January 03, 2006

Tea: a very important debate

In order to continue the serious-food-serious pattern than has characterised my recent entries…

I seem to have had an inordinate amount of conversations recently about the making of tea. The following questions seem the most controversial:

– Leaves or bags?
– Mug or teapot?
– Do you add the tea to the milk or the milk to the tea?
– When is the sugar added?
– Caster or granulated sugar (some people think I'm wierd using caster, but I think I'm justified because it dissolves better)?
– Do you have milk in herbal teas (my Dad insists on this)?
– What is the best proportion of water and milk to each teabag?

- 28 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

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    • If using teapot – leaves
    • generally mug cos i don't have a teapot at uni
    • ideal world, tea to milk (stops it scalding the milk) but i don't have a teapor so can't do it that way round.
    • last
    • only tend to buy caster anyway cos I do more baking with that
    • eww no way
    • I tend to use a pint mug so teabag+pint of water, and enough milk to make it milky coloured.

    aparently porcelain cups make tea taste nicer. and you must pre-warm the mug/teapot so that the tea brew properly.

    03 Jan 2006, 13:21

  1. I'm sorry. Following on from your previous post, is this a debate or a discussion??? :P

    In answer though (in case you're interested…)
    – leaves in a pot, bag in a mug
    – both!!! (I don't drink out of teapots very often. do you…?)
    – milk to tea for me, because then you can get the right amount of milk
    – suger is not added
    – see above
    – no milk in herbal teas. But then I only drink peppermint and haven't tried all the other fruity ones which might be great with milk
    – proportions should always be done to personal taste – if you like it, it's the right proportion!!

    Re. Richard's point about warming the pot; I heartily agree, though I don't warm mugs in advance. But the best way to get around it is to use a metal pot, so it heats up instantly.

    03 Jan 2006, 13:27

  2. discussion, debate is formal.

    I'm not a great fan of herbal/fruit teas in general. They make the water a nice colour, they smell all fruity and then taste like boiled water with a hint of sawdust.

    03 Jan 2006, 14:41

  3. Ooh – a tea discussion – melikes. Right then…

    • Leaves in a pot, bag in a mug (I don't think you'll get anyone disagreeing with that – I think the teapot vs mug option is more often brought up. Clearly, then, the answer is pot anyway)
    • I pre-empted myself. I'd say teapot where possible, although it's just not practical sometimes. That said, Jon and I had Jon P and Alex to stay and the three of us (Alex is strange and doesn't drink tea) had tea out of a pot in nice cups and saucers whilst playing on the X box – highly civilised! It tastes much better out of a pot.
    • Theoretically tea to milk, but I agree with Zoe that sometimes then you end up putting too much milk in. Perhaps a solution would be to let it brew properly (for 3–5 mins etc), after which you take the teabag out (i.e. no endless stirring to make it brew) and the water is not boiling any more, so the milk survives?
    • Generally I don't take sugar, but you always put sugar in last. Coffee, however, is different. If you're making "proper" coffee with a mocha pot and frothed milk, you should put the sugar in first so you end up with a gradiated sweetness which increases as you get to the most bitter part of the coffee – equally when I used to make instant for my mum, I put the sugar, coffee and milk in first, made a paste and then added water – much better coffee.
    • I'd agree with Sarah's thing about Caster dissolving more quickly, but I also like demerara in my tea sometimes, so I'm just strange. Generally, though, plain old granulated is fine. I don't think that one matters so much.
    • Definitely no milk in herbal teas. Your dad is strange. No argument. There are some who (correctly) label Earl Grey as herbal, as it should not be served with milk (although I fail in this aspect of tea drinking etiquette. I don't think I can spell that word)
    • I agree with Zoe on this one – proportions are personal. My dad, for example, likes weak typhoo from the pot with almost a third of the mug being milk (this is because he is a farmer and tea is a very important liquid to him, and is primarily for refreshment). I like my tea well brewed with a splash of milk so that it just takes the edge off the heat and bitterness.

    …and a metal pot is definitely the way forward. We Jon got one for his birthday from his grandparents, so we're happy!!


    03 Jan 2006, 15:13

  4. Hmmm, using the word civilised whilst playing on the X-Box seems slightly incongruous!

    Demarara in tea… interesting! Will have to try this.

    I know my Dad is wierd – he also puts milk in the mug with the teabag before adding the water – utterly wrong in my book!

