How Perfect Is Your Cup of Tea?

Bags or loose leaf, tap or mineral water - how high main-tea-nance are you?


How perfect is your cup of tea? Picture / Babiche Martens,

Imagine the scene. It’s your first day in a new job and, keen to impress, you ask if anyone would like a cup of tea. Grateful hands shoot up... but someone always takes it too far. Somehow, the offer of a simple cup of tea never means just a cup of tea.For starters, there are those for whom a common-or-garden teabag will never be good enough. They will specify a preferred variety (Earl Grey? Ceylon? Roobois...?), will want it brewed to a particular strength, temperature, and with either a splash or a glug of milk (semi, skimmed, soya, almond...?). Every office has a tea diva. And if yours doesn’t, that’s probably because it’s you.

Even Nigella Lawson admitted this week that she is so particular about the look, taste and temperature of her brew, she is a “nightmare” to make a cup of tea for.

The TV chef, who drinks 12 cups a day, thinks nothing of taking her own tea bags, favourite mug, and even a kettle on her travels to ensure she can make a perfect cuppa wherever she is - all markers of a tea diva.

READ: In Defence of Afternoon Tea

But how do you know when your obsession goes too far? Here are the signs to look for:

You obsess over your brew’s exact shade of beige
“That is a great cup of tea...” - seven words that are music to the ears of anxious tea-makers across the nation. There’s nothing quite like making a perfectly pleasing cuppa. But get it wrong, and you will know it from the face of a dissatisfied colleague who has just realised they are going to have to drink the discoloured rubbish you have just presented them with. To avoid disappointment, get the drinker to nominate their preferred shade from the Tea Colour Chart. Will it be Devon Tan, Nigerian Sunset or Earl Gravy?

You only use filtered water in your kettle
Tap, filtered, mineral, oxygenated - what’s your preference? If you consider this to be a legitimate question, chances are you’re pretty high on the tea diva scale. Those drinkers who insist on using a specially filtered or calcium-rich water for their hourly fix might cause colleagues to snigger - but tea experts would support this particular quirk. Jane Pettigrew, recently awarded the British Empire Medal for services to the tea industry, says using filtered water is superior to tap, as it allows “maximum flavour” to be released. Brita filters all round, then.

READ: 10 Stylish Tea Matches

You like to have water heated to a precise temperature
Surely only a tea heathen would fail to understand that different types of tea demand different brew times - and have an optimum water temperature, too? Black tea, for instance, must be brewed at boiling point, white tea at 80, and green tea at no more than 75 degrees (so as not to release the tannins). Cuisinart, Russell Hobbs and Bosch all produce kettles that allow you to select water temperatures. So it’s really not too much to ask that your teawallah adheres to a simple guideline, is it?

Tea bag in, tea bag out - or loose leaf only?
In the tea diva’s eyes, using a bag in a mug rather than a spoonful of loose leaf in a warmed china pot constitutes a crime against breaktime. A teapot and dainty cup (with saucer) make for a lovely treat, but for those who do not have time to wait for a pot of loose-leaf Darjeeling to infuse, Pettigrew says that the quality of tea is more important than the manner in which it arrives.

You are rather too particular about when the milk goes in
Much like the “what comes first - clotted cream or the jam?” debate over afternoon tea, the milk in first-or-last conundrum has divided the nation ever since the invention of the tea bag. Pettrigrew says that the precise moment you add your dash, splash or (if you must) glug of milk will make zero difference to the taste. “It really doesn’t matter. Scientists have suggested there may be a tiny difference if you put milk in after the tea, but the effect is negligible.” So there, tea divas: put that in your spout!

— The Daily Telegraph

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