The Comprehensive Guide to Making A Perfect Brew (= Cup of Tea)

brew, comprehensive guide, milk, mug, sugar, tea


> In researching this I am indebted to Mr. Daniel Jones, MBA.
> Up North, cups of tea are called ‘brews’. As I perfected this guide in Manchester I shall refer to them as such throughout.
> Any key instructions I will mark with an asterisk. Don’t stray from these!


There are two VITAL keys to brew-making:

If you are impatient and hurry to make a brew, it will taste like dishwater.
Conversely, if you lack diligence it will taste equally disgusting.

First, you must listen carefully to a person’s preferences for their cup of tea. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If a person says they want it “white with 2 sugars”, ask how milky their white is, and whether their teaspoons are heaped or flat. But you also MUST get feedback when you deliver the brew (or before you make the next one) – how is it? How could it be improved. Make sure you mentally log people’s preferences and stick to them and you will consistently deliver good brews.


Don’t bother with cups and saucers, or even those fancy mugs that you have to hold with one finger. You need a standard mug, preferably in white – as this more clearly shows what colour the tea is once brewed. Some people suggest that tea actually “tastes” different if it’s in a coloured mug. This is simply ridiculous – no part of a mug dissolves in hot water. Any perceived difference is in your head.

If using a kettle, don’t re-boil old water, draw fresh water from the tap first.* Also, do not overfill the kettle for the amount you need, it wastes energy and time.

ONE tea bag PER MUG*
Pick whichever teabag your tastebuds or your conscience prefer. Some people prefer a weaker brew, wanting you to dangle their teabag in the boiling water for approximately 0.5 seconds. By all means, cater to their tastes but know this – this is not a “good” brew. Some people also share a tea bag between two mugs. This is ridiculous. The first mug won’t develop a rounded flavour and the second mug will just receive all the dregs of the first. Finally, the teabag shape does NOT matter – yes, pyramid bags do brew faster, but brew-making is not about speed, and you can make a perfectly good brew out of a circular or indeed traditional square tea-bag.

Full fat is too creamy for a brew, skimmed is too watery. I am sure this guide can be adapted for different milks, but I am not the man to do it.

Although you may not take sugar, some people do. To not have sugar in your cupboard shows a lack of hospitality – get some in!

Standard-sized full-metal, not some poncy one from Ikea.


(1) Place tea bag in mug
(2) Pour on freshly-boiled water
(3) Do NOTHING to the mug for 2-3 minutes*****

Let me define ‘nothing’:

    It means, DO NOT stir the water

    It means, DO NOT poke or squeeze the tea bag

    It means, DO NOT under any circumstances add the milk yet.Adding the milk whilst the tea-bag is still in the mug introduces fats into the water-based solution and wrecks the brewing.

    It means, DON’T add the sugar either.

    (However, it is advisable to wash up anything in the sink at this point)

    The reason you are doing nothing is because the teabag needs to be left to work on its own accord.

      (4) Lift the teabag out

      By all means, make sure it’s not dripping as you throw it in the bin (or, even better, your composting bin.) However, DO NOT squeeze every last drop out of it on the side of the mug.

      (5) Add milk

      Here’s a translation guide for the various degrees of milkiness:

      BLACK – no milk. Make sure you don’t stir it with the same spoon as a white tea.

      JUST A DROP – literally means, hardly any. Pour slowly and as soon as the milk hits the cup, pull up again. The tea will look a disugsting reddish-brown colour.

      A SPLASH – Not much, but more than just a drop.

      BUILDER’S – From my research this means that it’s got a fair amount of milk BUT also that it’s been overbrewed – and so the resultant brew looks a medium brown colour. To get the same colour but achieve a better tasting brew, brew the tea as above and use slighly less milk than average

      WHITE/MEDIUM/AVERAGE – all mean the same. A kind of light brownish colour.

      I LIKE IT A BIT MILKIER THAN MOST – This usually means that the main brew-makers in their life don’t know how to make brews, or make it with hardly any milk. So this generally means “Average”, but whack a few more drops in anyway, and they’ll tell you they want slighly less milk than last time if my theory is correct.

      MILKY – a very light brown

      DID THE COW FALL IN? – a very light beige.

      LATTE – this involves mostly milk instead of water, and can be quite nice with a chai tea tea-bag, but is made an entirely different way.

      (6) Add sugar

      In general you should slightly heap the spoon, unless they tell you they want a flattened one.

      Also, don’t make comments on how much sugar people take.