    03 Jan 2006, 15:24

  5. I recommend cactus.

    03 Jan 2006, 20:10

  6. Wow! I just googled and cactus tea does actually exist.

    You learn something new every day…

    03 Jan 2006, 22:39

  7. Nobody's quite had the right answers so far (according to, er, me). They are:

    • Pot – leaves; mug – bag
    • Mug (more tea, and it's easier to embrace a mug and feel the warmth of an-teacipation )
    • I believe that, chemically, you're meant to add the emulsifier (tea) to the emulsion (milk). However, this should only hold true when it's tea you're adding rather than water, i.e. milk first from a teapot, milk second in a mug (before three good stirs and a final squeeze & extraction of the teabag).
    • 18 points for Zoe – sugar is not added.
    • Question not applicable (but it's granulated if you really must).
    • No, never. But the only 'herbal' worth drinking is proper Chinese green tea.
    • Nice strong tea (boiling water in, stir, stir, stir, stir, gentle squeeze of the bag, gentle stir to unsqueeze bag), then a dash of milk (I nearly always manage to pour in the same amount at the same speed). A few rapid oscillations of the spoon diffuse the milk evenly, then see my third point for removal of teabag from what has become a lovely, varnished-pine-coloured cuppa.

    04 Jan 2006, 00:27

  8. Ant

    place your bag and milk into the mug. add the water and squash the bag against the side of the mug plenty before taking it out. this should only take about 15 seconds or so. Then go sit down in front of the telly and dunk biscuits into the tea until it has cooled sufficiently to drink. bonza!

    04 Jan 2006, 00:50

  9. Ahh, but which biscuits?

    (recommends chocolate caramel digestives as they hold together well when moist)

    04 Jan 2006, 09:44

  10. Oh Ant – that is just not right.
    You are destroying the tea!! You can't squish all the tea out in 15 seconds – that's not how it was designed.
    And you shouldn't really dunk as we're being particularly anal about this, but I always do – as long as it's not biscuits which leave sludge at the bottom of the mug – ick…


    04 Jan 2006, 09:44

  11. Ah tea tea tea…one of my favourite things in the whole world…so here's my two pence worth (even though it's a little late in the discussion):
    – Leaves as opposed to bags whenever possible; I bought my dad one of these little things from Ikea where you can make tea with leaves in a mug – genius!
    – There's something fun about making tea in a pot, in fact, I have one of those tea-for-one teapots so I can have tea from the pot even when I'm lonely…and I agree that the metal pot is the way to go.
    – Tea to milk ideally; but milk to tea generally because I lazily make it in a mug
    – Add sugar before adding any liquid to the cup/mug
    – Sugar should be brown
    – Milk in herbal tea? No no no no no no no!
    – Self-confessed caffeine addict here, therefore strongly brewed tea with just enough milk to give it a nice colour

    Mmm…all this tea talk has made me want a cup!

    04 Jan 2006, 12:16

  12. Juicy

    Sarah, your tea discussion is at the top of the list on the blogs home page that people are discussing! I can't help but comment on my own view of tea (mmm, tea)
    – Leaves in a teapot – but in an infuser (one with a chain so you can just hang it over the edge and this saves on washing up and the use of a tea-strainer. Bags are fine for mugs, and I have to say for teapots too, but make sure you put the right number of teabags for the size of the pot!
    – Teapot every time, but a mug is much handier as it is only one thing to wash up. I have a lovely Arthur Wood Teapot with a characture horse on it, but rarely use it as I can't be doing with the washing up. However when I visit home I will 99% of the time use mum's teapot. We all do, it's strange!
    – I usually add the milk to the tea, although not straight away. With the teapot you add milk first then you don't have to stir it.
    – Generally add sugar to Stu's tea after pouring on water to the leaves
    – I use granulated for Stu's tea, he had some crystals but they are much better in cafetiere coffee rather than tea.
    – Herbal teas are not nice in my opinion (except for the smell) but even if I liked them there is no way you should put milk in them! If we count Earl Grey as herbal then I would say that is the exception because I like milk in mine, even if you shouldn't.
    – A large mug and one teabag. If you have a 6 cup teapot (like mine) I think 3 teabags should suffice for one potfull. Milk – liberal but don't make the tea look aneamic (or like Cat's piss as my Dad calls it)

    Tea should also be drunk at breakfast time, mid morning, lunchtime, mid afternoon, with dinner, after dinner and throughout the evening. It is the drink of dreams!

    Digestive biscuits for dunking. mmm.

    04 Jan 2006, 12:56

  13. It has to be leaves in a pot for most sorts of tea.

    A Chinese friend showed me the right way to make green tea in a cup. You put in a spoon or so of leaves and pour almost boiling water over it. After a while, you either drink this cup or if you really want to get the best out of it, you pour away 2/3 of the liquid in the cup and fill again with boiling water. The point is to discard the bitter astringent compounds that are initially extracted from the leaves and only be left with the nice flavoured ones. You can then replenish your cup of tea a few times by adding more hot water when you've drunk 2/3 of the way down. I've found that the same thing works with large leaf darjeeling tea, especially the rather pricey first flush stuff.

