Scientists at University College London say Brits do not let tea infuse for long enough to bring out the complex flavours.
It is enough to send teaspoons clattering into saucers across the country, but according to scientists, four out of five Britons do not brew their tea correctly.
Despite drinking 165 million cups of tea each day, scientists believe that most Brits do not allow the leaves to infuse long enough for the complex flavours to emerge.
Researchers at University College London and the British Science Association claim tea must be allowed to steep for up to five minutes, far longer than the toe-tapping two minutes allowed by most drinkers.
Mark Miodownik, Professor of Materials and Society at University College London, said: “What frustrates me is the British think they know about tea, but most people have no idea what they are doing.
“It’s obviously subjective but I feel people are missing out on a drink which could be so much more sophisticated because they don’t wait for the tea to brew long enough.
“Tea is made of 30,000 different chemicals, it’s a very complex thing and those molecules take time to emerge and influence each other.
“I think of all the people who grow and pick these plants in order for you to experience this wonderfully complex drink and at the last minute Brits throw that all away by brewing it badly.
“Fair enough if you want a hot milky drink, but then why drink tea? It’s like using a laptop to hammer a nail into a wall. Yes it will do the job, but it can do so much more.”
The UK Tea and Infusions Association advises steeping for between two and four minutes for black teas like Assam, Darjeeling and Ceylon.
The British Standards Institution also offers a set of rigorous guidelines and advises that loose tea should be left in the pot to infuse for six minutes, to extract maximum flavours.
A study carried out by Cravendale milk in 2011 found that the perfect cup of tea needed eight minutes (two minutes with the tea bag or leaves, six more afterwards) before it reaches optimum flavour and temperature.
The scientists at UCL suggest that tea is best drunk at around 65C. And they may finally have cleared up the issue of whether the milk should be poured before or after the tea.
Apparently if made in a mug the milk should always be added afterwards so that it does not interfere with the brewing process. But if made in a pot, the milk should be added first.
Prof Miodownik believes the ritual and routine of tea drinking is equally important to creating the perfect cup, and advises against using different size cups, as it will alter the flavour.
“It is important to drink tea in the same cup, at the same temperature and at the same time each day. And always say no to a paper cup. It’s just not worth it.
“Tea is a living drink and is constantly altering which is why there is a perfect time to drink it, and why you can’t reheat it.
“I always use a teapot to allow the flavours to travel around the pot, like in a current in the sea.”
The research was conducted for British Science Week which runs until Friday.
“Treating tea making as a science will give you a new perspective on the process and you may find your perfect cuppa alters considerably.”
Source: The Telegraph