      If you take none and someone asks for 2, don’t go gasp and tut, just put two in.

      If someone asks for a half-measure, don’t act like that’s putting you out.

      If you take no sugar, don’t tell kind brew-makers that “you’re sweet enough” – it’s not funny.

      And also, if someone asks for 2 sugars, don’t try to whittle them down to 1 by putting progressively less sugar in their brews each time – it’s patronising.


      Finally, there are three grades to brew-making:

      STRENGTH – how brewed the tea is
      MILKINESS – how much milk has been added
      SWEETNESS – how much sugar there is

      Most people only recognise two: strength and sweetness. These people will invariably judge the ‘strength’ of the tea by its colour alone. So, because a lot of people make tea by whizzing the teabag round with a spoon, strength becomes analagous to ‘not very milky’. This is incorrect!

      For example, I like my tea brewed for a few minutes (therefore medium-strong) but fairly milky. Because some of my old work colleagues saw brews I’d made for myself, they used to say “you like your tea quite weak don’t you” when it was their turn to brew up, and handed me a mug of tea which had had a teabag dipped into it for about 10seconds – disgusting!

      So it’s important to be specific when people ask. e.g. I like it well-brewed but milky, or I like it brewed less than normal and not much milk. This may sound fussy, but if you make other people good brews, most people will reciprocate.


      11 thoughts on “The Comprehensive Guide to Making A Perfect Brew (= Cup of Tea)

      1. thanks matt for adding a new twist to my tea brewing experience…it will add to my not so extensive research

        however i feel i shall never find the secret of how the best cup of tea i ever tasted was made

        my daughter lillie was born in the middle of the night during torrential rain and a thunderstorm…if she was a boy we would have had to call her damien….i could here the soundtrack rattling round my head…anyway a kindly nurse taking pity on me and all i had been through brought me a cup of tea that tasted like nectar

        maybe it’s like a wise fella once said to me…the best cup of tea is the one someone else makes for you

      2. you are now on my list of people to avoid having a cup of tea with! its not a very big list, i has got on it only you and two others, one who made it on to the list by wanting really strong tea,with less than i spot of milk and 3 heaped teaspoons of sugar and not a milligram less!The other made it on to the list by insisting on really really weak tea, but no matter how weak it is made will only ever drink half the cup!

        you have made it on to the list becasue you appear to be positively ocd about the tea making process! and would hate a cup of tea made by me because a)i make tea in a pot b)i use “one” milk(which is the same as semi skimmed but has only 1% fat, which is good!)and c) as far as I’m aware, our teaspoons are from ikea!

        read your article in the salvationist at work last night, its very good! i wonder if wearing a hat in the salvationist is frowned upon in the same way as wearing one in an army building? : )

      3. my method is alot shorter- i get people to make their own!

        Hurrah my two sugared friend. Indeed WE are sweet enough because of our many cups of sugary tea. 🙂 you’re making me cups of tea next time i see you!

        B xx

      4. Sam, you can still have a brew with me, only I’ll make them. As I said one of the Keys is feedback – if u say u want One milk that’s cool.

        Also, I was using Ikea in a metaphorical sense to represent spoons which are made to look good rather than work. There are indeed some Ikea spoons that are functionally fine.

        And this is a guide to making a Mug of tea, not a pot. Pots of tea are fine, and are actually made in a similar way to a mug, you just multiply the quantities. The thing to watch out for with Pots is that you don’t overfill it and end up with watered-down tea. Or just use one bag for the whole pot.

      5. I think I break all your rules! I like my tea black but very weak – as in I literally do just dangle the teabag in the water for a second or two and I always share the teabags. Me and my parents all have our tea the same way so I usually share a bag between the three of us – its more economical! I say the I’m sweet enough thing! I tell people to try having one instead of two sugars, (but only if I know them well enough and can laugh about it with them).

        Hmm, I feel I must be annoying you…am I banned from your blog?

      6. What about Earl Grey, Lemon and Roobush? They make for great cuppas… without milk.

        Another question? Which brand of teabag? The only thing soft about my homeland is the water… and Tetley goes down well.

      7. Its certainly much more of a skill to make tea in a pot!

        My granny used to use tea leaves and we had to strain the tealeaves but i hated having stuff in the bottom of my cup 😦

        My aunty is one of these people who uses the phrase “one bag per mug and one for the pot” (yeah it makes no sense) and then you are made to wait half an hour(over exageration) before its officially ready to drink! Its awful!

        Headphonaught…I put milk in earl grey. Is that not normal?

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