You might be tempted to drink your tea to the last drop, but do yourself a favor: throw those tea dregs away.
I hear you thinking, “There she goes again, using those odd tea terms. What the heck is ‘tea dregs’?” Well, I confess to occasionally making up some tea terms, such as “golden pour,” but not this time. The dregs of tea is the yucky part after all the good liquid has been drunk. There are even teawares (called “waste” or “slop” bowls) into which this last remaining bit can be poured out of the teapot so that it can be refilled with fresh tea.
Why would you want to throw part of your steeped tea away? The answer is more of a question of why anyone would want to ruin a great tea experience with the taste of those (usually) bitter dregs. I’m a penny pincher, which cannot be blamed entirely on my Scottish ancestors, being more of a “pioneer spirit” kind of thing. As such, I value that wonderful flavor more than I value drinking that little bit left in the teapot.
“But I used bagged teas,” you protest, “so there shouldn’t be any dregs.” Believe it or not, tea dregs form whether you are steeping loose teas or bagged teas. The tea in those bags has usually been machine processed down to a powder or “dust” form to ease putting it into the bags and also to ease steeping it. Tea in this form usually steeps up faster and stronger. Those tiny pieces mostly stay inside the teabag, commonly made from a type of hemp, but some manage to work their way through the fibers into the water. Whether you steep up a potful or just a cupful, some of those tiny pieces get into the water and settle to the bottom of the teapot or cup as time passes. Teapots are more likely to have this, since they sit longer, kept warm under their tea cozies.
Loose tea steeping results is a different form of dregs. Either you’re the kind of tea drinker who tosses those tea leaves in the teapot, adds in the hot water, lets it steep, and then pours it through a strainer into waiting cups or mugs, leaving a portion in the pot for the next round, or you decant into another teapot. In the first case, the tea left in the pot will continue steeping and become the “dregs” portion of you tea experience. In the second case, the decanted tea will, if allowed to sit long enough, form dregs, too, just a lot finer. During the steeping process, tiny bits of the tea leaf pieces break off into the water. Unless you slosh the tea around in the pot, those tiny bits will settle near the bottom. Avoid them by not sloshing, then pouring slowly and carefully, and finally tossing away that last drop.
Throwing those tea dregs away will save your tastebuds from what is usually chalky and bitter. It will also save the reputation of the tea you are drinking. In these economic times, any kind of savings is a great deal!
Make sure to stop by A.C.’s blog, Tea Time with A.C. Cargill!