back to article ULTIMATE cuppa contenders prepare to go mug-to-mug

We're one step closer today to deciding the ultimate cuppa with the announcement of the 12 contenders which will go mug-to-mug in the pursuit of tea perfection. Our crack team of shopping experts has braved multiple supermarkets in search of your nominations, and we're set to turn the matter over to our panel of tasting …


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  1. frank ly Silver badge


    "... plucked with golden tweezers ..."

    The tweezers should be made of wood, from the root of an old tea bush. This reduces the stress on the young leaf when it is plucked. You really can taste the difference.

    1. FartingHippo

      Re: Correction

      You're an audiophile too, aren't you.

      1. Psyx

        Re: Correction

        Pretty sure he writes his own drivers, too..

  2. Schultz

    I wonder

    After moving to the other end of the world -- the end where most tea actually comes from -- I started to wonder whether the brown stuff in European supermarkets actually represents a product spoiled by long sea travel. All I can find here is green tea.

    I still miss the stuff.

    1. Yet Another Commentard

      Re: I wonder

      This was the premise of the clippers, such as the Cutty Sark, fresh, fast delivered tea was better. As it turns out, no there's no depreciation in quality so all that effort was merely misguided marketing.

      Tea leaf taste does vary, so each tea manufacturer employs tasters and blenders that get samples of the tea from the ships, blend it all in clever ways until they get the mix that matches the taste of Tetleys, PG (insert brand here). Then that mix is sent back to the production line, and the leaves are mixed on a huge scale.

    2. Mage Silver badge

      Re: I wonder

      We call our tea "Black" or "Indian/Ceylon" but in China it's called Red Tea. It's certainly less popular than Green tea.

      I like local Kenyan (black) tea, large leaves. Nothing like the exported Kenyan tea though.

  3. Cornholio

    Milk in mug before or after tea: After



    I'd probably choose the Assam out of that selection, but surely there is no one perfect cuppa? Horses for courses and all that.

    1. Jagged

      Re: Milk in mug before or after tea: After

      Earl Grey? You should be banned for future tea discussions. Earl Grey tea is a Victorian con-trick. The eponymous Earl tried adding Bergamot oil to anything he could to get rid of the stuff, before finally jumping on the latest bandwagon "tea."

    2. Psyx

      Re: Milk in mug before or after tea: After

      I think that there's no Earl Grey because we're making tea, not pot porri.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I'm not a great fan of desktop backgrounds and much prefer a solid colour. However, for the near future my desktop will be adorned by an image of ten boxes and two packets of tea.

    Will there be some sort of award so that the producer can slap it on there packaging, El Reg Best in Class or El Reg Recommended, that sort of thing.

    1. Cliff

      Re: Background

      Vulture Compatible Mark

      Something like that. Have to make a hoohah for the trophy handover, too. Red carpet job.

      Glad someone is finally taking this all so seriously - is it the highest paid Apple guy we read had been sent to 'special projects'??

      1. LinkOfHyrule

        Re: Background

        I have this recollection of accidentally watching some really naff 7pm BBC1 "consumer" telly show back in 1997 presented by *shudders* Vanessa Feltz, in which they rolled out some elderly cockneys to do a tea taste test just like this - the overriding winner - Tesco Value Tea Bags!!!??!!!

        I am of coursed scared for life by watching Mrs Feltz in full slurping action but that aside, it has given me the idea that maybe El-Reg should launch it's very own LOHAN consumer lifestyle YouTube channel showing similarly naff shows, minus gobby blond lady?!

        Think 'You and Yours' but with no over simplifications of internet technologies and instead, actual pictures and puns!

        I can just see it now, the gleaming Vulture rosette heartily slapped on to a prize-winning, steaming, well used and totally spent, soggy bag!....

        .....but enough about Mrs Feltz!

        1. Mike Richards Silver badge

          The seven most terrifying words in the English language

          'watching Mrs Feltz in full slurping action'

    2. Triggerfish

      Re: Background

      For an alternative you can always try some of the stuff from Armen Rotch.

  5. ElNumbre

    Time of Day...

    Id go for the Twinings blends but my tea choice varies throughout the day depending on requirements...

    Start the day with Assam with its strong flavour, then move onto EBT and its more mellow taste by about Lunchtime.

    El Reg, where's the tea icon?

  6. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    Eh, it's not a real tea-tasting unless you have.....

    TEA!...EARL GREY!....HOT!

    1. lawndart

      Re: Eh, it's not a real tea-tasting unless you have.....

      is it just me, or does anyone else always feel the urge to stick "COME!" on the end of that quote?

      1. FartingHippo

        Re: Eh, it's not a real tea-tasting unless you have.....

