back to article Reg readers scuffle over the ultimate cuppa

We weren't much surprised that last week's call for readers to explain just what makes the ultimate cuppa resulted in a rush of experts eager to chip in their two bits' worth, offering some strong opinions, and even stronger brews, as evidenced by tales of billy-can-boiled industrial-strength infusions sweetened with condensed …

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  1. JDX Gold badge

    Ugh, cheap tea

    I can't stand own-brand teabags, especially value ones. It's just foul. Yorkshire is nice but we just plump with PG-Tips or Tetley for our plain old fashioned tea.

  2. Psyx
    Mushroom

    Re: Ugh, cheap tea

    "Tetley"

    Get out!

  3. JDX Gold badge

    Re: Ugh, cheap tea

    The important thing you have to realise is that we're not snobs.

  4. Why Not?
    Thumb Up

    excellent

    Tin foil hats for making tea.

    I had a vision of Mel Gibson for a moment.

  5. John H Woods Silver badge

    Did the milk first abomination really start with people protecting sub-standard porcelain from tea stains?

  6. a cynic writes...

    The way I heard it...

    Not tea stains - cheap cups had a tendency to crack if hit with boiling water. By putting the milk in first you prevented that.

  7. TeeCee Gold badge

    Re: The way I heard it...

    Correct, but the reason is the reverse of preventing cracking in cheap cups.

    Putting the tea in first proved that you had actual hard-paste porcelain teacups rather than something cheaper. It doesn't do the flavour of the resulting milked tea any good but impresses your friends, should you happen to be in the late 17th / early 18th century.

  8. Andrew Moore Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    It must be Friday...

    ...all the great Reg articles come out on Friday.

    One question though- Where's Simon these days???

  9. graeme leggett Silver badge

    tastes change with time

    When i was young, milk came in one type and it appeared mysteriously on the doorstep each morning.

    Then I graduated to semi-skimmed - mostly because I didn't like the full fat stuff on my cereal (warm nursery school milk is to blame for turning me off the taste of the real thing) I did try going without milk completely but it was no fun

    And I used to take two or three teaspoons of sugar in my tea. Then I met the woman who became my partner and she helped me cut back to first half a teaspoon and then none - mainly by not putting any in when she made me a cup.

  10. TeeCee Gold badge

    Re: tastes change with time

    When i was young, milk came in one type and it appeared mysteriously on the doorstep each morning.

    Er, three types. Your parents could shell a bit extra for "Gold Top" (out of Jersey cows IIRC) on high days and holidays, or for those completely lacking in a sense of taste there was the option of homogenised, which came in crown-corked bottles IIRC.

  11. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

    Re: Re: tastes change with time

    Crown corked - sterilised milk?

  12. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    FAIL

    You set an impossible challenge.

    Any true dedicated tea drinker knows that the ideal formulation and dispense ritual depends entirely on the circumstances and the company present.

    There are infinite subtle variations on what is exactly right in given circumstances. Indeed, the very banning of mention of biscuits makes a wide swathe of tea drinking options completely invalid.

  13. Ian Yates
    Coffee/keyboard

    I agree in principle, but there is no excuse for the way one of my friends makes tea: she pratically whips the bag out of the water as soon as the life-giving brown infusion has begun to seep out. The result: slightly brown milk.

  14. Pookietoo

    re: slightly brown milk

    My best mate from uni did it like that, but he used to swear that he loved a nice cup of tea. Weird.

  15. Psyx
    Happy

    All this talk of pre-warming and teapots is all very well for mere dabblers of the tea-world, who enjoy a quiet cuppa after work or before it. It's like reading tales of decadent Victorian poets ritualising their opiate abuse.

    For some of us though, tea it is an essential FUEL which must be quaffed each and every hour for us to continue functioning. Minimal ritual and fuss and maximum kick is required.

    Yorkshire Gold is better than Yorkshire, which is better than PG, and everything else can f*** off.

    Teabag in mug, pour on boiling water, add splash of milk (anything with at least a bit of fat in), stir it like a bastard, repeatedly squeezing out the teabag against the inside of the mug with a teaspoon until a clay-like colour is obtained. Retire to desk. Repeat every 30-60 minutes until knocking-off o' clock.

  16. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

    When I worked abroad, I used to have a teapot on my desk. That's the only language Johnny-Foreigner understands! Take teapot to kitchen, rinse, warm, add tea, pour in boiling water. Return to desk, drink 2 cups.

    You talk of being a serious tea-drinker, and then laughably mention bags! Pah! Humbug! Poppycock! The correct dosage of tea is 2 mugs. In order to achieve this, you need a teapot. Make, savour first cup while scalding hot, pour again, down second cup before it goes lukewarm (the devil's temperature).

    Actually, in the office, the teabag is acceptable. At home, only loose-leaf will do, and the strainer lives by the pot, so it takes no extra time.

