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How do Londoners make their tea?

The water here is so hard!!!! I am using the kettle to make tea in our hotel room and end up with bad stains on the teacup. . . . And I assume on my teeth, unless I brush immediately.

Do cafes and restaurants use filtered water?

The hardness/softness of water depends on region. I come from an area with very hard water, so we make sure not to use the last inch or so of water in the kettle. I don’t know anyone who uses filtered water for making tea. Any staining would come from the tea not from the hardness or otherwise of the water.

The most usual way of making tea is to boil the kettle then pour water that is actually boiling (not just boiled or nearly boiled) on to the tea. Stir, leave for a few minutes to brew, squeeze the teabag, remove teabag (if used), then add milk. Drink. Others may add milk first.

Posted by
4527 posts

You can get tea that has been blended especially for hard water areas although whether your average commercial outlet uses these is another matter.

Hard water makes the tea darker and brings out the flavours so you can try making it a bit weaker or don't mash it so long.

Good point here from Emma, worth emphasising:

If you are drinking your tea black it will be more likely to stain.

Generally speaking, most British people drink tea with milk. Much less staining.

Posted by
4364 posts

I live in a very hard water area. I filter my water to help prevent the buildup of limescale in my kettle and coffee machine but also it prevents the unattractive film on the surface of the tea. My wife drinks her tea black and this is what stains the mugs (the quality of the ceramic has no bearing). If the stain doesn't come out after a hot wash in the dishwasher it will after a brief scrub with a scourer.

By the way, I'm not a Londoner, this problem isn't confined to London!

Posted by
301 posts

"As you can see everyone has an opinion on tea in the UK. How to make it properly is a particularly contentious topic. Think Brexit but more so!"

Although I've never been called a traitor over my stance on Tea.
Coming from "just up the road" from JC , I can confirm that if our water was any harder, it might technically count as a solid !

Posted by
971 posts

Just curious, has anyone tried brewing tea with heavy water?

Posted by
3789 posts

Morton, you can drink heavy water in the short term. Not sure whether heating it would change the composition, however. Question is 'why would you want to?' (My first glib answer was going to be that stained teeth would be replaced with glowing teeth)

Posted by
4527 posts

If you drink tea without milk, then adding a little lemon will neutralise it

Posted by
762 posts

As an American I can say that any cup of tea I've had in my several trips to England, is way better than any I've had in America!!

I love a tea! I have read that Earle Grey was created to be made with hard water, it works for me.

(America can put a man on the moon but still can't make a decent cup of tea!)

Posted by
1280 posts

One thing is always keep in mind the blend of the tea.

The tea bags I have at home are for an area with very soft water. If I used those Scottish Blend bags in London or sounds of Portsmouth the tea would probably be either undrinkable or untasteable.

Posted by
12189 posts

Thank you for your comments. I knew a question about tea would spark quite a conversation!

My understanding is that the stain is caused by the combination of the natural tannins in the tea with the minerals in the water.

When I make tea at home, I use Seattle water which comes straight from the nearby mountains, as rainwater or meltwater. Whether I use tea I brought from England or tea I bought in the US ( always labeled English or Irish Breakfast), I get no stains in our cup. I like to use a cup that is white inside so I can see the beautiful color. At least it is lovely until I add the milk my dentist says I should use to prevent staining ( she is Irish).

But in London now, even when I add milk there is a bad stain in the cup, although it seems a nice quality china cup (we are staying at St. Ermin’s which has good quality furnishings). But maybe there are extra minerals built up in the kettle?

Posted by
971 posts

Maria, maybe some people suffer from a neutron deficiency, that could be aliviated by heavy water tea :-)

Posted by
2624 posts

I agree with Donald, tea always taste better in the UK then here. I
I have never had trouble with tea stains when making tea in London or anywhere in the UK.

Posted by
141 posts

Just curious, has anyone tried brewing tea with heavy water?

I try to pack lighter, so I usually just carry some freeze-dried water.