        The tea wasn't that good.

  7. Studley

    No point in starting this yet

    You can't complete the test until you've identified the Ultimate Dunking Biscuit.

    If it worsens the quality of my digestive, it's not an Ultimate Cuppa.

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

      Re: No point in starting this yet

      Surely the ultimate dunking biscuit test should be done once we've established exactly what's the ultimate cuppa to dunk it in?

      1. MrT

        You just don't get...

        ...this level of consumer advice anywhere else. Pretty soon we will have the whole set - bacon buttie, mug of tea, and then which variety of Hobnob to dunk.

        Oh, hang on, Hobnob's are better in coffee... or are they?

        Carry on, good sirs!

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: You just don't get...


          Now you've gone and done it! You've woken up the Hobnob Taleban! The most vicious combatants in the biscuit world...

          I'm not sure I even dare to say that I find Hobnobs to be mediocre. If I had to dunk in tea, it would be a ginger or chocolate coated digestive, but I tend to find the biccie spoils the tea.

          My actual favourite biscuit is the Jaffa cake - and that's not even a biscuit. So what do I know?

        2. Mage Silver badge

          Re: You just don't get...

          You do know the nice crunchy bits in a Hobnob are goblin's toenail clippings? Won't stop me eating them.

        3. Mike Richards Silver badge

          Re: You just don't get...

          A Furniss Cornish ginger fairing and a mug of tea (no milk thank-you) is pretty much unbeatable.

    2. RichUK

      Re: No point in starting this yet

      For all biscuit-related matters (but not, oddly enough, tea) may I refer you to the authoratative site Many a time I have been guided by the wisdom of their "biscuit of the week".

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ideal dunk subject

    2 Rich Tea biscuits placed back to back, dunk, put whole assemblage in gob in one go, repeat until end of packet

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ideal dunk subject

      Even better if you butter them with real salted butter.

      1. MrT


        ...In tea? I knew a French girl who dipped butter croissants in her coffee, but not tea... that's just not cricket, old boy ;-)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What...?

          I know what you mean. My wife dips all sorts of things in tea, muffins, bread... and it makes me cringe.

          However give the rich tea sandwich a go and next thing you know you'll be seeing how many you can stack up and still get them in your mouth all at once. You might need a really big mug but then all tea drinkers should already have one, my preference is a pint jar.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Fink-Nottle

      Re: Ideal dunk subject

      Apparently it's all down to capillary action and the Washburn equation, according to Dr Len Fisher.

    3. Z-Eden

      Re: Ideal dunk subject

      That's a good tactic for choccy biccies. Take 2 chocolate biscuits, mash them together, chocolate in, dunk and enjoy without getting chocolate fingers (though you will have chocolate mouth as you try to jam this large biscuit sandwich in your gob!)

  9. Tim Greenwood

    Hard water!

    How on earth are you going to make the ultimate cuppa with hard water ???

    You need to come here, to gods own county to brew something really worth drinking. All that messing about with different teabags is OK but you have to start with freshly drawn Yorkshire water if you want to produce anything decent from any of them.

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

      Re: Hard water!

      Do us a favour then - stick 200 litres in the post.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hard water!

        My part of Yorkshire has hard water.

        You must be from South Yorkshire, everything is soft down there, even the locals are soft in t'head.

    2. WraithCadmus

      Re: Hard water!

      Isn't Yorkshire water fairly hard anyway? I'm sure the water in York itself was hard because of the water running off the Moors.

      Icon: Sam Smith's, because it's cheap.

      1. MrT

        Re: Sam Smith's

        Dales side of North Yorkshire is soft water - like in Ripon, Masham, etc. Even if parts were in t'West Riding before '74 tha knows...

        Masham, 'cos Black Sheep is better ;-)

        1. WraithCadmus

          Re: Sam Smith's

          I never got up that way as much as I would have liked when I was living up north. I stand corrected.

          And of course Black sheep is better, but I'm not payin' that for a pint.

    3. Psyx

      Re: Hard water!

      "You need to come here, to gods own county to brew something really worth drinking. All that messing about with different teabags is OK but you have to start with freshly drawn Yorkshire water if you want to produce anything decent from any of them."

      Oh, right: We shouldn't bother drinking tea with what we've got, then. Best I tell the entire county not to brew up ever again!

  10. jai

    looking forward to reading this article and the comments, but first...

    ... i need to make myself a cuppa...

  11. Richard the Head

    12 Contenders - No, No only 11

    I have it on very good authority (insider info) that the variations of twinnings "black" tea is really just marketing. Everyday, english breakfast etc are all the same, just in a different box.

