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The Science Against Making Tea in a Microwave

A current topic that is sure to start an argument is how to make tea. Should one use a tea kettle, or just put a cup of water in the microwave? I use the barbaric American method of microwaving the water, because I need some hot caffeine in a hurry, and I already have a microwave that needs to justify its continued existence. Really, is there a difference in hot water made by one method or the other? Yes, according to research from the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China.

Typically, the study describes, if you're warming a liquid like water on the stove or within a kettle, the heating source warms the container from below. This is when a process called convection happens, when the liquid at the bottom of the container warms up, diminishes in density, and moves to the top, letting the remaining cooler liquid to get access to the sweet, sweet heating source below. This results in even, uniform temperature throughout the container.

But if you're throwing your cup of water in the microwave for 90 seconds, like the researchers did, the device's electric field heats it from all angles, not just from below, so while the top part of the cup's water may be sitting at boiling point, the bottom may not. "Because the entire glass itself is also warming up, the convection process does not occur, and the liquid at the top of the container ends up being much hotter than the liquid at the bottom," reads the study.

This is crucial, since the temperature of the water affects the taste of the tea. However, different types of tea require different temperatures. The researchers came up with a solution, which is to invent a new gadget you can put on top of your cup while you microwave it. I think it might be simpler to just use a spoon to stir the water after microwaving it, and then see if the homogenized water is hot enough. Your microwave time can be adjusted accordingly. Read the findings on this important subject at Mashable.

(Image credit: Liebesland)

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They serve part of the same function but only a very limited part (like any coffee machine). And also produce terrible coffee in my experience. Maybe I am being as biased against it as I think others are against instant (though I have visited the US and had what I was told is "good" drip filter coffee, and have tried them here also), but they seem a poor compromise: doing only part of the job and doing that part badly ).
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