Posted by
1063 posts

I'm from just up the road from JC, the water around the Portsmouth area comes from chalk aquifers, so it's as hard as you can get. I always filter the kettle water as I won't have to descale it as often

Posted by
4539 posts

But in London now, even when I add milk there is a bad stain in the cup

But doesn’t the stain come out with a little dish soap and a scrub?

Posted by
7919 posts

“The other thing to be aware of is hardwater can affect how your hair drys and styles”

Thank you Emma! I didn’t know this. I’ll be in London soon so good to know.

Posted by
1246 posts

Assuming you are making the tea in a mug, the calcium carbonate in the water, when boiled, "breaks down" and "joins" with tannins from the tea, this floats to the top and coats the cup forming a dark (i.e. tannin stained), chalk ring at the surface. Its much more noticeable in hard water areas, because of more of the salts, than in soft water areas. You should be able to easily scrub it off. Some choose to leave the staining, as they feel it adds to the flavour - similar to how cooks don't scrub clean their dripping bowl.

The thing that Americans tend to get wrong with tea is not realising that the water needs to be boiling when it hits the tea. That’s the difference.

I stayed at a B&B in the States where they proudly announced they had “an electric kettle - for our British guests.” They then proceeded to boil the water, pour it in a mug and then offer me a choice of tea bags. Whereas what they should have done is put the teabag in the mug and pour the boiling water on the teabag.

Posted by
1398 posts

And it's not " a tea" ; it's just "tea".

Posted by
12189 posts

This American knows to make tea with boiling water poured over the tea. At home I make it in a pot with loose tea, but when traveling I must use a teabag in the cup.

Thanks to Nick for explaining the chemistry of the staining. So it is the boiling that causes the calcium carbonate to break down into its component ions, and the Ca++ is the culprit which combines with the tannins. From what I know of natural dyes and mordants (usually mineral ions such as iron or aluminum), that makes perfect sense.

So now we are on the Dorset Coast for some walking, and I just made a cup of tea in our room using the provided kettle and a nice white mug. Given all the chalk in the hills around here (clearly seen in the seaside cliffs) I would expect similar tea to London. But the stain on the mug is so faint as to be barely noticeable.

Posted by
5966 posts

As one American who prefers tea (no milk, please), I appreciate this discussion. While I acknowledge British superiority in tea-making, I think we win in coffee-making. None of that instant Nescafe stuff, for goodness sake.

@Lola, I think the calcium and the carbonate ions are already disassociated in the (cold) water, they just need something else to bind to, and a change in pH (the acid) to precipitate out of solution.

Posted by
9779 posts

How good the tea turns out depends on the type of tea used.

In the U.S., the most popular tea is Lipton which is orange Pekoe. It goes better with lemon than milk. However, if you use "British" tea in the U.S. (PG Tips, Tetley, Twinings, etc.) It will taste like the tea you get in the U.K. That's what I do and the tea is fine.

Tea stains. It's common. But a good wipe from a cloth and the cup is clean. Both coffee and tea stain teeth regardless of the type of water.

I'm also not a fan of instant coffee and will use the kettle in hotel rooms to make a cuppa then go out for a decent coffee.

Posted by
27 posts

To Emma - I come from soft-water Seattle, and have wondered why my hair does not get clean in England. Now I know..... Was in Scotland a month ago, they must have lovely soft water. But, England is still my favorite place. I have wonderful tea from England, but, oh my, does it stain my teeth.

Posted by
4364 posts

While I acknowledge British superiority in tea-making, I think we win in coffee-making. None of that instant Nescafe stuff, for goodness sake.

I don't know anyone under 60 who drinks Nescafe or other instant coffee unless in those rare circumstances that there is no alternative. Coffee in the UK has come on in leaps and bounds over recent years and easily beats the bland, inoffensive drip feed stuff that's been sitting on a hot plate for over an hour favoured in the US. Even Starbucks is poor in comparison to Costa Coffee and certainly when compared to Cafe Nero and then you have the multitude of independent coffee shops taking over every town and city in the UK. I've also found it practically impossible to order an espresso in the US.

