may seem a small amount, but the cups are the larger kind of paper coffee cups, plus I try to keep down the quantity, mainly because I've always thought that no matter how good something is, in large enough quantities it will harm you. The bag MUST be placed in the cup prior to having the water from the hot water dispenser, approximately 2cm gap is left to the rim, the lid must then be placed immediately on the cup, then it is queued and paid for, I get irritable if the queue is too long or too short as I rely on having just a few people there for brewing time. Once paid the lid can be removed and the sugar placed ONTO the floating teabag, the bag is then pushed down and stirred between 3 and 6 times (depending on how long the queue was) with a stick rather than a spoon, the stick allows the bag to be wrapped around it and satisfyingly squeezed to ensure the maximum flavour is extracted. Once complete the bag is removed and milk is added to the brim, it's not to weaken the flavour but to enhance it and also to reduce the temperature. A small amount is drunk immediately to reduce spillage, but then I allow the tea to cool to an almost tepid temperature in order to drink it swiftly.
It's just my taste, I know it's not to everyones, particularly my wife who insists that tea must be drunk whilst it has the capability to scald your mouth and cannot contain more than about 5 drops of milk. We do both agree that it should have 1 teaspoon of sugar though.
I despise coffee.
"I'd leave out the milk"
Yes but the hint is in "research - funded by dairy Cravendale Milk" .... missing out the milk would get the same reaction as I had couple weeks ago at the Bath&West show when I asked for a black coffee at what I hadn't realized was the Jersey GoldTop drinks bar!
"One thing they did get right, at least is the need for English tea to be brewed with boiling water,"#
As opposed to a cafe in Portugal which responded to my wife's request for "tea with milk" (in our best approximation of portugese) which arrived as a tea bag floating in a cup of hot milk!
Must admit, the research here sounds a bit lax - have they never read Douglas Adams' opinions on tea making?
Anyway, crappy instant coffee for me, two spoons, quarter spoon of sugar, no milk, ta.
If I want decent coffee, I break out the cafetiere - I'm not so prissy as to grind my own beans (requote at will) but it makes a better cup than fecking Nescafe.
As for tea - gotta be loose leaf, in a teapot - accept no substitutes. Brew it up, then serve to taste.
Where the 'ooh, lovely brew' icon? Terminator instead, as vending machine tea and coffee is clearly a plot to kill the human race with poison.
Loose tea (my preference is nilgiri leaf, but not everyone has taste) in the pot. Boiling water poured on whilst stirring, Cover with a cosy for no less than four minutes. Full fat milk in the cup. Pour tea onto milk. Replace cosy to keep the warmth in for seconds.
Once I saw this was funded by Cravendale I was surprised not to see them recommending LOTS of milk to drive up consumption and sales of milk.
I remember when Kellog's Corflakes Ads said "Just a splash of milk" until the Milk Marketing Board got at them and it changed to "DRENCHED in ice-cold milk".....
At least that's how it happened in my mind :)
You may sneer, but putting the milk in first means the milk can never get hotter than the final mixed temperature. Putting milk into hot tea overheats the first part of the milk which goes in and gives a less creamy "UHT" taste. Try it and see.
Obviously you must use a teapot, and take the bags out of the pot as soon as it's brewed. Loose-leaf tea is also good, but you must (a) pour the whole lot at once; (b) use a very fine strainer and (c) give it only 1 minute or so to brew, because it goes waaaay faster than teabags.
New keyboard icon, because tea is responsible for most such incidents.
One thing that everyone appears to have missed is that brewing time is heavily dependent on the water you use. I'm well-versed in the water we have here in Edinburgh. In London, though (apart from having a kettle full of scum), you only need to let the teabag *see* the water before it's ready. And in Glasgow it seems that you have to beat the shite out of the bag to get anything approaching colour or flavour.
Assam. Black, no sugar, ta!
According to my friend Charlie the story goes like this:
Bag + Cup
Cup tilted at alarming angle and inserted into oversized hot water dispenser unit (with undersized dispenser tray)
Note water temperature at a maximum of 83 degrees. Some say, sub optimal, I say you’ll be lucky
Push and hold water button
Assuming approximately 30ml per second flow rate, count to 10.
Realise flow rate is slightly higher today as water isn’t running uphill and Anglia Water have another pump on
Watch water pour over the top of cup and dribble down the counter top.
Mop up = Brewing Time
Prod mechanical cow to dispense anywhere from 5-50ml of milk
Spend approximately 1 minute fishing around with a half melted and weak stemmed plastic spoon attempting to extract tea bag.
Add sugar, x2 sachets of fair-trade brown sugar, realising that x1 sachet equates to one third to one half a tea spoon
Stir feverishly with the remnants of the melted spoon.
