The Great Tea Debates: Temperature, Time and Traditions

To celebrate National Tea Day, we thought we’d post about making the perfect cup of tea. Sounds easy, right?


The perfect way to make a cup of tea sparked huge debates here at We argued over the strength of tea, the shade, how much milk, which sweetener to use…and more…

So, we want you to get involved and settle some debates for us!

Read on about the many great tea debates there are to be had about the nation’s favourite drink.

Share your thoughts and comments on our social posts too! We’d love to know what you think.


Tea – the nation’s favourite drink


Did you know that, according to, approximately 100 million cups of tea are drunk each day in the UK? This works out at almost 36 billion per year.

But, how should we make a cuppa? How strong should it be? Do you add milk first or after brewing?

We might all love a cup of tea, but how we make it is felt strongly and debated widely.


The Great Tea Debates – what do you think?


So, here goes…what do you think about the following areas of contention?

In the interest of impartiality (!), we have tried to offer a balanced discussion and ask lots of questions. But, we bet there are strong feelings in your household or friendship groups, just like there are here at HQ. Let’s just keep it civil. Ok?

In no particular order, what are your thoughts on…


Temperature – boiling or not?


Let’s start with the humble kettle. When making a cup of tea should the water be boiling when it lands on the tea leaves or not? Should it cool a little?

Also, when it comes to water, should it only ever be freshly boiled? Or is it ok to re-boil water?

Do you think it makes a difference to the taste? Where do you stand on water temperature when it comes to making your brew? 

We all know someone who 'knows best' when it comes to putting the kettle on.

Strength – lightly brewed or builder’s brew?


Tea comes in an array of shades. It depends on both which brand of tea you choose, as well as the time you leave your tea to brew or stew.

Is light (and weak) the right shade? Or is dark (and strong) better?

It mostly depends on how long you leave the tea leaves or bag in the water. So, what is the perfect amount of time?

Yorkshire Tea suggests leaving its teabags in your mug for 4-5 minutes, whilst Tetley UK recommends just 2-3 minutes for its black tea. See, even the big brands don’t agree! 

We also wondered, has anyone ever set an actual timer??? Or, do you simply go on the ‘look’ alone?


A range of tea cups with tea of different strengths

Which number would you choose?

Vessel – mug vs cup vs pot?


Many believe that tea tastes differently (or better!) depending on what it is made in. Can you beat your favourite tea mug?

For the absolute traditionalist, tea has to be made in a pot first. The process of reaching for the teapot, letting the tea brew cocooned in its cosy, is sacrosanct. Then, pouring the perfect brew into a delicate bone China cup, with a saucer, is all part of the experience.

For others, the convenience of a tea bag in a favourite mug is the most important element of their favourite cuppa. It’s a comfort before they rush off to work. Or, for when they arrive home after a busy day and they just want a quick pick me up and a warming drink.

Where do you stand? Is it the favourite chipped, brown-stained mug, the classy bone China cup or no matter the drinking vessel it’s all about the teapot?

Order – what goes first?


If we start arguing over teapot vs mug, then we also have to start debating the order of the tea-making process.

Should it be:

  1. water, tea bag (or tea leaves…will come to that next!) and then milk?
  2. milk, then water, then tea bag?
  3. tea bag, water, then milk?


Should you also warm the pot first and throw that water away? And, if you have sugar or sweetener… where does that come in the order?

Importantly, does it make a difference when stirred all in together? …ooh is that too controversial to suggest?


Additions – to add or not to add?


There is enough to talk about with tea alone – we’ll come to varieties in just a moment. However, what about what you add to your cup of tea?

Are the tea leaves alone enough?

What should you add to your tea to make it even more perfect?

 We have a choice of very traditional cow’s milk – but what type – skimmed semi-skimmed or full fat?

Today, we also have a huge choice of milk alternatives – soya, oat, almond – do these work in a cup of tea?

For some, a slice of lemon is all that is needed.

For others, it’s not just milk, but an added sweetness is needed to enjoy their cup of tea.  So, we come to sugar – white, brown, granulated, lumps. There are many options to choose between.

We also know sugar has had some bad press, so the healthy (…or not-so-healthy…depending on what you read..!) options are also available in a large range of sweeteners.

Should tea be left alone or are the additions all part of the experience?  

Varieties – different types at different times?


Our heads are starting to hurt and, therefore, we come to our last area of debate – varieties of tea.

From black to white to green, and then to herbal and fruit infusions …if we go down that route of exploration then that throws all of the other debates back into a different light, right?

Even with black tea – what do you prefer: an English breakfast or a traditional afternoon tea?

Should you have different teas at different times of day, as the name suggests?

There are so many varieties of actual tea leaves too. According to Tea Culture of the World, the Assam leaf is the most popular. Unsurprisingly, it is from the world’s largest tea-growing region, Assam, in India.

Quick thought….why do we say “for all the tea in China”, when India is tea’s biggest producer?

And finally, what about loose-leaf tea vs a tea bag? Was the tea bag a terrible invention for convenience only causing unnecessary packaging …or is it the ideal way to get just the right amount of tea every time, without the faff of strainers and mess as well?


A cup of tea surrounded by cake, flowers and a tin of tea bags

There is just so much to think about!



The Great Tea Debates – Have your say!


There are so many debates to be had. We will spend all day on National Tea Day just arguing over strength and colour…how about you?

Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and Facebook, where we will be putting these debates to the nation. We would love for you to share your thoughts too.

…and with that, we are off for a cuppa! Put the kettle on!


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This blog was posted 2024-04-03 10:34:00