The Top Seven Mistakes Tea Drinkers Make

 

 

Do you recognize any of your tea drinking habits in the following list?

Learn how to take your tea drinking to the next level with a few simple adjustments.

Many tea drinkers commonly…

  • Think grocery store herb “tea” bags are drinking tea. While the trend is S.L.O.W.L.Y. changing, the majority of tea sold in the grocery store is not tea, but the “dust and fannings” of herbs. Tea bags were invented 100 years ago as a way to send samples to customers, but tea was drunk 5000 years without the bag. The trend of the teabag caught on, but severely affected the quality of what was placed inside the bags. If you only drink herbs, you have never drank tea. If you’ve only drank Lipton black tea bags, you are drinking the lowest quality tea available, the crumbs of the tea leaf, made to infuse very quickly. If you are committed to the teabag, look for the Mighty Leaf brand. It is more widely available in looseleaf and “tea pouches”

 

  • Use tea strainers that are too small.
      So, if you’ve graduated to looseleaf tea, but use the mesh strainer the size of a super-ball to brew your tea, you most likely need a bigger strainer. The tea mesh-balls we all seem to own in the backs of our kitchen drawer mean you can brew one cup of tea at a time. Tea leaves need plenty of room to expand, they double in size to release their full flavor. I recommend using a tea sock or sac for brewing looseleaf tea. The sacs are disposable and the tea sock reusable and can be used no matter what size of pot you are brewing.
      • Use tap or microwaved water. Tea is mostly water. Lousy water means lousy tea. All the chemical aftertaste of tap water and the “tinny-ness” of microwaved water will greatly affect tea’s subtle tastes and nuances. Cold, filtered water makes the best tea.

       

       

      • Burn or rust out the bottom of their teakettles.A good tea kettle is not inexpensive. Many times I have gone to fill someone’s kettle and seen it rusted out on the inside. First, be sure to not leave your pot boiling until the water is gone. Secondly, especially if you don’t use it often, empty your teakettle of any unused water every time. I also leave my tea kettles lid ajar after I empty it, so it can air dry.

       

      • Use the wrong water temperature, boil the water too long, or brew the tea too long. The most common mistake is over-boiling water for green tea, one of the latest health food crazes. Green tea needs a rapid steaming water, but NOT BOILING. It will taste like an overcooked vegetable. Green teas only need two minutes of brewing. Black teas only need 3-4 minutes and almost boiling water for brewing. Over-brewed tea will taste bitter. If you put on your kettle and go upstairs to make your bed and leave the kettle boiling, oxygen is rapidly being released from your water and the result will be a flat-tasting tea. Know the water temp and steeping (brewing) times of your teas and honor them.

       

      • Use cream or half-n-half in their tea instead of milk. Cream and half-n-half are too “heavy”. Again, the subtlety of the tea flavor only needs a touch of milk. Many a large tea party fund-raiser has spent too much money providing half-n-half instead of milk to the guests.

       

      • Do not store their tea properly. Tea needs to be protected from heat, light, moisture, and other flavors. The best storage is a tea tin in a cupboard away from the stove. If you put your Earl Grey tea next to your spices, you will end up with a cinnamon-flavored Earl Grey (or chili powder-flavored!). If you see tea in glass jars out on the shelf when you go to buy your looseleaf tea, this is not ideal! Unless the store turns over their tea VERY QUICKLY, the freshness of your tea has been compromised. Don’t store your tea over your stove to easily grab once the kettle is boiling. Never store tea in the refrigerator.

       

      Other helpful articles on tea:

      The Elegance of Display Teas

      Tea, The Most Important Ingredient

      The Subtle Tastes of Oolong

       

      Tea Party Girl Asks: ¬†Which of these “tea truths” surprised you? What part of your tea drinking habits do you need to change? Is there any other mistakes you’ve noticed that we need to add to the list?


      Comments

      1. Jamie says:

        Well, I agree with all except #3, and part of #5. Though the common advice is not to use tap water, the truth (for me, anyways) is that some teas really brighten up with the extra minerals and such found in tap water, and some taste better with the lighter filtered water. It completely depends on the tea, and there are some that I really dislike when brewed with filtered water, but really enjoy with tap water. So this is more of a personal thing…not to be taken as “gospel truth”, but more of a guideline. I’ve tasted many teas both ways, and for me, some teas really are better with water from the tap (depending on where you live, of course). Keep in mind that most bottled water is just tap water from somewhere else…

        As for #5…Black tea really does need a full boil on the water to bring out all the flavors, and 3-5 minutes brewing, depending on how strong and which tea you’re brewing (I brew most of mine for 5, only a few for 4). It’s a matter of taste, not of hard, fast “truth”, in my opinion.

