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Did you know that green teas, black teas, white teas, oolongs, puehrs, and matcha, all come from the same plant? Even though they look different in your cup, and taste different in your mouth, the tea leaves are all harvested from the tea plant: Camellia sinensis. The reason they all taste different is because of the way the leaves are processed after being harvested.
But no matter how the leaves are processed, they all have one thing in common: they contain tannins, a compound found in many plant-based foods that you consume regularly: tea, wine, coffee, and chocolate. The tannins found in tea are highly antioxidant, and are responsible for tea’s ability to protect against disease, which is a good thing.
The bad news: these tannins are what gives tea a bitter taste.
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So How Do I Take The Bitterness Out Of My Tea?
The answer: it all comes down to how you brew it. (And more importantly, that you’re using high quality tea.) Here is what you need to know:
Oops, I Steeped It Too Long
Just like life, when it comes to tea, timing is everything. The main reason you end up trying to choke down bitter-tasting tea because darn it, it’s healthy, is that you probably left the tea in the water for too long. Unlike many herbal teas, you simply cannot leave green or black tea steeping while you hop in the shower or fold the laundry.
Green tea + 5 or more minutes = ugh, get that out of my face
Green tea + 30-120 seconds = yum, I never knew green tea tasted so fresh, nutty, and grassy
You can buy a digital tea timer, set the timer on your stove, or just use the timer on your smart phone, and don’t stray too far while the tea brews. There is a fine line between perfectly steeped, where all of the good stuff – flavors and aromas – are extracted, and a cup of bitter, astringent, undrinkable liquid. Busy people: block off that minute-and-a-half on your calendar so you can make a great cup of tea. One to three minutes is all it takes. Remember, you can always brew longer, but you can’t unbrew a bitter tea.
Uh Oh, The Water Was Too Hot
While black teas and puehr can handle high water temperatures (just under boiling), the other teas: green tea, oolong, and white tea, cannot. Water that is too hot leaches the tannins out quickly, which will ruin the taste of your tea. If you’re serious about becoming a tea drinker, then do yourself a favor and invest in one of those adjustable temperature kettles, or, even fancier, a programmable Breville tea maker that allows you to select the perfect water temperature and steep time for your tea. However, if you’re on a budget, or just starting out and you’re not sure tea is your thing, here is what you can do to make sure you're using the correct water temperature:
- Boil your water.
- Remove it from the heat.
- Wait five to fifteen minutes.
- You’re good to go.
Dang, I Used Too Much Tea
A question that I frequently hear from people who are new to drinking loose leaf tea: how much tea should I use? The answer is simple: the ratio is one teaspoon of tea for every cup of water. By “cup”, I mean a literal cup like a measuring cup, which is 8 ounces. I do not mean whatever random coffee mug you might have handy, which can hold anywhere from 8 to 16 ounces of water. One teaspoon of tea leaves per 8 ounce cup of water is the perfect amount to use for tea. One tablespoon of tea is too much, and will cause your tea to taste unpleasant, even if you brewed it at the perfect time and temperature.
Maybe I just Don’t Like Tea
If you have followed all the above steps correctly and still don't like the flavor, and can’t get yourself to drink tea on a regular basis, you simply might not like the flavor or astringency of tea. That's okay. Not everybody likes it. If that’s you, rest assured that there are many other types of tea for you to enjoy and get health benefits from. Rooibos is a caffeine-free herbal tea from South Africa that is high in antioxidants, but without the bitter tannins found in tea leaves. There are enough varieties of herbal teas with significant health benefits that you will definitely find a tea that you will love to drink on a daily basis.
For your convenience, here are links for the tea accessories listed above:
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