Decamp to the office and enjoy. Ahh.
My wife is German. When we were first together, I schooled her carefully in the correct procedure for making tea and she in turn showed me how to make drinkable filter coffee, something that one simply didn't get to learn in the UK in the 70's. It's a rich exchange it seems to me, it's a warm arrangement. (Anybody recognise that?)
In any case, the correct way to make tea is to use first flush Darjeeling* leaves, place them in a warmed china pot, add freshly-drawn, freshly-boiling water, cover the pot with a cosy or tea-towel and leave to brew for five minutes.
My wife's initial reaction when I showed her this was suspicion that I was pulling her leg. Only the quality of the final result convinced her that it was worth the effort.
Much like the Japanese, the British require a measure of ritual in the preparation of tea. Otherwise, well, it's not tea.
As for all those correspondents who admit to indulging in "tea-bagging", I aver that that is a practice best indulged in in private...
*Or your choice of suitable tea, bearing in mind that Darjeeling is the best...
Requires a porcelaine teapot, Twinings English Breakfast tea leaves.
Put a dollop of tea leaves into porcelain teapot, wait a while then pour into beaker.
Establish whether or not the tea was too strong/weak, too milky or not and adjust accordingly next time round.
replace tea leaves by either a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme or a couple of stalks of fresh mint scrunched a la Jamie Oliver style. Dispense with milk and wonder why you never tried fresh herbs before
The researchers clearly haven't taken all tastes into account. My own 25 year investigation into variations in tea and fry up qualities across east London reveals substantial variations on "perfect" between areas only a few miles apart.
Canning town scores very well for supreme bacon sarnies but, for my own taste, very, very badly for tea. The requirements seem to be:
Brewing time: all day (all week in one case it would appear)
Tea bag strength: Weapons grade
Milk: enough to make it roughly the colour of dark mud
Sugar: around 25 percent of total volume
The resultant liquid is tested for deployment by pouring a small quantity on sheet steel. If it burns a hole in less than 3 minutes, it's ready.
Coffee, funnily enough is the exact opposite; off white water with lots of sugar.
Anyway, the perfect cuppa can only be had in north India's Haryana state in any small roadside chailwallah's. Essential ingredients include a dubious looking pan with 50 years worth of tea and milk welded to the side, some small glasses, fresh ginger, a rag that always looks remarkably like someones used t-shirt for straining, a top notch local cow and a bloke with rather less than a full set of teeth, but 20 odd years practice making chai. Cheap and best, as they say.
It's tea from a teabag. Whatever you do with it, whichever brand, it tastes like rat urine and pencil shavings. Add milk and it'll taste like milky rat urine and pencil shavings.
A Malaysian friend introduced me to jasmine tea. That's really good stuff if you want to spend half an hour sipping it whilst chilling out. Mint tea is also not bad. Anything else, just point me at the coffee instead, losers.
The bloody teabag was the death of proper tea. The stuff you could tell your fortune in when you got to the bottom of the cup. It was a triumph for the tea industry in that they could now sell the 'dust' that they previously had to throw away. (They didn't throw it away, of course, they just sold it in a less discriminating market). Unfortunately, the demand for these bloody teabags dominated sales, so you no longer can get from the 'proper' loose tea unless you pay an enormous markup, and the loose tea now sold is simply the rubbish 'dust' but without the paper bag. I personally, still use loose tea, but instead of the traditional pot, now make it in a coffee filter machine, and get as near as possible to the proper 'cuppa'. It comes in a pot, but without the irritating dust carry over. Pity about the fortune telling bit, though
After 36 years of teamaking and drinking, I can share the secret to the perfect cup of tea, as experienced and agreed by the c. 100 people I have ever made tea for:
1. Boil kettle
2. Immediately poor boiling water on to a standard PG Tips tea bag, only up to 1.5 inches from rim of cup
3. Fan the tea bag ten times against the inside of the cup so that the water pumps through the tea
4. Leave for 20 seconds while you fetch some whole milk
5. Fan the tea bag ten times against the inside of the cup again
6. Remove the tea bag, squeezing the last drops of teay goodness into the cup
7. Add sugar if desired and stir until dissolved
7. Top up to just below the rim with milk and stir
Perfect strong yet creamy nectar-like tea.
Warm the mug.
Make it as strong as possible (double bag if they are those shitty catering tea bags or an oversized vessel is employed)
Remove the bag(s) -- I can't stress this enough -- before adding plenty of milk until the correct shade of lighter orange is achieved.
Sod the sugar.
Get it down your neck.
