Are you ruining your cup of tea? When you sit down to enjoy your brew does it taste bad? Is it too milky or too sweet? You could probably benefit from learning a bit about how tea brewing mistakes occur and how you can avoid them.
Brewing loose leaf tea can be a meditative process. The calming nature of tea stems from the simple step by step process and the warm, soothing result. It is easy to make mistakes and form bad habits even if you have been making tea for years. Brewing loose leaf requires a tad more patience than your standard tea bag. If you want to know how to brew tea you have come to the right place.
Overall, we want to help prevent you from ruining your cup of tea. Take a look at these 9 easy to follow tips that will ensure that your next cup of tea is a great one.
1. Using Old Tea
You will have a bad tea making experience if you use old and stale tea leaves. Tea leaves do not expire but over time they will lose their vibrancy, flavor, and color. You are more likely to get a weak tasting tea by using old and grey leaves. Dry leaves will last a long time so there is no need to worry. They can be repurposed.
Used tea leaves can be recycled to great effect. “Chagra is, quite simply, used tea leaves that have been dried after they are steeped”(SpruceEats). Chagra can be used in aromatic sachets around the house or as an herbal fertilizer in the garden.
Remember to keep old tea out of your mug. But once you have used your tea leaves do not rush to throw them away!
2. Adding Extremely Hot Water
Subjecting your tea leaves to extremely hot water can ruin your cuppa. It is important to take your time. As we have mentioned making a cup of tea can be a slow and meditative process. Making sure the temperature of your tea is right is imperative if you want to get the best out of your tea leaves.
You should avoid pouring boiling water over your tea leaves. Boiling water will scald or burn your tea and prevent the leaves from releasing their full flavor. Allow the water to sit for a couple of minutes after it has boiled. This will ensure that you get the most from the delicate tea leaves.
3. Adding Unnecessary Milk and Sugar
There is no shame in adding milk and sugar to tea. Especially if you grew up drinking English Breakfast or other bag tea. However, if you are embarking on a loose leaf tea experiment you may want to try it without adding sugar to tea.
A loose-leaf tea without adding milk to tea will be able to more fully develop its flavor. If you really wish to enjoy the true flavor of your tea you will want to leave the milk out.
You should also avoid adding cream or half-and-half to your tea. The cream is too heavy for tea and will dilute the flavor.
4. Bad Ratios
Too much water or too many tea leaves can ruin your cup of tea. It is important to get ratios right.
Regardless of the quality of the tea leaves or the purity of the water too much of either will likely leave you dissatisfied. Loading your cup with too many tea leaves will make your tea bitter. Conversely, being stingy with your tea leaves will make your tea weak and flavorless.
The ideal water-to-leaf ratio is one teaspoon per cup or 2.5g for 150ml. Sticking by this rule will ensure that you neither drown or starve your tea leaves. The process shouldn’t be too mathematical and after a while, you will be able to judge your ratios easily by eye.
5. Steeping Tea for Too Long
Steeping your tea for long can be disastrous. “If the tea leaves are left in the hot water too long, they start releasing tannins, which impart a bitter taste to the tea” (Matthews). Some people like their tea to be bitter. But with everyone, there is a limit and when your tea is overly bitter it can become unsavory.
Many loose leaf teas gain a more nuanced flavor following multiple infusions. Instead of steeping your tea for too long you should try steeping your tea several times. If you have bought a high-quality tea then multiple infusions should reveal subtle flavors that were not initially present.
6. Poor Quality Water
Making a proper brew shouldn’t be too difficult but even simple things like the quality of water can make a huge difference. Most people will make tea with tap water. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with this. However, you can make small improvements to the taste of your brew by using spring or filtered water.
If you live in an area with hard water that may cause a build-up of scale in your kettle this can give your tea a nasty taste. Using filtered water will remove any distasteful variables and ensure that you can make a good cup of tea. After all, tea is mostly water.
To be precise “tea tastes best when the water hardness is between 17–68 ppm, or 1–4 grains. Too high (over 120 ppm), and the tea tastes flat and lacks flavor”(Freshcup)
7. Storing Your Tea Improperly
You can ruin your cup of tea by storing your tea leaves incorrectly. Tea should be stored in a cool, dry and dark place. An airtight container is necessary to ensure that the leaves do not become contaminated.
The best chance of retaining the flavor of your tea leaves is to avoid exposing them to fresh air. You should also store tea away from strong spices that may affect the taste of your tea leaves.
Over time, sunlight will damage the leaves and change their taste so a glass container will not do. Proper storage is an easy step to ensure that your tea has the best chance of tasting great!
8. No Microwaving
Yes, it is convenient but it is a sure way of getting a bad tasting tea. Subjecting your cup of tea to the intense and fast heat of a microwave will ruin your brew. Microwaving is a common tea brewing mistake. Whether you are steeping leaves or using a tea bag the microwave is an inappropriate machine for the job!
It is important to keep all your tea making vessels and utensils clean. Any leftover debris or build-up will affect the taste and reduce the purity of your tea leaves. It may seem obvious but you should always clean your teapot or mug. You may also want to descale your kettle if you have noticed a build-up of limescale.
Ideally, you want to remove any external flavors from the tea making process. It should just be a blend of tea leaves and hot water.
The art of brewing tea has been the subject of rumination by many significant figures over the years. George Orwell once wrote an essay called A Nice Cup of Tea with his own eleven rules about how to make the perfect cup of tea. He echoes some of the key points we mentioned including how important it is to stay clear of overly creamy or heavy milk.
Henry James once wrote that “there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” In so many people’s lives tea plays an important role. It is vital that you develop a tea brewing routine that is devoid of any careless mistakes.
The Perfect Brew
A cup of tea can be the perfect antidote to stress and anxiety during a long day. It is important to make sure your tea brews properly so that you can receive the maximum benefits. It is surprisingly easy to ruin your tea by using old leaves, leaving it to brew for too long or adding unnecessary ingredients.
In many cultures tea holds a precious place. It is a warm and calming beverage that requires precision and patience. Equal pleasure can be derived from a quick cup before work and a relaxing mug before bed. As long as you abide by some crucial tea making rules you will experience a great brew.
We have addressed various tea brewing methods and the best ways to avoid making bad tasting tea. If you follow some of these tips you will surely be brewing great loose leaf tea within no time at all!
How do you take your tea?
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