You're Probably Making Tea Wrong. Here's Why

When it comes to tea, there are only so many things you can mess up, especially if you don't take it with milk or any sweetener. After all, it's a recipe with just two ingredients, how wrong can you go? According to Spoon University, over-steeping is one way, but the other has to do with how you heat your water. If you so much as glance online, the passion with which people defend their tea-making methods should give you some indication of just how complex a task it really is beneath the surface. 

According to CNN, a recent viral TikTok stirred up some serious controversy between Brits and Americans with regards to how to heat water for tea. Americans (unfortunately) were on the side of microwaving the water, while the British defended the more traditional kettle method, but is one really better than the other? According to a recent Chinese study, the answer is unequivocally yes (and remember, they invented tea way back in 2737 B.C.E., according to Peet's Coffee). So who's right?

You should be making tea in a kettle

According to Chinese scientists the Brits are right, the "correct" way to make tea is still with a kettle, and it has everything to do with convection (via The Guardian). In either an electric or traditional stove-top kettle, the heating process happens from the bottom of the container, and as the liquid heats up it becomes less dense and moves towards the top, allowing the still-cool liquid to move closer to the heat source. The result? Tea that is a consistent temperature all the way through, which just isn't the case when you heat water in the microwave (via CNN).

Microwaves heat the liquid from everywhere at once, which might seem like a good thing, but it's not. That's because it means the convection process doesn't happen at all, so the water at the bottom of the cup or mug is colder than that at the top — and no one wants their tea boiling hot at the top and cold at the bottom (via Mashable). Luckily, there's a scientific solution if you're just not willing to go out and buy a kettle. And believe it or not, it involves putting metal in the microwave.

A new invention will improve microwaved tea

Thanks to this recent study, there is hope for the reputation of microwaved tea, and it lies in a bit of a shocking invention. The solution is a silver plating around the upper half of the cup, which helps direct the microwaves and block the heat from the top of the container, resulting in a more uniformly heated cup of water. While this might sound dangerous, it's located at "weak field strength," which basically means you can put it in the microwave without fear of the cup igniting before you've even had your morning caffeine. Plus, zapping your tea in the microwave might just be healthier than the alternative if you're looking to extract the antioxidants and amino acids, according to Quan Vuong, a researcher at the University of Newcastle in Australia (via Food and Wine).

So, until this new cup technology is readily available, you can either microwave the teabag in the water, as Vuong recommends, or just stir your microwaved water halfway through and once again before adding your tea bag to keep the temperature more consistent throughout, but just know that the rest of the world is probably scoffing at you.