It may be due to the large number of British Ex-Pats in Florida, but we have a grocery chain called Publix which has (surprisingly) good, and strong tea bags. If you ever get a chance, check them out. Hell, I'll send you some if you give me an address even. American tea is on the whole extremely piss-poor though. And Twinnings American sold teas are nowhere near as good as the UK versions, or how they were prior to about 2002, though if you're in the US Armed Forces they do sell the real thing at the PX/BX.
I like my tea really strong though, so I dont think the University's equation would apply to me, and Milk in my tea is like Milk in my coffee, I simply cant drink it that way.
If you make tea in a mug, you've already lost.
The key is keeping temperatures as high as possible; that means a teapot as hot as possible before the (furiously boiling) water goes in. And then slapping a good thick tea-cosy over the pot. Which should be made of good thick insulating china. Or clay, or whatever it is.
There is only one problem here - as you whip your cordless kettle out of its stand just before boiling point is reached, in order to pour very hot water into the pot, the contacts will arc and destroy themselves. You must turn the bugger off *before* removing it from its stand. I think I destroyed about three or four kettles before I finally figured this one out.
And a +1 to Yorkshire Tea bags.
1) Place loose leaf tea in cup or tea strainer
2) Boil fresh water (never reboil, as the oxygen content has been removed by previous boiling)
3) Pour boiling water over tea leaves
4) Allow to steep for 3-5 minutes
5) Pour in milk and sugar to taste
6) Throw the whole goddamn thing out and brew some goddamn coffee! What the fuck is wrong with you?
Caveat: $wife is of the opinion I make the worst tea in West Yorkshire. I fear she may be correct. Anyhoo...
Tea for her: In *her* mug (approximately the size of a dustbin), put 1 Tetley's tea bag. Add still-boiling water (bugger the kettle contacts, she needs tea *now*). Stir, wait, return, stir ... repeat until you cannot see the teaspoon handle thru the liguid to a depth of > 1mm. Squeeze and remove tea-bag. DO NOT add milk with tea bag still in: "I can taste the difference, I WILL know, and there will be trouble".
Add milk, volume approximately one sparrow-fart.
Give to $wife, and await verdict. Repeat about 8 times per day.
Tea for me: Normal mug, add bag of any old tea. Sling on boiling water. Give it a quick swiddle, slosh in plenty of milk, chuck teabag in direction of bin. Repeat once per week. Tea really only necessasy after fried breakfast, or fish and chips.
Coffee for me: Odd this, I prefer instant at the moment. One heaped as full as possible teaspoon (using biggest teaspoon in drawer) coffee. One spoon sugar. Off-boiling water. Stir, plenty of milk. Repeat ~12 times per day.
I have to agree with Mhoulden's post about this. Cravendale are obviously looking for publicity, and the uni need funfing. Great. But the only way this is science is that it uses scientific method, maybe. The sample is small, so there are no great revelations. Interesting to see that the formula has a crucial ommission too; there is no figure for the amount of water to be used.
At the end of the day though, this only helps get us in the ball park for a 'good cup of tea'. Each one is a work of art that should be made to suit an individuals tastes. Some people like no milk, some may like 30ml, some may like it barely brewed, or over brewed. Who's to say what's right. Maybe we'll see manufacturers of oil paints sponsoring research into the perfect oil painting.
Fresh water, just that instant boiled, poured from a fair height (to get some air into the brew - you can see tea-tasters slurp the test brew to get the flavour) .
A white (or at least light colour on the inside) mug - otherwise you can't see the tea colour and when you add the milk (by eye) it comes out wrong.
I gave up sugar several years back, used to have 3 spoons but I can never understand those that have lots of sugar and loads of milk but next to no tea.
PG Tips are my preferred blend, but if you get the water right even Tetley decaff (it's what they buy from Makro for work) tastes reasonable.
I have a special mug at work - its a 500ml glass beaker with a handle - you can make very consistent brew but it's too much to drink before it goes cold.
camilla sinensis seeds, 2x 400watt hps grow lights, 1 light diffuser
Gyokuro and kabusecha use this method, and are among the most expensive teas you can buy, however my homegrown is a serious cuppa (no milk, you damn heathens)
Goes nice with a smoke of my homegrown virgian tobacco
a) If you're going to go to the bother of grow lamps, where's the cannabis indica seeds?
b) If you're going to smoke homegrown, see (a)
My Tea - Pint mug (warmed by filling with v.hot water) , 2 good strong teabags(low on assam if poss. - Waitrose used to do Ceylon+Kenya (no assam) which was nectar) , 4 to 5 sugars. Leave to brew 5 minutes & give teabags a damn good thrashing. Splash of full-fat milk (skimmed is shite in tea). Drink as fast as possible.
What I want to know is, when will teabags with added ephedrine be available in Tescos? Ideal for first thing on a workday.
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