        Other than that, I think you hit them all. :-)

      2. Ah, Jamie, I can imagine Montana’s tap water is fabulous. I’m reminded that my main concern is the standard chlorine that is in almost all tap water and reminding people to consider the source.

        Tea is an art And a science for sure, and many tea drinkers like yourself do enjoy longer brewing times. I know many more people who over-brew than under-brew, so that’s where I emphasized.

        Thanks for your input.

      3. Jamie says:

        Actually, not all Montana tap water is “fabulous” – it’s a selective process. Different cities have different processes, so it’s still a subjective thing, depending mainly on taste and where you’re at. I’d imagine that goes just about anywhere in the country, really – I know it was true in Maryland as well. :-)

      4. Travel Betty says:

        Wow, I’ve been drinking tea ALL wrong! Have pretty much broken all of your rules. You’ve inspired me to go to a local tea house here in San Francisco and see how it’s really done!

        Thanks for the insight :)

      5. Rebecca says:

        I was wondering what you think of those new pyramid tea bags. At my sister’s bridal tea my grandmother had a fancy variety & they were delicious. I saw some at the store today, herbal lipton {I think}. So what’s your take on those? Is there a noticeable difference between bag brewing & pyramid brewing?

      6. Rebecca, I think the pyramid bags are an improvement over the flat tea bags. They ARE more elegant.

        The key lies with the tea inside. The pyramid bags are more expensive, I believe, and the tea quality as well might be higher. I like encouraging people to find quality tea and if the pyramid bags provide it, great!

        Looseleaf is usually more economical in the long-run, though.

        Thanks for asking!

      7. T Betty, great to hear from you! I will be visiting your lovely city this weekend and plan to spend some time tea exploring, as SF provides so many options.

        We must be sure to share our finds!

      8. dew says:

        Oh my goodness, these all made me shudder! I knew I was a tea snob, but if people really do drink tea this way (Lipton! With half-and-half! Microwaved!) then I just have to be happy I’m not there to watch, because my face would be screaming WHAT! ARE YOU DOING! even if I could keep my mouth quiet.

        My pet peeve is when you order tea at a restaurant and cafe and they put loose leaves into your teapot with no way for you to get them out, so while your first cup is nice but a little leafy, later cups are all stewed and bitter.

      9. Abby says:

        You have me convinced and I want to try my hand at using loose-leaf tea. Where do you recommend I order it from?

      10. Hi Abby,

        Thank you for your question! I need to make my recommendations more easily available. For now, I recommend starting with my series, “How to Choose a Tea”. You can find it on my archives page or by typing “How to Choose” in my search box at the top of the home page. In the meantime, I will get my recommendations listed in “Best of Tea Party Girl” pronto!

      11. Penelope says:

        Goodness – I always thought making tea was such a simple business, although I must admit that very few people make it the way my family do. Put a spoonful of leaf tea in a cup, pour on boiling water, stir, waait, add milk.
        By ‘eck it’s good

      12. Hello!
        Thank you for the encouragement you gave me at the Sonlight forum about starting my blog. I’ve been so busy with it, I hadn’t seen your answer to my announcement in December until today.

        I invite you to come back for another visit.

        I’m definitely coming back to visit you here. You have so much great information and so many great ideas to share.

        God bless!

        Laura

      13. yolanda says:

        Believe it or not, I didn’t know that about tea bags but your info sure clears up all of my frustration with them! I just haven’t been able to find a tea I like at the grocery store in years. I must say that when I was growing up Tetley and Red Rose tea bags tasted way better than they do now. They must have gradually gotten worse over the years and all the while I thought my memory was just serving my badly. I’m going out to find some real tea leaves & brew them like my grandmother used to. Thank you very much!

