In an attempt to settle the age-old dispute, we asked the experts.
1. Use the right kind of water
Bad news. Taste tests suggest that tea made with hard water – which is what comes out of London taps – is less tasty than soft-water tea. But there is one thing you can do to improve the situation: never reboil anything that’s been left sitting in your kettle. ‘It results in a flat-tasting cup,’ says Dr Tim Bond of the Tea Advisory Panel.
2. Do it at the correct temperature
For optimally brewed black tea, you want water that’s as close to boiling point as possible. A cold teapot or mug will reduce the temperature, so pre-warm them with hot water from the tap. For green tea, though, never use boiling water: ‘It will taste bitter and harsh,’ says Sebastian Michaelis, master tea blender at Tetley. ‘I’d leave the kettle to cool for a few minutes after boiling.’
3. Brew it for the right amount of time
This is where things get vague. Some experts suggest four to five minutes for brewing. Others advocate a minimum of one minute for a mug or three minutes for a pot. Perhaps most useful is the suggestion from Tim d’Offay, owner of Postcard Teas: ‘Tasting the tea will help you decide. After all, chefs taste their food and teamakers should also taste their tea.’
4. Add the milk after the water - yes, after
Sebastian Michaelis warns that if you favour mugs for your tea and you put the milk in it first, ‘you will reduce the water temperature and inhibit the brewing’. Tim d’Offay also points out that ‘you can control the strength of the tea much more easily this way’.
5. Find a tea companion or two
Take time to think, relax, or have a chat while it brews,' suggests Dr Tim Bond. 'To me, making someone a tea is an act of friendship,' says Jennie Robertson of Tea with Strangers. ‘It’s a way of saying “Let’s spend time and sit down for a chat.”’
Can't be arsed to make it yourself? Head to one of London's best cafés for a cuppa.