5 reasons your tea isn't tasting right
Naturally we get asked a lot for our top tips when it comes to brewing a really great cup of tea. It might seem like a simple task - kettle on, tea bag in, water then milk - but for those who really want to do it right and get the most out of their tea leaves, there are a few things worth considering when it comes to brewing the perfect cup.
We’ll take for granted here that you are using good quality, whole leaf teas, which, whether tea bags or loose leaf, means you’re already off to a great start - our carefully curated, award-winning range is made up of single-origin, whole leaf teas that are full of flavour. However, while perfect brewing could never save poor quality leaves, the inverse is also true - if you don’t take care when preparing your tea, even the best, most flavoursome leaves can still be lacking in the final cup.
With that in mind, here are 5 reasons your tea might not be tasting as good as it could be, and how to get it right:
1. The wrong water temperature
While many of us settle for boiled water straight from the kettle, the reality is that for many tea types this won’t brew the most flavoursome cup.
The temperature of the water plays an important role in extracting flavour and varies depending on the type of tea you’re brewing. For example black teas require water just off the boil to extract the robust, tannic qualities in the tea, while more delicate green and white teas taste best when brewed with slightly cooler temperatures, extracting sweeter, more floral notes. The right temperature for the tea you’re brewing is therefore key to getting the best out of the leaves - always follow the brewing guide for your chosen tea.
2. Poor quality water
If you find yourself wondering why your tea tastes funny there’s a good chance that it’s down to the water. For the best, liveliest cup of tea you want freshly drawn water which is rich in the oxygen needed to draw out flavour. Water that has been sitting in a kettle a while, or more likely boiled over and over again, will lack oxygen, leaving your cup of tea tasting flat. So if you tend to flip the switch on your kettle and reheat water that’s already in there, start again by filling your kettle with fresh water. The type of water in your area also has an impact on the flavour of your tea. In London, for example, the water is very hard due to the high levels of naturally occurring calcium carbonate (the chalky substance that causes limescale) and magnesium compounds. This mineral-rich, hard water is alkaline and tends to produce a thick, chalky and sometimes even metallic-tasting cup. It is also slow and inefficient at extracting flavour. Soft water, on the other hand, is acidic. Though that makes it much more efficient in dissolving flavour, it tends to happen too quickly, meaning your cup will often over extract, leaving it tasting bitter and astringent. There is a happy medium to be found and filtering your tap water to get closer to a balance, as well as to remove any impurities, will improve the flavour in your cup no end.
3. Brewing for too long
If you like your tea strong, brewing your tea bag or leaves for longer might seem like the obvious thing to do. However, brewing your tea for a lot longer than the recommended brewing time will rarely make it more flavoursome. Over-brewing, or over-extraction, causes excess tannins to be released from the leaves, leaving your tea tasting bitter and often masking some of the other more complex characteristics that the tea has to offer.
4. Not brewing for long enough
On the other hand if your tea is lacking flavour and pale in colour, you could be brewing it for too little time. Teas, and in particular whole leaf teas, need due time to unfurl and release their full flavour - in China this unfurling is known as the agony of the leaves. A quick dunk-and-dash might get you something hot and wet but to be sure of a flavoursome cup you’ll need to be patient - between 3 and 5 minutes will usually do the trick, depending on the tea, and the reward will come in the form of a delicious, well-rounded cup.
5. Tea storage
Although not strictly part of the tea brewing process, the way you store your tea is too important not to mention and getting it wrong can certainly affect the flavour in your cup. As soon as tea leaves are picked from the bushes they start to react with oxygen in the air. However, at the end of the production process of almost all teas, the tea leaves are heated (via steaming, firing or baking) to halt that oxidation and ensure the desired flavour profile is ‘fixed’. In storing your finished tea, it is therefore important to keep it that way and ensure no further oxidation takes place that could then alter that flavour. That means keeping it cool, keeping it dry and most importantly keeping it air tight. Tea leaves also readily absorb strong odours, so it’s important to not only keep your teas separate from each other (particularly any heavily scented teas), but to also avoid storing them next to your herbs and spices.
Our final little tip for the perfect cup? Find a nice cosy corner, a little bit of quiet, and enjoy.
Check out our full range of tea here and any questions, we're always here to help!