What is the correct method for brewing a cup of tea? This question has diverse answers, but only one is the official British standard.
The British Standards Institution (BSI), known colloquially as "the BSI," released this tea standard. Officially named "Method for Preparation of a Liquor of Tea for Use in Sensory Tests," it has its own number: BS 6008.
BS 6008 has remained unaltered since 1980, is six pages long, and is worth £24 per copy. Liquor in the title is often misinterpreted by those not in the tea business; the BSI clarifies the usage as "a solution prepared by extraction of soluble substances."
So, what does it mean to make a cup of tea? The standard states that tea is prepared by "extracting soluble substances in dried tea leaf from a porcelain or earthenware pot by freshly boiling water, then pouring the liquor into a white porcelain or earthenware bowl." The pot must have a partially serrated edge with a loose-fitting lid. BS 6008 includes instructions for making tea with or without milk.
Here we present the abridged version of BS 6008:
– Use 2g of tea (plus or minus 2%) for every 100ml of water
– Water hardness affects tea flavor and appearance
– Fill the pot 4mm-6mm below the brim with freshly boiling water
– Infuse for six minutes with the lid on
– Add 1.75ml of milk per 100ml of tea
– Pour tea through the leaves to prevent mixing with milk
– Pour tea on top of milk to avoid scalding the milk. For best results, when adding milk last, make sure the liquid has a temperature of 65C-80C.
The BSI publishes over 15,000 standards covering various aspects of commercial and daily life. The tea standard succeeds BS 6007 (Rubber-Insulated Cables for Electric Power and Lighting) and precedes BS 6009 (Hypodermic needles for single use: Colour coding for identification).
BS 6008 encompasses literature, propriety, and teatime with its hot, steamy prose, setting at least a technical standard for everyone to follow. The British Standards Institution was awarded the 1999 Ig Nobel Prize in Literature for their six-page classic.