Arts and Culture

“Strong or milky”: Why a cup of tea is such a controversial topic.

By Olivia Carne

Whether you have a cup of tea regularly, occasionally, or not at all, it is undoubtedly a part of your life in some way or another. You may think that this staple of British society is simple to make, and in practice, it is: boil the kettle, add the tea bag, and in goes water, milk, maybe a bit of sugar, then stir. However, a singular cup of tea has the power to spark debates with no resolution. 

One factor to consider when making a cup of tea is the all important milk. Firstly, what type of milk: semi, skimmed, oat, soy, almond? The list goes on. Certain dietary requirements can influence the type of milk a person chooses for their tea. For example, someone on a diet may choose to have skimmed or 0% milk, whereas someone who’s lactose intolerant may prefer a milk alternative. Does the person even want milk? Maybe they prefer their tea without it. There are hundreds of different flavours of tea; herbal, fruity, medicinal, that are meant to be served black. Secondly (and probably more controversially), does the milk go in before or after the water?


Next, and probably the most debate-sparking question: how strong would you like your tea? Do you leave the teabag in or take it out after a few seconds? Do you squeeze the teabag on the side of the mug? There are debates on whether this method actually makes it stronger. The number of unresolved arguments surrounding this subject between friends, family, and colleagues is innumerable. I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve argued (sometimes playfully, sometimes not) with my own friends about it.


Another massive factor contributing to the controversial topic of tea is brand preference. Tetley, Yorkshire, Typhoo, PG Tips, and many others exist in the UK alone, with some supermarkets even creating their own range at a cheaper price. Depending on the brand and where you buy from, the cost can vary considerably. Looking at just one example, Morrisons have created a “savers bag” of 80 teabags for only £1.10, in comparison to their 80 bag box of Yorkshire Tea for £3. 

The marketing and advertising of a tea brand plays a crucial role in its success. Mascots and catchphrases are typically created to make the tea more appealing, like the PG Tips sock monkey or Sean Bean’s feature for Yorkshire Tea, “Do it for Yorkshire”. The more entertaining an advert is, the more likely a customer will buy that brand. The people in charge of marketing and advertising for brands may even need to consider people’s finances when making their decisions. Some may not want to spend a lot on teabags as they’re really mostly paying for the brand name and logo. 

An every day, controversial topic that will unfortunately never be resolved – no matter what people claim, there is no ‘right’ way to make a cup of tea. It all comes down to personal preference and taste.

Categories: Arts and Culture, Politics