  17. Psyx
    Thumb Up

    "When I worked abroad..."

    ...I drunk coffee. Because Lipton is undrinkable filth and importing enough to last me a year was a chore!

    "The correct dosage of tea is 2 mugs."

    Or... one massive one.

    "Actually, in the office, the teabag is acceptable. "

    Prosecution rests. It's the only way I can get it down me fast enough, and work kindly provides teabags for free, but not loose leaf.

  18. Harvey Trowell
    Thumb Up

    Good work.

    Please could you do the full english next?

  19. Sir Sham Cad

    Re: Good work.

    I think we can agree that anything less than two eggs is a grotesque breach of human rights.

  20. JDX Gold badge

    Re: Good work.

    But how to do eggs properly is a nightmare all on its own. I'll go to one egg if you'll let me have black pudding.

  21. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
    Happy

    Tea making

    Firstly Gunpowder tea is win!

    The best cup of tea is one someone else makes for you, the worst is when having to make a round for the office (Because of the zillions of combinations everyone likes everything in).

  22. Jason 24

    Re: Tea making

    Simple solution to that - I point blank refuse when anyone is offering to make a cuppa so I then don't owe anyone either.

    I never let anyone near my cup, partly because most people can't stand the stains left from the previous week, but mainly because they just never get it right!

  23. David Webb

    I'm a heretic

    I'm drinking peppermint tea, burn me at the stake! :P

  24. Simon Ward

    Re: I'm a heretic

    Nowt wrong with that - I often switch to herbal tea in the afternoons because I've yet to find a decaf tea that I really like (got a box of Taylors of Harrogate decaf on my desk, which is strictly OK)

    As far as herbal teas go, I'm quite enjoying Lipton 'Morocco' as it contains vast quantities of cinnamon and, as any fule kno, cinnamon is pure win.

  25. Psyx
    Happy

    Re: I'm a heretic

    "I'm drinking peppermint tea, burn me at the stake! :P"

    That's not tea, though. No tea in it. It's an 'infusion'

    .... or a travesty, as I'd call it! :)

  26. Former KowloonTonger
    Facepalm

    Re: I'm a heretic

    ....G A S P !

  27. Lee D Silver badge

    And, like the coffee aficionados out there, I'd like them to explain / determine in a double-blind test quite what things like "warming the cup first" (especially if you have left the tea in the pot to cool slightly after boiling anyway), putting in the milk in first, etc. actually DOES that they think they can detect or makes any difference.

    I mean, honestly, we can talk about wines "corking" and providing scientific evidence to back it up (not to mention obvious tastes) and that's pretty much driven most places to use plastic corks which don't react at all. But just quite what is supposed to happen to make differences that, physics says, for the most part won't have any effect at all.

    I fail to believe that there are tolerances that are measurable to the human tongue at all in any of this. I hold the same theory on "letting it brew" (which means leaving the tea in some hot water for a while longer - sometimes after you've already stirred it to death). Just what chemical breakdown are you suddenly expecting to happen by being in the water 5 minutes as opposed to 4 and a half minutes?

    Or is, as I personally suspect, it all a load of rubbish but people do it through ritual? I don't believe for a second that the contents of any major brand tea you care to mention haven't changed on an almost annual basis in the last 50 years but people still go through the same rigmarole to make their tea "because it tastes better".

    And don't get me started on coffee people, especially fancy coffee people who take a thimbleful of bitter coffee and then put so much sugar into it that it can't support it as a solution any more.

  28. Richard Wharram
    Devil

    brew

    I'm a big fan of "letting it brew"

    I don't like tea though.

  29. John Robson Silver badge

    It's not physics in this case - it's chemistry.

    Personally I can't tell the difference well enough to care when someone else is making the tea - but I can quite understand that the difference is there.

  30. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
    Stop

    Warming the mug/pot?

    The water needs to be boiling when it hits the tea, and to stay hot for as long as possible afterwards, so that it draws out the flavoursome oils and not just the bitter tannins (the reverse is true for coffee). China pots seem to hold a lot more heat, so boiling water cools quickly when poured into one, whereas a metal pot, especially one with thin walls, doesn't cool the water as quickly. I would almost always warm a china pot, rarely a metal one.

  31. frank ly Silver badge
    Happy

    @Lee D

    You don't understand the importance of ritual. It's the personal talisman branch of sympathetic magic and it really does make a difference. Ask any dedicated tea drinker.

  32. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge
    Boffin

    re: It's not physics in this case - it's chemistry

    I found a link to that effect. Apparently all the national papers ran with a similar story around the same time.

  33. Paul Westerman

    Re: Warming the mug/pot?

    I heard years ago that warming the pot was a precaution - old earthenware teapots could sometimes shatter with the sudden heat of the boiling water. Warming them first prevents this. Perhaps it's an urban myth... anyone else heard this?

  34. Psyx

    "Or is, as I personally suspect, it all a load of rubbish but people do it through ritual?"

