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24th June 2003

The Perfect Cup of Tea...

The Royal Society of Chemistry has worked out the formula for the ideal brew..  



In June 1903 one of Britain's great writers Eric Blair (alias George Orwell) was born.  The Royal Society has decided to honour his centenary by working out the scientific formula for Mr Orwell's favourite tipple.

How to make a Perfect Cup of Tea

Ingredients: Loose-leaf Assam tea soft water fresh, chilled milk white sugar.
Implements: Kettle ceramic tea-pot large ceramic mug fine mesh tea strainer tea spoon, microwave oven.

Draw fresh, soft water and place in kettle and boil. Boil just the required quantity to avoid wasting time, water and power.

While waiting for the water to boil place a ceramic tea pot containing a quarter of a cup of water in a microwave oven on full power for one minute.

Synchronise your actions so that you have drained the water from the microwaved pot at the same time that the kettle water boils.

Place one rounded teaspoon of tea per cup into the pot.

Take the pot to the kettle as it is boiling, pour onto the leaves and stir.

Leave to brew for three minutes.

The ideal receptacle is a ceramic mug or your favourite personal mug.

Pour milk into the cup FIRST, followed by the tea, aiming to achieve a colour that is rich and attractive.

Add sugar to taste.

Drink at between 60-65 degrees Centigrade to avoid vulgar slurping which results from trying to drink tea at too high a temperature.

Personal chemistry: to gain optimum ambience for enjoyment of tea aim to achieve a seated drinking position in a favoured home spot where quietness and calm will elevate the moment to a special dimension. For best results carry a heavy bag of shopping – of walk the dog – in cold, driving rain for at least half an hour beforehand. This will make the tea taste out of this world.

Recommended ideal reading to accompany The Perfect Cup of Tea: Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell.

Emails from Today Listeners....

1. Tea bags, like instant coffee, are a good idea in theory but poor in practice. So ditch the bags and buy quality leaf tea - the extra cost per cup is not even worth calculating.
2. One teaspoon per person, one for the pot. Adjust according to the size of leaf and the strength you prefer. 3. Pour boiling water on the 'roll' into a warmed pot
4. Leave it 3 mins to draw. 
5. Warm the cup!
6. Pour through a strainer and then add the milk last. Obey the law of constants and variables - the milk is constant and therefore easier to control.
7. Sip and enjoy! Heaven in minutes..
Phillip Sheahan

One thing I have found is that a clean tea pot makes a big difference to the taste. We use a stainless steel teapot and over time it gets stained from the tea. When I've cleaned it inside, the tea always tastes so much fresher. My wife and I mix up PG Tips and Earl Grey tea leaves to make our perfect cuppa. Incidentally, I hope you remembered that Arthur Dent was always searching for a cup of tea in the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and eventually found a drink that tasted almost but not quite entirely unlike tea, from a vending machine on the Heart of Gold spaceship,which was powered by the Infinite Improbability Drive, which generated an infinite number of monkeys tapping away randomly on typewriters who had worked out the script of Hamlet.
Tony Shaw

All the mugs in our house are identical but everyone takes their tea differently. This could cause untold difficulties in the tea-making department but for the fact that we all hold differing political views. During the tea-making process, we line the cups up from left to right to tally up with our political beliefs e.g. the Socialist Alliance member's cup is the one on the far left.
Lowri Roberts

Two steps to avoid "de-naturing" the milk in your tea : (1) Allow the pot to brew for at least 4 minutes before pouring (2) Add the milk FIRST followed by the milk.  The first step allows the tea to brew properly and to cool slightly the second step ensures that the milk's temperature is raised as gradually as possible as the relative proportion of cold liquid to hot liquid is maintained for as long as possible allowing the milk to breakdown more slowly. The reverse method means that the milk is scalded when it hits the hot tea.
John Wells

As a non-coffee drinker I am often teased about the amount of tea I drink at international meetings - "It must be because you're English." But to my mind the Scots have the right idea when it comes to adding milk: tea first, then milk. Since every cup of tea varies in strength, putting the milk in afterwards enables you to have much more control over the final mixture. Too much milk (denatured or otherwise!) can really spoil a cup of tea and with the 'milk in first' technique this is far more likely to happen.    I also have to import literally 1000s of teabags to Holland where I live as Dutch teabags are just not up to it. When I make my bulk purchases in a supermarket I always get funny looks - does she know something we don't? why is she stocking up like that?
Joanna McDaniel



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