Posted by: Prospector PJ29 MAY 2013
How much would you pay for the perfect cup of tea? If you think that £42 for afternoon tea at the Ritz is a bit steep, you might choke on your digestive biscuit when you hear that the British Standards Institution charges £82 just for the instructions on how to make a good cuppa.
But BS 6008 is currently under review, so it is worth waiting for the revised version to be published. And make sure you order the correct document. If green tea is your preferred hot beverage, you should order BS 11287, and if you are a fan of instant tea you will need BS 7390.
Alternatively, the British Tea Council shares its tips on making the perfect brew for free on its website. Its advice includes using freshly boiled water because to draw the best flavour from the tea the water must contain oxygen, which is reduced if the water is boiled more than once. Brewing time is also important, so that sencha green tea only requires two to two-and-a-half minutes, while the Tea Council recommends up to seven minutes for oolong tea.
The Fortnum & Mason website recommends warming the teapot first and pouring the water into the pot just before it boils. Tea is best served in bone china cups, it claims, with the delicacy of the cup enhancing the delicacy of the tea within.
But should you put the milk in first or last? In true British style, the issue boils down to class. In the early days of tea-drinking, poor quality cups were inclined to crack when hot tea was added, and adding the milk first helped to prevent this. This was no longer necessary when better quality materials came into use, and adding the milk last became a way to show that one had fine quality china.
But there is a good scientific reason for adding your milk first. The milk emulsifies differently when it is added first, which gives the tea a more even, creamier flavour.
The British remain a nation of tea drinkers, consuming 165 million cups every day, compared with 70 million cups of coffee, with this vast lake of hot beverage accounting for around 40 per cent of the population’s fluid intake. This remains one of our healthier habits because tea contains antioxidants and is a source of manganese, potassium and fluoride.