1. Water should be at boiling point when you pour it over the tea bag.
In his 1946 essay in the Evening Standard on tea, George Orwell said “one should take the teapot to the kettle and not the other way about. The water should be actually boiling at the moment of impact, which means that one should keep it on the flame while one pours.”
You need to do this to keep the temperature of the water as high as possible so the tea infuses properly. “Taking ‘the pot to the kettle’ will marginally help keep the temperature high,” says the Royal Society of Chemistry.
2. It might actually not be that bad to reboil water that’s already been boiled once.
When you boil water, it loses oxygen. There’s some debate about whether using twice (or more) boiled water affects the taste (some claim it makes tea taste “flat”). But chances are if you’re making a proper British cup of tea with black tea and milk and maybe even sugar, you’re not going to notice. Even Orwell claimed he couldn’t tell the difference.
Then again, thanks to the placebo effect, if you think your tea will taste worse without freshly boiled water it might well do.
3. Only boil the amount of water that you need for however many cups you’re making.
This will save you money on electricity, help the planet and also stop you having to worry about whether to dump or just reboil the leftover water next time you make a cuppa.
5. Never put the milk in first.
OK, so if you’re pouring brewed tea from a teapot into a cup with milk already in it, go ahead – even the Royal Society of Chemistry would agree with you. Just be careful you haven’t added too much milk to the cup
But if you’re making your tea in a mug, never ever put the milk in with the tea bag before you pour on the boiling water. The milk will reduce the temperature of the liquid and the tea won’t brew properly.
6. If you really really want to you can put sugar in with the tea bag before you add water.
You’ll lose some of the sugar, but it shouldn’t stop the tea brewing properly. Unless you put in so much sugar that you’re basically brewing tea in syrup. Which you shouldn’t be doing anyway.
7. Brewing time should be somewhere between two and five minutes.
If you brew for less than two minutes you can barely even call it a cup of tea.
After two minutes you’ve got about a third of the caffeine from the tea bag, too. Somewhere between three and five minutes is ideal and will have around 70 or 80% of the caffeine.
Brew for too long and you’ll release too many of the molecules called tannins that make tea taste bitter.
8. Don’t reuse tea bags, even if they’re really nice and expensive.
After three minutes of brewing, you’ve removed around half the caffeine in your tea bag. If you use it again, you’ll have less caffeine the second time round. You’ll also end up extracting more of the bitter-tasting tannins and get a worse cup of tea.