The science of tea

Five essential steps to creating the perfect cuppa – explained by science


1. Tea bag or loose-leaf?

Loose-leaf tea is best, as the leaves can swirl around more and infuse. However, if you must use a tea bag, pyramid shaped ones allow more movement than round.

2. Milk first or last?

Scientifically, the milk should go in first. Milk proteins degrade when heated to above 75°C. Milk poured on to hot water reaches this temperature, while water poured on milk doesn’t.

3. Length of brew

This one is down to personal taste to some degree. Brewing for over four to five minutes releases bitter tasting tannins, although these compounds do give tea its rich colour.

4. Perfect temperature

Tea has to be drunk hot, but how hot? You can drink tea without burning your mouth at 60-65°C. A teaspoon in the mug accelerates cooling to speed things up.

5. Waterworks

Water should be freshly boiled, as re-boiled water loses oxygen essential for the brewing process. Use soft or filtered water if possible –hard water contains scum-producing minerals





This article was originally published in How It Works issue 102

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