The only important thing about the water is that it be boiling. Tea cannot be made with hot water. There's a cartoon where Sally makes Charlie Brown Linus makes Lucy a cup of cocoa. See footnote! He tastes it and says yuk, this cocoa is terrible. Sally looks into it and wonders whether she should add another brown crayon. If you make a drink with hot water, use whichever is cheaper out of tea and brown crayons: that's the only difference. Tea, real tea, that is black tea, is made with boiling water.

It does, ideally, improve it if it's freshly boiled, but so it does if it's hard or soft or Scottish spring water, but you don't need to care. In fact, Melrose the Scottish tea company do do a couple of blends that are specially made for purer Highland water conditions: Scottish Breakfast and Dundee; and it's been ages since I had either, and I've never had them in Scotland, and they tasted wonderful wherever I was. Don't fuss about the water. Don't boil the kettle dry, don't let it bubble away for five minutes, but it's only water.

If you don't like tea you can drink coffee, cocoa, or brown crayons. If you don't like tea with the milk in first you can drink tea with the milk in last. It doesn't matter. They're both good drinks, they just taste different. They're chemically different. Pouring a big glob of boiling liquid onto a small flat quantity of milk lying there like a sacrificial victim causes proteins to alter in such-and-such a way. Whereas if the hot tea is in the cup first, its large surface means it's cooling rapidly, and a gravity-fed stream of milk hitting it from above is going to diffuse through it in a different way.

It is bitterer if you put the milk in last. I prefer it that way and I usually drink it that way, but sometimes I put the milk in first, for a change, just as, although preferring Royal Blend or Assam, I sometimes have Rose Pouchong or Prince of Wales or Irish Breakfast for a change. The milk doesn't matter either.

If you want really bitter, you leave milk out altogether. Because this is so nasty, and such a shock to the system, it can only be done with very weak teas, such as Gunpowder, Darjeeling, Lemon, and Jasmine. It may be noted that Mr Richard Twining, current scion of the tea establishment in the Strand, puts milk in his Lapsang Pouchong. I hesitate to do this myself, but I do consider Earl Grey to be (just) strong enough to admit milk.

The important thing is... has anyone noticed what is missing from the discussion so far? Tea. Use good tea. Good tea is not distinguished from bad tea by checking whether it comes loose or in bags. Supermarkets sell floor-sweepings loose under brand names like Lipton and PG Tips... I believe... I gather. Not something I would put near my body myself.

Good tea comes in tea bags, among other things. It comes in 250 g packets, it comes in 500 g presentation tins, it comes in little sampler tins wrapped up by sixes to take back to wherever you came from whenever you're not blocking Fortnum & Mason's ground floor front counters...

The truly important thing is that the best tea comes from Fortnum & Mason's. This is not a snob thing, I'm not saying buy it from Harrods or Calvin Klein, they really do have superb, exquisite teas, vastly vastly better than the usual run of Twinings and Whittards and Jacksons that are all you can commonly get. The Royal Blend is to die for: the Assam Golden Broken Orange Pekoe likewise, the Rose Pouchong is so much more flavoursome than other people's attempts.

When I've been overseas it's been easier to get other good brands than it is here: I wish I could find a steady supply of Melrose, the already mentioned Scottish ones as well as their Her Majesty's Blend.

Water, milk, cups, don't matter at all compared to this. Melrose's Her Majesty's Blend in a chipped tin mug with the milk squirted into it through a straw is infinitely better than loose PG Tips in a penthouse apartment with a butler to fool you into thinking you're onto something.

WyldWynd below has admirably covered the topic of which kind of milk, but a rather more serious issue has arisen: Pseudo_Intellectual thinks it might have been Linus who served the brown crayon to Lucy, and I respect his memory for such things. Hm.