On our first few trips to the US during which we were self catering in timeshare apartments I spent an inordinate amount of time in various supermarkets deliberating over which coffee to buy, usually opting for the more expensive 'artisan' brands which always disappointed and as there has never been a kettle in any property I've stayed at in the US my only option has been the awful drip feed machines.

Now I pack my Aeropress and a pack of decent coffee from home and whilst typically relying on boiling a pot of water in the absence of a kettle it's still worth the effort over drip feed coffee.

I have no doubt that there are decent coffee shops in the US, I just haven't found one but the perception that Brits are all drinking instant Nescafe is so outdated I wonder how long it's been that the person who wrote that was last in the UK, 1986 perhaps?

Posted by
27 posts

Emma, thank you. That explains why it was better in Cornwall and Wales.

Posted by
5966 posts

@JC, I wrote that disparaging remark about instant coffee. Humor is always hard to project in posts like this. I was last in the UK in 2017. Not that long ago. Yes, I saw nescafe in at least 2 out of 4 B&Bs I stayed at. I dont doubt that you can find good coffee in the UK. You can also find good tea here in the US. Its just not on everyone's table.

Posted by
4364 posts

@JC, I wrote that disparaging remark about instant coffee. Humor is always hard to project in posts like this. I was last in the UK in 2017. Not that long ago. Yes, I saw nescafe in at least 2 out of 4 B&Bs I stayed at. I dont doubt that you can find good coffee in the UK. You can also find good tea here in the US. Its just not on everyone's table.

OK Stan, yes, humour is often difficult to express in typed posts, that's why I generally use a 'winking' emoticon or smiley face to indicate I'm not being serious.

Yes, you will find instant coffee in many B&B's in the UK and that's because, personally, I think they're a bit of a throwback. I've stayed in a B&B twice in the UK, both occasions the properties came highly recommended but my wife and I found them to be quite dated and old fashioned. I know there are more boutique properties that have moved with the times (I occasionally watch the programme Three In A Bed where B&B owners compete against each other by all spending a night in each other's property and then rating aganst a number of criteria, the winner is the one with the overall best score.) So whilst I accept that there are B&B's that are a bit more modern, better equipped and offer better amenities they are considerably outnumbered by the staid, tired old properties that haven't moved with the times. Instant coffee has been supplied in almost every hotel room I've stayed at, all over the world along with those little pots of UHT milk wihlst others have stepped up their game and provided pod coffee machines.

You’ll find instant coffee in most hotel U.K. rooms simply because it’s easy to make with a kettle. You have to have a kettle in hotel rooms so people can make tea. Some fancy boutique hotels might have a Nespresso machine or similar. I travel with coffee bags (Lyons and Taylor’s make them). Left to brew for the time it takes to have a shower, they give you a decent filter-style coffee.

Posted by
571 posts

I'm with the person who writes stuff. We normally take peppermint tea bags and coffee bags with us, and also buy a small container of skimmed milk, as that is what we prefer. Doesn't matter how cheap or expensive the hotel, you are unlikely to find exactly what you want in your room.

My question is: why do rooms always have mugs of such a design that you cannot put your hand right down inside to clean them?

First world problems again.

Posted by
3551 posts

As a person who has had many excellent cups of British Tea in England for decades, I have discovered the following. I always use loose tea purchased in Britain, always make it in a pre warmedteapot, let it brew for 5 min no more as it will start turning bitter, use a pre warmed mug or tea cup made of pottery only. If u use half half or milk make sure it is room temp.
This is the closest i have come to have a gd cup in SF Bay Area, where our water is considered one of the best. And still it never tastes as good AS IN BRITAIN.
Re Stains that comes from strong tea. A good cup comes from proper ratio of tea to water and time espec. The quickness of a tea bag in a mug, will never cut it, imo.

Posted by
4539 posts

How I hate Pod machines in hotels! Besides the fact that they are appallingly wasteful I can never work out how to operate them.

I so agree. I often bring or buy some herbal teabags so that I can have a caffeine-free hot drink before bed. I’m always bummed when the hotel has a pod machine (and pod tea) instead of a kettle.