Tea Lore: Stop your microwave so the mug handle points outwards

Posted on by Mike Evans

How do you make sure that the handle of a mug on a microwave carousel always stops at the front so you can grab it? I’d not thought much about this. I’m fairly unscientific in such things.

Not so the indefatiguable Dr. Drang of From what I know, his life is ruled by a set of certainties and nothing happens by chance. The answer, provided you have the same model of microwave as Dr.D, is set it to run for 2’ 40”. Ten seconds less and the handle will be at the back where its difficult to grab. Fifteen seconds less and the water will not be boiling.

All this scientific prestidigitation is in the interests of a good cup of tea. Dr.D has brewing down to a fine art, involving a precise time for dunking the bag and then introducing three ice cubes (two are too few, four too many) to bring the temperature down to drinkable levels. I am in awe.

Avoid the string

I subscribe to the traditional British brewing method, although I can’t be bothered faffing around with loose tea and strainers. No, I am happy with the simplest and cheapest of supermarket tea bags (Tetley, PG Tips, for instance) and a pretty unstructured methodology.

The Kit, from left: (1) Milk, (2) Mug, note strategic placing of handle, (3) spoon and cheap Tesco teabag sans string, (4) 3 Kw Krups kettleAs with most people I know, I avoid like the plague any bag on a string. These over-engineered artifacts are strictly for foreigners, particularly in continental Europe where their general idea of a cup of tea consists of a glass of lukewarm water and a prettily stringed and labelled tea bag waiting hopefully in the saucer.

Few people, at least to my knowledge, would mess around boiling water in a microwave. Whatever next? No, we are all equipped with the good old electric kettle. My 3Kw device boils a mugful of water in 50 seconds, thus beating Dr. D by good margin[1] in the teabag Olympics.


Warm the mug under the hot tap, pop in a teabag and then pour in the water from the kettle just at boiling point. Everyone knows that a couple of degrees lower and the tea will not brew properly. The memsahibs brought that bit of wisdom back to the old country from their husbands’ tours of duty in Ceylon.

My mug handle always remains in the optimum position. It’s a knack I possess.

All I then have to do is fish out the bag, squeezing it gently against the side of the mug to extract the optimum flavour, then add a drop of milk. Bliss. And as for Dr.D’s ice cubes: there I draw the line. I blow on the tea instead.

  1. While not an expert on matters of physics, on which I defer to Dr. Drang, I believe kettles boil faster on 240 volts than is the case in the USA on 110 volts. Dr.D will have a formula to prove or disprove this hypothesis. It could be that the microwave is quicker if you are stuck with low voltage. My evidence is that friends in the USA have installed 240-volt circuits in their kitchens in order to use speedy high-voltage appliances imported from Europe, Australia or other 240-volt countries.


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