    The tea flavour has been proved to be best released when the water is between 95 and 90 degrees (for English Breakie tea), so pre-warming and hot water does make a noticeable difference.

    The milk in last thing likewise ensures the water is hot. More importantly it means you don't accidently put to much in.

  35. TipsyTigger
    Boffin

    Physics or Chemistry?

    @John Robson

    In the words of Rutherford: all science is Physics, the rest is merely stamp collecting.

  36. a cynic writes...
    Headmaster

    Re: Physics or Chemistry?

    ahem...and as a chemist said to that nice Brian Cox when he raised that very point "At least we don't have to invent something with 'dark' in the name every time our sums don't work".

  37. Former KowloonTonger
    Devil

    Dagger thrust! ...rape-ier.....?

    Ouch! ..... It only hurts when I laugh!......Bingo!

    This tea brewing "thing" is expanding a simple, variable personal taste item into a sniffy kabuki ceremony with rigid "at court procedures".......the best spoof here is the one for train engineers' in-motion centrifuging for six miles or so....now THAT's a muggah!

  38. Combustable Lemon
    Unhappy

    The best cup

    This happens once a day, but not every day.

    I originally thought that when I occasionally made a truly exquisite cup of tea that really it was just the best cup of the many cups I’d had that day. Now some days I don't manage to make a truly brilliant cup of tea at all. It always seems to occur sometime after eating (so, never in the morning) and I seemingly do nothing different when making it but somehow it is amazing compared to all the others. Despite years of trying, I have still to track down the exact method to make this infrequently occurring cup of awesome.

  39. PC Paul

    Re: The best cup

    "I have still to track down the exact method to make this infrequently occurring cup of awesome."

    Exactly the same here. On the first day at a new job I dutifully took my place on the office Tea Roster and made a cup for everyone. Every cup was universally acclaimed as 'awesome' (including by me) and they tried to get me to make it every time.

    But it was never like that again. Never.

    I have no idea what changed.

  40. Robert Ramsay
    Thumb Up

    Sugar

    amongst my friends it seems to be either none - or two or three. I stopped taking sugar in either tea or coffee when I started drinking stuff where the taste didn't need to be masked...

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Sugar

    My ideal amount of sugar is about 1/5 of a tsp; I gradually cut down from one, but seem to prefer marginally sweetened tea to un.

  42. El Presidente
    Facepalm

    Loose leaf tea is probably high quality tea so must be in a proper cup.

    Tea bag is probably everyday tea/machine sweepings so a mug will suffice.

  43. Former KowloonTonger
    Childcatcher

    Re: Loose leaf tea is probably high quality tea so must be in a proper cup.

    YAAAAAYYY!!

    ...at long last ....someone has actually mentioned L O O S E tea!.......

    But, not really is just a cup....use a large mug for a real mugga. ......why limit the volume and enduring pleasure....you don't have just a small o***sm do you?

    Tea bags....ugh.....are only tea dust....dust....dust.....cough..eewwwww!

  44. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

    Hmm

    Not sure what the outcome of this poll will be. Will it be some sort of frankentea, one bearing the hallmarks of being designed by a committea (sorry) or perhaps it'll just reflect tea à la mode (or is it "à la mean"? I can never remember which is which).

  45. Eclectic Man

    Stands the clock at then to three, and is there honey still for tea?

    The Rare Tea Company advises not only using water below boiling point, but also using the third brew from tea leaves as the being the best: http://www.rareteacompany.com/

    As for the discussion of sugar, what about honey? Earl Grey, no milk, with a (tea) spoonful of honey is excellent treatment for a cold, with or without whiskey.

    Richard Feynmann, when asked at an academic function when he was a research student which he would like in his tea, 'milk or lemon?' replied "yes, please", getting the response "Surely you're joking, Mr Feynmann?", but it seems not only did he get both and drink it, but got the title for his book from that too.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Stands the clock at then to three, and is there honey still for tea?

    > using water below boiling point,

    Only for green tea, never for black.

  47. markw:

    Re: Stands the clock at then to three, and is there honey still for tea?

    Rupert Brooke Bond...

  48. Psyx
    Pint

    Re: Stands the clock at then to three, and is there honey still for tea?

    "The Rare Tea Company advises not only using water below boiling point"

    Aside from the obvious fact that it's quite difficult to make a cup of tea with water at or above boiling point, it depends on the tea. English Breakfast needs near-boiling water.

  49. breakfast
    Holmes

    Sugar correlation

    A friend of mine noticed a correlation between people who like sugar in their tea and smokers - it's not always true, but it does seem to happen a lot of the time. That would make for an interesting survey for someone.

  50. Pookietoo

    Re: people who like sugar in their tea and smokers

    Bah, all this talk of ritual and flavour has got me wanting a nice roll-up with my tea. I gave up smoking 5+ years ago but I still get the occasional craving.

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