Tea experts blast PG Tips’ new one-minute tea bag

Forget the “milk first?” question, a hot new tea debate is brewing. Where do you stand?

It cost £50 million to develop and it promises a perfect cuppa in just one minute, but news of PG Tips’ new tea bag has left purists steaming with anger.

Many tea lovers are sceptical about how you could possibly brew the perfect cup in 60 seconds – and why anyone would want to. But PG Tips spent two years on its new creation after its own research showed that 85% of tea lovers leave their bag in for less than a minute – and, shockingly, nearly half bin it after 30 seconds.

Although the new bag will please teapot-avoiders, people who savour the brewing process have been left stewing at the thought of the quick fix. It’s no wonder the new bag is stirring up such controversy, because the tea-making process has always been riddled with debate. 

Milk first? Dip or stew? And the internet is awash with tea colour charts, as arguments rage over what constitutes the perfect hue.

Cup of tea and biscuitsCredit: Shutterstock / jkjainu

“It’s called a tea break for a reason”

The UK is still a nation of tea lovers: people drink 100 million cups of the good stuff every day and the health benefits of a cup of tea are well documented. PG Tips’ new bag, which is square with plenty of room for those luscious leaves to infuse, is designed as a quick fix. But shouldn’t the tea-making ritual be slow and relaxing? Many purists think so.

Course director at the UK Tea Academy Jane Pettigrew told The Times: “I really abhor this kind of ‘innovation’. It is not progress but a massive retrograde step backwards in what tea should be.

“We relish the three or four minutes it takes to brew a real cup of tea and benefit from the zen-like spirit of tea – the slow brewing of tea creates a magical few minutes in a busy, sometimes frantic day.

The Afternoon Tea Expert Eileen Donaghey, who drinks seven cups a day and knows a thing or two about how to make the perfect cuppa, agrees. “I’m quite sad to see a tea bag that takes away this precious ritual that we have. It’s called a tea break for a reason,” she told Saga Exceptional.

“If you ask me the best way to make tea, I will always say loose leaf tea gives you the best flavour that you’re not likely to get with a tea bag.

“Using a tea bag takes the joy out of making a cup of tea. Part of the fun of it is putting the kettle on, letting it boil and getting everything ready. Sometimes you don’t even want a cup of tea, but you want to go through that ritual and it gives you a natural pause in your day.”

Donaghey admits she does use a tea bag if she just wants a quick cuppa at home. “But I would let it brew for the recommended amount of time. You’re taking three to four minutes for a good brew,” she said. “I’d be interested to try this new tea bag, but I don’t think I’d use it very often.”


The big question: milk first?

As you’d expect from a purveyor of such a sophisticated practice as afternoon tea, Donaghey is knowledgeable and polite. But there is one suggestion that makes her let out an enormous gasp: the idea of being a milk-first person.

“I posted a video about this on my Instagram and I had people saying: ‘Absolutely no way. I’m so shocked, this makes me feel ill.’ From a practical point of view, you want to see the strength of the tea before you gradually add milk,” she said.

“But if we look at the history behind it, when porcelain first came to the UK, not everyone could afford it so they’d use cheaper, earthenware cups. The cup would crack when they poured in the hot tea, so they’d have to put a splash of milk in to act as a barrier, so people would say, ‘They’re very cream-first’ because they couldn’t afford to buy porcelain. It’s a bit of an olden-days dig.”

Then there’s the great tea bag dipping debate. Should you keep dunking or just let the tea stew of its own accord? Donaghey is very clear on this: “If you’re using a bag, there’s no need to dunk it. No swirling, you just leave it for two minutes and keep an eye on it. As you’re coming up to the three-minute mark, give it a stir to see if it’s the colour you’d expect. You don’t need to squish it up against the side of the cup.”

Tea colour often stirs up a heated debate, but Donaghey knows which hue of brew she’s aiming for. “A milky cup of tea can be awful, so don’t make that mistake. You’re looking to achieve a rich, brown colour, definitely on the opposite end of the scale to pale and milky,” she said. “I’d describe it as stained oak.”

Hannah Verdier

Written by Hannah Verdier


Hannah Verdier writes about fitness, health, relationships, podcasts, TV and the joy of reinventing yourself at 50 and beyond. She’s a graduate of teenage music bible Smash Hits and has a side hustle as a fitness trainer who shows people who hated PE at school how to love exercise.

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