If there’s one thing the British are passionate about – it’s how to make the perfect cup of tea.
Brits have been drinking tea for the best part of 400 years, so you’d think we’d have nailed the technique by now.
However, the debate surrounding whether to add milk or water to the cup first still rages on.
Now, though, science has stepped in to help settle the argument.
According to tea bag boffins, you should actually add milk before water to make the perfect cup of tea.
George Orwell was famously a member of the ‘milk first’ camp, but he humbly admitted: “Indeed in every family in Britain there are probably two schools of thought on the subject.”
However, a YouGov poll suggests that 80 percent of British tea drinkers are in the ‘water first’ camp – leaving Orwell and his tea-drinking followers a concrete minority.
But perhaps it’s the 80 percent who are in the wrong.
A Leeds University professor, Alan Mackie, went viral after claiming that adding milk first could potentially make you a more flavoursome cuppa.
He also claims to have the evidence to back up his claim, conducting a ton of research to prove his point.
Mackie says pouring milk onto the teabag first counteracts hard water.
Hard water, typically found in areas like London, is rich in magnesium and calcium – which affects flavour.
Naturally, water is considered soft, but when it falls as rain it tarnishes as it makes its way through rivers and treatment centres.
Mackie explains: “Flavour, by and large, is produced by the different compounds in tea including tannins in particular.
“The more minerals present in the water the more difficult it is for these compounds to develop the flavour – resulting in the dull cuppas you get in hard water areas.”
Mackie conducted the study alongside INTU, a company that manufactures boiling water taps.
Discussing the results, Mackie says: “Making tea the traditional way – steeping a bag in hot water before removing it and adding milk – results in the tannins turning into solids before they can develop the flavour properly.
“But, if the milk is added at the start of the steeping process then its proteins can bind to the tannins and other minerals in the water – preventing them from turning solid – which in turn gives you a far superior flavour.”
While INTU’s managing director, Kieran Taylor-Bradshaw, adds: “A decent cuppa brings joy and brightens the day, but for too many, it remains a distant dream, with hard water to blame.”
Naturally, the brew-making debate has been a hot topic on daytime TV, with Good Morning Britain’s Kate Garraway admitting that she too pours in the milk before the hot water.
After she heard of Mackie’s study, she said: “So, I’m right!”
While science backs the ‘milk first’ camp, people have said they’ll stick to adding hot water first.
One brew lover insists: “Never, never, never… Milk second so your tea can brew properly beforehand and you can gauge the strength.”
Another adds: “Nooo, deffo water then milk. I once put the milk in first and it looked so weak when the water was added.
“If you put the water first, you can see exactly how much milk is needed without making it too weak.”
However, others have said that they think milk first is the answer.
“Milk first, I just can’t get it to taste right water first,” one says.
In agreement, a second person comments: “Makes a smoother brew.”
So, maybe the debate isn’t so settled after all. We’re creatures of habit, at the end of the day.
Let us know your thoughts on our social media.