The perfect cuppa is made even easier by getting rid of your kettle!
The average Brit learns to make a cup of tea at the age of around 8 years old. If you are anything like me, that means you have decades of brew-making experience, and it turns out, we've been doing it wrong all of these years!
The problem is, our kettles only know how to do one thing - boil to a set temperature of 100 degrees plus. Doh! It seems that, for our favourite tea and coffee, this is far far too much!
Hot and bothered...?
The consensus seems to be that most teas should not be prepared with boiling water. White tea, so we're told, should be 'brewed with water that is well below boiling... higher temperatures will scald the tea'. The same seems to be true for green tea.
And it seems scientists have now discovered that the key to the best tasting brew is to let it sit for six minutes before drinking. Not only does it avoid scolding but by then it has cooled to 60C, the optimum temperature to let the flavours flood out.
Here comes the science bit...
The team at the Northumbria University spent nearly three weeks testing with a panel of volunteers, consuming nearly 300 cups of tea in the process to come up with a definitive answer for the perfect cuppa. The best method was to add boiling water to a tea bag in a mug and leave for two minutes, then removing the bag and add the milk (about 10ml) and leave for six minutes until it reaches optimal temperature of 60C.
And what about coffee? Same story. 100°C water is simply too hot for most coffee beans, causing the grounds to extract too soon and leaving a bitter taste. The sweet-spot for most blends is often just below boiling. Consistency is key here – coffee that is brewed with water too cool will taste under-extracted; sour, weak and watery. Coffee brewed with coffee too hot will taste muddled and unclear with a minimized complexity and sweetness.
Brew time is all about water contact time – the larger your grind particle size (coarser grind), the longer you’ll want that water to be in contact with the coffee. Larger particle size means less surface area, which means a longer brew time will be necessary to properly extract the coffee’s flavor. For a method like French press that uses a coarse grind, you’ll want to try a brew time of 4 minutes, adjusting to taste from there. If the coffee tastes too weak, sour or watery, try a longer brew time; if it tastes too bitter or strong with a lack of flavor clarity, try a shorter brew time. For methods that use a finer grind, you’ll want a shorter brew time – that’s why espresso coffee only takes about 30 seconds.
So, switch to an instant boiling water tap, and relax with your favourite – and perfectly made – cuppa. Just don’t get me started on the best biscuits…