Most Common Tea Mistakes
Are you drinking tea wrong? In this article, we’re going to cover the common mistakes people make when preparing tea. While tea preparation is deeply personal and there is no one correct way to do it, there are many ways you can make the tea you drink just a little bit better.
The first mistake people make is making tea from teabags. When you open up a teabag, you’ll find incredibly low quality leaves that have been ground up into tiny pieces. When you drink teabags, you’re getting the leftover leaves from the tea production process. Instead, you want to treat yourself to high quality loose leaf tea, which will have a lot more flavor and nutrients. When it comes to green tea, you’ll also get a more vibrant yellow or green color, rather than the orange or brown color you get from teabags. The flavor of these teabags will tend to be flat and bitter, no matter how well you prepare them. That’s why using loose leaf tea is the most important step when it comes to preparing better tea at home.
The second mistake people make is using water that is too hot. When most people prepare tea, they just use boiling water. This may work for certain types of oolong and black tea, but it can be far too hot for green teas, specifically Japanese green teas. Japanese green teas are very sensitive to temperature, so its best to prepare them using warm water thats much lower in temperature than boiling. We have found that 160 degrees Fahrenheit or around 70 degrees Celsius works best for most Japanese green teas. When it comes to teas like Gyokuro, you may want to go down to 140 degrees Fahrenheit or 60 degrees celsius. The reason for using lower temperature water is because it extracts less of the bitter components from the tea. Even if you use high quality Japanese green tea, it will become very bitter if you brew it with boiling water. By brewing at the right temperature, you’ll be able to extract the sweet and savory theanine from the tea, without extracting the bitter catechins. This will make your tea much smoother.
If you are only able to prepare boiling water, there is a trick you can use to bring the temperature down. By transferring hot water into a cool cup, you will bring the temperature down by approximately 10 degrees C or 18 degrees Fahrenheit. You can take your boiling water and pour it into a series of 3 cups before putting it into your teapot and it should be cool enough to brew most Japanese green tea. This is a trick we learned from tea masters in Japan, who you might see doing this when they prepare tea for guests.
Another mistake people make is brewing the tea for too long. Many beginners add the water to the tea and let it sit for an indefinite amount of time, hoping that the longer they wait, the stronger the flavor will be. While longer steeping times will indeed extract more from the leaves, it will extract more of the bitter components. The amino acids in the tea leaves are extracted relatively easy, with cooler water and less time. The more bitter catechins and polyphenols in the tea take more time or a hotter temperature. Because of this, you can think of the brewing parameters of a tea, almost like a type of recipe. In order to create the best tasting extraction, you want to have a certain ratio of flavors. That is why it is very important to follow the brewing instructions of each tea. For sencha tea, 1 minute is enough time to open up the leaves and extract a good amount of their flavor. For Gyokuro, a more tightly rolled green tea, the leaves need a full 2 minutes to open up and release their flavor.
The one exception for this cold brewing. When you use cool or room temperature water, extracting bitterness is less of a concern, so you can let the leaves brew for 3 hours or even overnight. With the cold brew, you can really play around with the brewing parameters and see which brewing time works best for you.
A fourth mistake beginners make when preparing tea is throwing out the tea after just one brewing. High quality tea leaves are meant to be reused multiple times before being thrown out. Not only does this make your tea supply last longer, it can also lead to a more diverse tea drinking experience. Each steeping is different, and many tea drinkers actually prefer the second steeping. With Japanese green tea, the first steeping tends to be the sweetest, while the second steeping can actually be stronger on these steamed vegetable or grassy notes. The third steeping can be a bit more subtle, depending on the type of tea, with more emphasis on the minerals in the tea. The tea can even get greener in color when going from the first to second brewing.
The final mistake beginners make is not using the right Teaware. This mistake is listed last because it is actually the least important. Prepare tea in a teapot like this clay kyusu teapot is the best way to get the most out of the leaves, but it doesn’t make too much of a difference as long as you are preparing the tea in a loose leaf style. A tea strainer can be a great way to get started in the world of loose leaf tea, although technically the cramped space will not give the leaves quite enough space to fully expand and release their flavor properly. The clay teapot gives the leaves plenty of space to open up, and the clay can even accentuate the flavor and decrease some of the bitterness. Don’t feel as if you need to invest in expensive Teaware right away, it’s more important to focus on getting good tea. For a limited time, we are offering a free teapot for those who sign up for our monthly tea club, or who order our mega sampler. Please check out our website for more details.
Thank you all for reading. I hope you have found this article helpful when it comes to preparing better cups of tea at home. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments below. Until then, we’ll see you next time.