      14. Thanks for all the wonderful tea tips! What a wonderful find :)

      15. Tim says:

        These are always good reminders. I myself am guilty of using tap water, as my bachelor fridge is too small to keep a pitcher of filtered water inside along with the basics. Regarding #5: I have been reading recently about the tea-drinking culture in East Frisia the the northwestern part of Germany, and I have read they flavor their strong, black tea with rock sugar (“kluntjes”) and a heavy cream rather than milk. I must admit this sounds good to me, given that I like milk in my black tea, and I’d be curious to taste it in the East Frisian manner. Perhaps their blend of black tea is strong enough to support the cream. I have read the tea is very strong.

      16. Ann B. Pennewill says:

        Regarding #7 of your do’s and don’t's, I bought individual 1 ounce glass jars (with screw-on metal lids) from the Container Store (they are noted for tea storage). I have about 25 different flavors. Are these really bad, as you said to use tin. Thanks.

      17. Tiffany says:

        You’ve inspired me! I’m planning a tea for a group of mothers with all boys and was seriously thinking about serving coffee! I know…teribble! I’m off to find some good tea varieties tomorrow and just made myself a cup of tea to end the evening….. granted it is a Stash tea bag! =) I can’t wait to try the “good stuff” tomorrow night! Thanks and your site has been a wealth of information as I’m just starting to plan! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

      18. Clipper says:

        Fill kettle
        Boil
        Pour onto tea bag immediately
        Stir, stir, squeeze
        Enough milk so its khaki colour
        Now you have your nice cup of tea made the British way and are all ready for sit down. Preferably with a biscuit to dunk.

      19. Mrs. U says:

        Boy do I agree about filtering the water!! Well, at least, it depends on where you live. I grew up in Atlanta and we had “city water” and I never knew anything different. When I married my husband almost 10 years ago, I moved to a tiny town and we had (and still do have) well water. I had NO idea the taste of chlorine was so strong in city water!! Now I daily enjoy glasses of very clean and clear well water and BOY does my tea taste all the better for it!!!

        I just found your site today and I AM IN LOVE!!!! I love tea and I love reading and learning more!!! Keep up the great work!

        His,
        Mrs. U

      20. Hi Jenny
        I would agree that storage is important, I keep mine in a nice tin. In England if you look around you can buy tea in an attractive tin, then when the tin is empty you can fill it with a tea that you like.

      21. Mike Prince says:

        I agree with your list. A couple of things I do.

        1.Buy gunpowder “tight-rolled” green tea. They say it stays fresher.

        2.I brew my tea in a 12 cup coffee maker. This way fresh water doesn’t boil, but is does steam across the leave in the copper filter I use.

        3.And tea leaves can be used more than once, each time getting a melllower brew. I use 3 table spoons loose gun powder tea to a 12 cup coffee maker.

        I usually drink my cold, so 3-4 table spoons makes 2 gallons for me. :)

      22. Dave Lane says:

        You are right on about the water temperature, but what is interesting is how complex this can get. I mainly drink black, Oolong, and pu-erh teas. The black and pu-erh can both take boiling water well, but with the Oolongs you really have to find the right temperature for each tea which can be anywhere from 170-190 degrees. I drink a lot of Chinese Oolongs and with some of them the first infusion tastes best with 170-180 degree water, but as I do subsequent infusions I raise the water temperature to get all the flavor out. By the four or fifth infusion the water might be 200 degrees to extract maximum flavor. My favorites are Eastern Beauty, DaHongPao, TiGuanYin, Dan Cong, Shui Xian, and Rou Gui. It is amazing that you can order these teas directly from China via eBay. The only thing I don’t fully agree with is storage in glass jars. I keep my teas in my pantry that never gets any direct sunlight and I have teas that are 2 years old or more in mason jars that are perfectly fine. Also, for the pu-erh teas (especially the green ones) you have to store in an open container so that it will slowly oxidize over many years. Obviously you want it away from anything that has strong aroma, but it does need some air exchange to properly age. Great job and interesting read. Thanks.

      23. Melissa says:

        Hi – here’s a question – I understand that overheating and refrigeration are extremes to which tea should bot be subjected. However, we live in a hundred year old house in the American South, and we do not have air conditioning. In other words, during the summer months, inside our house can reach temperatures upwards of 80-85 degrees; sometimes slightly warmer. What, if anything, can we do short of using air conditioning nits in every window (which we will not do)?

      24. Coolidge Lo says:

        great article, i definitely enjoy this website, keep it.

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