It’s happened to me many times and I strongly suspect that other tea drinkers have experienced the same problem. That tea that was so fantastic the first few times I drank it turns out to be a disappointment when I sample another batch. I’ve even experienced this not so desirable phenomenon from one cup of tea to the next.
So what’s it all about? How the same tea can taste so dramatically different from one batch to the next or even from cup to cup? I’m not knowledgeable enough about tea to give an authoritative answer or to cover all the possibilities, but I have a few theories.
Concerning the lack of consistency from one batch to the next, there are numerous factors that can have an effect, none of which we consumers have much control over. This is especially a problem with higher quality single estate teas that have not been blended to help turn out a consistent product.
Let’s start by considering the most basic reason of all – tea is a plant and is subject to all of the variations, most often weather-related, that can affect quality from one harvest to the next. Other issues out of our control can include variances in processing and storage. In the latter case I’m reminded of the times I’ve seen retailers store loose tea for sale in clear containers, which is a no-no since exposure to light can affect the quality of tea.
Which is one of the factors we tea drinkers can control on the home front. For maximum tea drinking pleasure, be sure to store your tea in an airtight container, in a cool, dry and dark place. Other factors that can cause tea to become “unreliable” from one batch or cup to the next include improper steeping times and temperatures – probably one of the best ways to ruin a cup of tea. Be sure to pay attention to water quality as well. Tap water that’s been heavily treated or which is too hard or soft can cause problems, as can using water that’s been sitting for a while or which might already have been heated one or more times. For best results in this area, always be sure to start with “fresh” water. And naturally you’ll want to make sure it’s of good quality.
Even if you keep these things in mind it still might not be possible to have a great experience every time you drink tea, but you’re likely to increase the reliability of your tea considerably as a result.
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