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Proof that Britain is a nation of Diversi-tea, with 24 million ways to make a cuppa… and a bagful of science in the blending

New proof of the nation’s diversi-tea has today emerged with research showing there are 24 million possible ways Brits make a cuppa.

James Hind and Sebastian Michaelis
NTU's Dr James Hind (left) & Tetley Master Blender Sebastian Michaelis examine the perfect blend

The YouGov research, commissioned by Tetley Tea to mark its 180th birthday and analysed by Dr James Hind of Nottingham Trent University, factors in all possible variables when it’s time to pop the kettle on.

From brew time, milk levels and dunking behavior to sweetener choice, water (or milk) first and overall water temperature, the reality is that it all boils down to personal taste.  

As for the most commonly drunk cuppa, this involves 60 seconds of brewing, a dash of cold semi-skimmed milk, three dunks of the teabag, no sugar, drunk hot from a mug and made by the drinker themselves.

But according to master tea blender, Sebastian Michaelis, whose taste buds are insured for £1m, all 24 million possible cuppas start with one perfect blend, revealing there is still science behind the art of the individual cuppa.

That’s why he has spent months with Dr Hind in the Tetley tea rooms, where over 40,000 cups of tea are tasted every week, developing a mathematical equation for the perfect blend that is the basis for 24 million possible cuppas.  

The key variables centre on the process of perfecting a blend from crop to cup, including years (Y) of experience and weight (W) of tea in the teabag.  

Also captured is the duration of training (T) for the master tea blenders and the colour (C), size and density of the leaf; the brew’s purity of colour (its sparkle – S); the weight of the tea in the mouth (its body – B) and the overall liveliness of the tea on the palate (its zing - Z).  

Sebastian Michaelis comments: “With research revealing 24 million possible ways to make a cuppa, this truly is a nation of diversi-tea. There’s no one perfect way to take your tea – it’s each to their own! What’s important to recognize is that all combinations, from milky tea with no sugar to black with one sugar, come from one perfect blend.  

“Whilst our mathematical equation doesn’t roll off the tongue, it does show the multiple layers of hidden craft that fuels the nation’s favourite drink. Blending tea, like blending whisky or champagne, is a fine art that’s based on a bag load of science.  

“That’s why Tetley tea blenders spend five years training and honing our ability to taste and grade any of the 1,500 different varieties of tea in the world in just 15 seconds. The magic starts from there!”

With the blend perfected, the nation’s nuances and twists on how they take their tea then come in to play.

According to the research, 48% brew the teabag for at least a minute, with almost a third of UK tea drinkers considering brewing time the most important factor when it comes to making tea.

Whilst one in 10 Brits favour a more traditional take on the cuppa, drunk from a teacup rather than a mug, a small but significant 3% of white tea takers opt for the less traditional in heating up the milk first!

44% of people think they make the best cup of tea and 14% say they prefer ones made by their partners. Meanwhile, office tea rounds could soon be on their way out, with only 1% preferring their colleagues’ method of making tea.

Despite ‘hot’ being the most common temperature for tea to be consumed, 24% of Brits prefer theirs ‘warm’ and a whopping 72% take no sugar, with 17% instead opting for replacements such as honey.

As for what makes the worst cup of tea, putting in too much milk comes top (20%), followed by splitting the tea bag by squeezing it too hard (16%) and reheating tea in the microwave (15%).  

Sebastian Michaelis adds: “As for me, I pour as soon as it's boiled. Black tea tastes best when brewed in fresh water as close to boiling point as possible. As the temperature reduces, the flavours will develop for a better quality taste.”

Michelle Jee, Tetley senior brand manager, concludes: “Our Blenders and Buyers have been crossing the globe for 180 years to source the freshest, tastiest teas and bring them together to make the perfect blend.  

“The rest really is up to the nation’s tea lovers, and what better way to celebrate our anniversary than to raise a cup to 24 million possible combinations of the nation’s favourite beverage?

“But we aren’t stopping here. We want to continue our live research by inviting people to share a picture of their perfect cup of tea and method using the hashtag #perfectcuppa. Do it and you’ll be in with a chance to win a range of prizes as a thank you for helping us continue to learn.”

  • Notes for editors

    Press enquiries please contact Dave Rogers, Public Relations Manager, on telephone +44 (0)115 848 8782, or via email.

    The equation for the perfect blend, where:
    * Y = years of experience (180 years for Tetley) * W = Weight of tea in the teabag (3.125 for Tetley) * T = duration of training for blenders (5 years for Tetley) * Z = Zing (1-30) * B = Body (1-30) * C = Colour (1-45) * S = Sparkle (1-50)

    Generally the higher, the better – but raising one often means lowering another: maximizing these is the challenge and art of the Tetley blenders.

    Greatest with 180 years of experience (Y=180) Best scores with 5 years of tasting experience or more (T≥5) Higher scores for Zing, Colour Sparkle & Body are better

    Weight as close to π (3.142) as possible (Tetley has 3.125)  Maximum possible score with Tetley parameters is 3382.15

    About the research
    YouGov research commissioned amongst 2,000 UK adults by Tetley, November 2017.

    About Tetley
    Tetley is, this year, celebrating its 180th anniversary, after launching in the UK in 1837. Pioneers in the tea category, bringing the tea bag to the UK back in the 1950s, Tetley was the first to use perforated tissue for its bags in the 1960s, and in the 1980s launched the first round tea bag. Today, a staggering 36 million cups of Tetley are drunk each day.

    Nottingham Trent University was named Modern University of the Year in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018. The award recognises NTU for its strong student satisfaction, quality of teaching, overall student experience and engagement with employers.
    Nottingham Trent University (NTU) has been awarded the highest, gold, rating in the Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework for its outstanding teaching and learning.

    NTU is one of the largest UK universities with nearly 28,000 students and more than 3,500 staff across four campuses, contributing £496m to the UK economy every year. It is one of the most environmentally-friendly universities, containing some of the country’s most inspiring and efficient award-winning buildings.

    The University is passionate about creating opportunities and its extensive outreach programme is designed to enable Nottingham Trent to be a vehicle for social mobility. NTU is the sixth biggest recruiter of students from disadvantaged backgrounds in the country and 95.6% of the its graduates go on to employment or further education within six months of leaving.

    NTU is home to world-class research, winning The Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2015 - the highest national honour for a UK university. It recognised the University’s pioneering projects to improve weapons and explosives detection in luggage, enable safer production of powdered infant formula and combat food fraud.

    With an international student population of approximately 2,600 from around 100 countries, the University prides itself on its global outlook.

Proof that Britain is a nation of Diversi-tea, with 24 million ways to make a cuppa… and a bagful of science in the blending

Published on 16 November 2017
  • Subject area: Computing, engineering, maths and other technologies
  • Category: Press office; School of Science and Technology

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