The delicate tale of the perfect cup of tea
Have you ever wondered why your tea sometimes will have an unpleasant taste or even strange taste all of a sudden? There are many reasons for this to happen and the blame should not always go entirely on the tea itself. In some instances, the tea quality had nothing to do with it. Here are some of the causes which could contribute to a less than perfect cup.
Water as the major ingredient can have a very evident effect on the outcome. Water for tea should be fresh and clean. Believe it or not, some tap water is just not suitable for your tea. For instance, hard water tends to dull the taste of the water as it has extra minerals and salts. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it's unsafe to drink but I’m saying, its texture affects the end result of the tea.
Also, water temperature plays a major role. For instance, green tea should not be made with boiling temperature. Perfect temperature for making green tea is 75 -80 degrees Celsius. At this temperature, you are sure to get the best flavors out of the tea. Going beyond tends to burn out some of the flavors and oils.
This applies most especially to loose leave tea but its so important that the tea be portioned correctly with the right ratios of tea:water. If you use too much water, your tea will be too watery and blunt and too much tea will make your tea bitter or acidic. Both ways the taste will be off. It’s always good to check on the packaging what ratio which your tea should use as the ratios might differ from tea to tea. Another thing to note is that even tea bags have an idea portion of water to serve with, a tiny teabag in a giant pot is never going to give you the idea result.
Shall we talk about reusing tea bags? Um, don’t.
This is the most important part of making tea. If the brewing time is not observed, you don’t get the perfect taste that you looking for in a tea. Fortunately, tea houses now write on their packaging the brewing time recommendations in order to help you achieve the best flavors and taste.
Tea is a very sensitive brew. If you brew tea for too long, you over extract it and face risk of getting a bad taste. If you under extract the tea, you get watery and blunt, as you didn’t give the tea enough time to infuse and mix with the hot water.
For Black tea we usually recommend 3-5 minute brew and for green tea we recommend 2-3 minute brew. Herbal and fruit teas, are perhaps the least fussy customers, the very simple secret is: the longer the better. They tend to start to release flavour after 5 mins. We always recommend to follow the instruction on your tea packaging.
Such an easy, simple yet often neglected issue: Before serving tea, make sure you give your teapot a good rinse with hot water before using. Not only does this helps you to avoid unwanted particles or unwanted stale smells from the teapot, but also pre-warms your pot, keeping your tea at its ideal brewing temperature. One must make sure that the tea pot is also properly rinsed of any cleaning agents after washing it.
Believe it or not the teacup does have some form of effect on the taste. Tea should be enjoyed in a thin, smooth surfaced cup. A smooth surface keeps the natural tannins in your tea from sticking to the inside of your tea cup. Which is different from a regular coffee mug. Often mugs tend to be more porous, the issue with porosity in the mug is that it will absorb and retain aromas and flavours of your previous drinks. The thin rim is also designed so that the drink can roll off the cup's edge and onto your tongue more easily, utilizing all of your taste buds.
Sometimes the tea tastes funny because of a simple thing like what you had in your mouth moments before. Simple things like toothpaste residue, gum, a dish you just ate, orange juice etc tends to affect the taste.
How you store your tea can play a part in the taste as well. If tea is stored badly it loses its flavours and aromas and while tea rarely expires it does deteriorate from optimal.
Keep your tea out of light, ideal in a cool dark environment. Light sets off a reaction that destroys the antioxidants of the tea hence stripping not only the flavor of the tea but the color as well. So, it’s best to store your tea in a dark cupboard or light blocking container.
The tea container should also be airtight. Tea leaves tend to absorb whatever is roaming in the air. So, through absorbing this moist, it tends to affect the tea drastically, as sometimes you have strong foods cooking or chemicals in the atmosphere.
The worst tea killers of all time are sweeteners and flavorings, they change completely the profile of the tea, another controversial topic is lemon – while often quite traditional, from a flavour profile point of view, most tea’s will lose their subtle notes to an acid bath. Some killers differ from tea to tea, for instance, black tea, you can add a bit of milk and tastes great however milk in pure green loose-leaf tea does not work. Worse yet, some fruit and herbal teas can curdle milk – it’s not pretty, just trust me.
These pointers and tips might help you diagnose what is happening with the taste of your tea. And sometimes, maybe it’s simply because you bought bad quality tea or even that you not a tea person at all. For some of us, a cup of tea restores normality. You can’t buy happiness, but you can definitely buy tea.