    I was tortured on whether to post this or not (probably the same level of mental angst Darwin suffered before his publication of that much disputed book about stuff) as it would have been a nice "control".

    Unfortunately my smug-know-it-all alter ego got the better of me.

    1. LinkOfHyrule

      Re: 12 Contenders - No, No only 11

      This is worst then that blooming horse-meat scandal if you ask me! I think the media needs to investigate at once! I'm looking forward to seeing gormless BBC News reporters spending two months of their lives standing aimlessly outside the Twinings factory with nothing to say but the bloody obvious until it's all forgotten about!

    2. Paul Shirley

      Re: 12 Contenders - No, No only 11

      Once you dump cow juice in the mug they'll taste the same anyway.

    3. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: 12 Contenders - No, No only 11

      @Richard the Head: if your inside information on Twinings tea is as reliable as your spelling of their name, then I think we can ignore it.

  12. Beamerboy

    Tim Tam

    It's the only thing to 'dunk' - was sceptical about it until I tried it, bite off opposite corners and suck the tea through then eat - simply divine, not sure the type of Tea really matters, but my tipple of choice is Lady Grey without milk, sugar or lemon.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ISO and BS standards

    Dont forget to have a read for proper methodology:

    ISO 3103 / BS 6008:1980

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

      Re: ISO and BS standards

      Already noted:

  14. ToggleMaudlin

    An important variable...

    ...that we may not have considered is the state of the imbiber at the time of consumption. I don't know whether this applies across the board but I've found evidence that the following conditions can greatly enhance a cuppa:

    - returning home after being drenched in the rain

    - coming back from a heavy night on the sauce

    - drinking one after having missed your early morning cuppa

    - sharing one in the company of a stuffed monkey (unconfirmed)

  15. thenim


    Sorry, there's no Dilmah tea on that list, then it's not proper tea! All on that list are some bastard derivation of the real thing...

    Yes I'm being snobbish, but then I'm from Sri Lanka, where the stuff is grown...

    1. PurpleMoneky

      Re: rubbish....

      Agree, but it's not readily available here.

      It's always good to see Dilmah as a tea in hotels when travelling. The less said about Liptons the better!!!

  16. LinkOfHyrule

    Twinings Everyday

    "New from Twinings - an everyday tea suitable for tradesmen and guests you are not too fond of!"

    I have four of those brews in my cupboard - I can't decide which I like best, I just alternate week to week or cup to cup often depending on the special offer status of said brew!

  17. Mage Silver badge

    Punjana and Nambarrie

    Weeps ... Punjana and Nambarrie are good. I've not seen Nambarrie for 23 years though. Barrys is barely tea.

    Well that leaves Yorkshire Tea, Tetleys, PG tips and Twinings Breakfast.

    Milk is OK on the Cornflakes and muesli, but spoils tea. All those Chinese can't be wrong surely?

    1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      Re: Punjana and Nambarrie

      If they can't be wrong then surely 普洱 or as wikipedia spells it, pu-erh, should also be on the list.

  18. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Let ye be warned...

    Whilst I am an Assam man through and through, I did recently as an experiment purchase 80 of Morrisons value tea bags, boxed and packed for the princely sum of 27 pence.

    Yes - it could vaguely pass for tea in that it has a colour akin to what tea should look like, albeit as long as you use two bags at a time... however, in terms of taste, I suspect that my dishwasher drains out a finer tasting brew.

  19. Disco Dance Donkey


    What are the standard conditions, because if you're lauching up a mountain in Spain, all the tea will taste awful. I recommned the following. Making, tasting etc. at sea level, then filling insulated flasks and see which tastes best after being carried around for several hours.

    Preferably the flasks shall be glass inside to prevent the contamination of flavour by plastics.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If it's not Matcha, it's just the devil's pee.

  21. Bigus34

    Of the mainstream varieties it's gotta be Yorkshire tea for me; the hard water variety around here.

    Black tea, in teabag form, needs milk really unless you have hardcore taste[buds]. In teabags, the tea is ground to small particles to maximise surface area and speed up the brewing process but this will tend to cause a stronger more bitter brew. Milk softens that bitterness.

    Purchase a loose leaf black tea that hasn't been ground in any way and the result is usually much more palatable without milk.

  22. Imsimil Berati-Lahn

    Pierre Josef Proudhon will not be participating.

    Because "Proper-tea is theft!"

  23. Dom 3

    Fresh milk?

    In four or so years in Spain I never once ran out of Yorkshire tea. The real problem was finding fresh milk, when most of the supermarkets would have more varieties of UHT than bottles of the real stuff. And that was in a fairly posh bit of Catalunya. So $deity knows what it's like round Lester's neck of the woods.

