Some people swear blind that tea tastes better from a certain drinking vessel, whether that be a bone china cup or insulated camping mug. Over a pint or two (of beer!) and a couple of bags of cheese and onion crisps in the local, the research was completed and here are the slightly tongue-in-cheek findings.

Firstly, since we couldn’t find anyone else that drank organic loose leaf white tea, so we are talking ordinary tea with milk here, the famously preferred drink of the British nation.

The first thing that we discovered was that everyone’s gran always reckoned that the only way to drink tea is from a china cup and saucer, the cup should be white on the inside and decorated with small pink flowers on the outside. And actually, many people in the lounge bar agreed, there is just something about tea from a bone china teacup. Holding the little finger in the air like Her Majesty would definitely enhances the flavour. The exterior decoration was hotly debated but it was generally decided that some sort of pink floral pattern gave the best flavour. The preferred make of bone china turned out to be, unsurprisingly, Wedgewood.

Since the pub was near Derby, several folk claimed that the only way to drink tea was from a dark coloured Denby stoneware mug, one that is significantly wider at the top than at the bottom. Some of the china cup people nodded in agreement but clear that it was a no-no when taking high tea but for the ordinary cuppa during the day, the mug is a perfect solution.

But what also emerged from this was that tea from a plastic or disposable cup is just plain wrong. OK, it is passable when you are out in the wilds, cold and wet, or at the seaside during a typical British summer. But at any other time, a plastic taste and tea really don’t mix!

Now that the bone china debate was out of the way, more of our research group chipped in with mug comments. The consensus was yes, but it shouldn’t be a straight mug, it should be conical to some degree, wider at the top. Stoneware came out top but ordinary bogstandard ceramic mugs are OK at a pinch. The findings about the colour of the mug were inconclusive, the statistics showed pretty much a three-way split between white, brown and blue as being the best colour. The science behind this lies in fluid dynamics. This shape releases and focuses the aroma more effectively thus enhancing the flavour.

Then our tame Yorkshireman, Bill, took his pipe from his mouth (smoking is allowed as the pub does not serve cooked food) and a hushed silence fell on the room as he pronounced “T’ownly decent mug fer tea is tha own pint pot that’s been kept away from t’missus and ne’er been weshed since t’wer bought.” Since Bill is a big bloke, we all agreed.

So with that gem of wisdom, the survey was over. Almost. Our little group that had conducted this scientifically controlled research was climbers. Quietly, we all agreed that the best cuppa didn’t depend on the container. Any cuppa tastes like nectar after a day at the crag!

So finally, pulling all this together, we came to the conclusion that we Brits are all a little odd when it comes to drinking tea and that the flavour of our national beverage is psychological (explained by a proper academic here). But then you probably knew that anyway.

Photo “Hitkari Fine Bone China Tea cup” is copyright under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License to the photographer Renee V and is being posted unaltered (source)

Originally posted in July 2013 by Kev Woodward