LONDON MOL - It should help end the debate around the office kettle. Although Britain drinks 165 million cups of tea a year, there is little agreement on how it should be served.

In a bid to settle the centuries old argument, scientists have now got together to formulate a step-by-step guide for the perfect cup of tea. And whether you prefer to brew your breakfast in a mug or teapot, there is one area in which the experts unanimously agreed - for the best results steer clear of disposable cups.

Speaking on the chemistry of tea, Professor Andrea Sella from University College London said the perfect cuppa is about ‘patience, love and care’.

But he said the smooth surface of a china cup or mug made not only keeps the natural tannins in the tea from sticking to the side, but the sounds, such as the teaspoon clinking against its hard surface were ‘comforting’.

‘You want a smooth, impervious surface, you don’t want cup to bind the tannins. And also from a psychological aspect, it provides a lovely association of things like drinking tea with your grandmother which foam cups do not.’

Using freshly drawn water in the kettle ensures the tea can express its full flavour, as repeated boiling reduces the oxygen content and makes the water harder, giving the brew a chalky film.

Simon Hill, tea buyer from Taylors of Harrogate said: ‘Always use freshly drawn water, as the longer it boils, the less oxygen it has and the less flavour the leaves impart. And as for temperature, let the kettle come to the boil and click off. Then give it a few seconds before pouring.’

Controversially, although harder water - common in the south and east of the country - results in a residue forming on the tea’s surface, for many connoisseurs it produces a better cup. ‘

Although it doesn’t look nice, you may get a bit more flavour and body from the minerals reacting with the tea,’ said Mr Hill.

Temperature also plays a crucial role, with the experts advising drinkers wait a few seconds before pouring the almost boiling water on the tea. For more delicate teas, such as green and white, waiting for the kettle to cool to 80c is essential to ensure the leaves are not damaged.