    (Ho yus, in a WARMED TEAPOT for dog's sake. And milk in the mug first).

  24. Kubla Cant Silver badge


    Your standard methodology will skew the results. I believe many aficionados of China tea prefer the second infusion. Also, it effectively eliminates some very fine teas that are better drunk without milk. For example:


    Lapsang Souchong


    By way of contrast, the worst tea I ever tasted was during a holiday job as a tram conductor in Blackpool. Every member of the crew brought an enamel brew can containing pre-mixed leaf tea and sugar. After adding boiling water they'd swing the can round a bit, then add condensed milk. The result was brick-red and so sweet that you could feel your teeth getting looser as you drank it.

  25. Dave 62

    green milk? are you girls?

    and where's the Jacksons?

  26. Stephen Gray

    Skimmed milk?

    The work of Satan with no place in a cup of char.

  27. 27escape

    active vs passive brewing

    Should the bag/leaves be left to stand and brew the tea due to convection currents in the hot water or should you stir it like a b4stad till the spoon stands on its own?

    1. Stephen Gray

      Re: active vs passive brewing

      Passive is best for extracting the subtle flavours, I'm a stirrer myself though.

    2. Mike Richards Silver badge

      Re: active vs passive brewing

      Just leave it stand until the spoon dissolves - then it's strong enough.

    3. RichUK

      Re: active vs passive brewing

      I think someone a while back determined that 2 minutes was the optimum brewing time, then the teabag should be removed to prevent stewing. Which sounds about right. The amount of stirring was not specified though. Personally I'm a stirrer. (a) I'm impatient and (b) this produces a nice strong flavoursome cup but without the "stewed tannin" factor.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: active vs passive brewing

      Left to stand, although if you are impatient you can always double bag it.

    5. Chris Miller

      Re: active vs passive brewing

      I don't think you'll get much in the way of convection unless you're heating it from underneath. Vigorous stir when the water is added, then leave to its own devices for 5 minutes. (I am, of course, referring to leaf tea in a pot - bag in a mug needs different treatment, but is hardly likely to qualify for best cuppa.)

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anything but Tetley and PG. I'd sooner have a brew made from grass cuttings.

  29. IT Drone

    Milk has its place in tea

    There has been serious scientific research into the important question of milk in tea. Boffins at Sheffield University have studied how tea polyphenols react with beta-casein in milk to affect the atringency of tea due to the reduced opportunity for interaction of the tea polyphenols with chemically similar salivary proline-rich proteins.

    Obviously the proportion of tannins in the blend of tea itself and the amount extracted by the infusion process will determine the personal preference for milk or not.

    As for biscuits, anyone else tried Moores Dorset Knobs dunked in tea? (

  30. Wzrd1

    I chuckle over the strange enthusiasm over ONE species of plant used for tea.

    My own tea cabinet is full of tea leaf tea, catnip leaves, several mint species, saffron, black and green leaf tea (with jasmine and other flowers), chamomile, ginger and even artichoke teas.

    I even have a stockpile of Twinings Earl Grey tea that is pre-2009 debacle of teas.

    I also drink nearly a gallon of coffee per day.

    After all, I am a US citizen. ;)

  31. tea junkie

    standards please

    By standards I mean British Standard 6008/ISO3103.

    And why are people mumbling incoherently about hobnobs or digestives. The true pinnacle of British biscuit technology is the Foxes Crunch Cream.

  32. Nick Pettefar

    Clipper Organic

    I tried and enjoy this brand. It has all the right words on the packet and tastes good too.

    Milk always has to go in first. Also always use a teapot, obviously. Dunkers should be hung or exiled or both.

    Semi-skimmed milk of course. No sugar unless you're an idiot, foreign or both.

    I'm currently contracting in Dublin and have to say that the Irish do on the whole know how to make a reasonable brew.

  33. TRT Silver badge

    You can always rely on...

    the special pot-checks bureau.

  34. SirDigalot

    semi skimmed milk?

    if you are going to ruin tea, use whole milk it is much nicer!

    we have 2% out here and boy does it make the tea taste bad, since the rest of the colonials I live with have that strange problem with whole milk, I only get it at work..

    but then again I might need my kettle too since the hot water machine dispenses water at a sub par 'hot' which I believe is about 150f (law suits etc) I can certainly hold my hand under it.

    we do have reverse osmosis filters though, but only coz the tap water is so bloody horrible you need it.

  35. ukgnome Silver badge

    Yorkshire tea for hard water

    Is a product that I send my American friends. They claim it's a superior brew that is suitable for all areas.

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