    04 Jan 2006, 14:43

  14. Agree totally with Simon!!!

    04 Jan 2006, 16:28

  15. Bags, mugs, add milk to tea, then sugar (unrefined caster), don't do herbal, milk + tea = skin colour.

    The big question is: what brand? It has to be Yorkshire.

    04 Jan 2006, 18:40

  16. Leaves or bags? Bags - the leaves are still in it, and there is very little difference to it being without the bag nowadays. better than the silk bags they were first made in, anyway.
    Mug or teapot? Mug. i never drink from the teapot. a teacup is a possible second though.
    Do you add the tea to the milk or the milk to the tea? tea to the milk, or hot water to the milk if making in cup - scientifically better for you (and we all need our health)
    When is the sugar added? when someone likes it (I don't!!)
    Caster or granulated sugar (some people think I'm wierd using caster, but I think I'm justified because it dissolves better)? Don't know. Don't drink it.
    Do you have milk in herbal teas (my Dad insists on this)? Don't drink them!
    What is the best proportion of water and milk to each teabag? about 15:85 I think

    Nice blog comment anwyay :D

    04 Jan 2006, 19:56

  17. Oh, and who else prefers the "red" over the "gold" teabags?! Is it just me?!

    04 Jan 2006, 19:57

  18. If you are interested in tea, biscuits and associated stuff, try the nice cup of tea and a sit down website.


    Apparently milk was originally added first to bone china tea cups because adding boiling hot water infused with tea leaves caused the china to crack.

    as for dunking, didn't somebody at another uni get a huge grant to prove that it was digestives that were best, something to do with the time taken to dissolve the sugars. For me the best biscuit for dunking is whatever I've got in the cupboard at the time. TTFN

    04 Jan 2006, 22:24

  19. Ah, yes, thanks for the link: I am, indeed, familiar with that website.

    Hmmm, as important as tea is I can think of slightly more worthwhile research!

    04 Jan 2006, 22:49

  20. Justin

    Time to add my 2-pence-worth I think

    -Leaves if using a pot, bags if I am being lazy and using a mug
    -Always pot for preference. If you make the tea strong to start with then you only need half or 2/3rds of a cup of tea and the rest hot water and milk. You can do this until the pot is no less than half empty. Than refill the pot with more just boilled water, leave to brew while drinking current cup (see end). The next cups are poured with all tea. That way you can get 5 (or more!) cups out of a decent size pot and then have it topped up for seconds as well!
    -tea to milk with pot vica-versa with mug
    -never to my tea and only after I have forgotten to Sarah's and already put a tea spoon in to stir the teas hence needing another clean one.
    -Don't do herbal tea – Earl Grey is not herbal – it is normal tea – our standard tea in our house, can't even find any crappy tea!
    -Strong with a dash of milk. Interestingly enough my Granny likes about a tea-spoon of milk and then 2/3rds tea with the rest hot water which makes it quite a rich colour.

    07 Jan 2006, 01:07

  21. PenguinA

    Ant! I knew you would be commenting here!!

    I've drunk 20–30 tea bags during the past 4 days…

    07 Jan 2006, 19:42

  22. PenguinA, my arche nemesis, we meet again.

    07 Jan 2006, 20:08

  23. My Nan always makes tea with leaves in a pot and pours it through a strainer… I make do with a bag in a mug then add milk.

    You'll be pleased to know I use caster sugar too… it DOES dissolve better and you can use it in cakes. Win!

    08 Jan 2006, 14:59

  24. "Leaves in a pot, bag in a mug (I don't think you'll get anyone disagreeing with that..)"

    Sorry to bring this back up but I do feel strongly about my tea! I must oppose and say that it has to be bags all the time!

    10 Jan 2006, 15:31

  25. Dan

    I'm sorry but caster sugar is ONLY for cakes, and demerera/brown is ONLY for coffee.

    Sorry to be a fascist, but its granulated all the way in my tea.

    18 Jan 2006, 16:33

  26. Londoner

    You can actually have either bags or leaves in a tea pot! Proper tea should be drank without milk. That's how the chinese do it, and believe me they know their tea. And with tea bags, you're supposed to leave it in hot water for a few minutes, and you'll get better results. It actually tells you that in the instructions, read the instructions!! Tea made from leaves is far superior in taste, don't forget what you're drinking through a tea bag is dried product, not fresh. Brown sugar with tea or coffee is quite nice actually. You could even have honey with your tea. I like honey with herbal tea, e.g. camomille with honey…really nice…try it!!

    19 Jan 2006, 23:25

  27. odoyo

    I will never, ever drink the last mouthful of tea in a cup. You may though.Tea should not be drunk out of a dark coloured mug because it makes the tea look funny and seem like there is less of it.

    05 Feb 2006, 18:05

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