You start out wanting something hot to drink. But you don’t want something too sweet, so hot cocoa is out. And you can’t take all that caffeine, so coffee is out. Then, you find that box of teabags in the back of the cupboard. Hey, if they can do it in the movies, surely you can dunk a teabag in a mug of hot water and end up with something potable.
Soon you embark on the stages of tea enjoyment, where you find yourself:
- perusing the tea section of the local grocery store to scope out new teas to try,
- checking out what local tea rooms are in your area on TeaGuide.net so you can have a day out with friends and share this amazing beverage you’ve discovered, and
- doing an online search for tea sites that carry more varieties so you can expand your on-hand selection.
This all leads you to setting aside that original box of teabags for other uses, such as steeping up a couple of bags and then using the spent bags on your eyes to reduce puffiness. Anything but drinking.
At some point, you learn that some teas are not to be boiled and that even many teas prepared in hot hot water taste a bit better when they are let stand a minute or two to cool slightly. You have reached the stage of tea enjoyment that could be described as “connoisseur,” Little Grasshopper!
Why would the temperature of the steeped tea matter? You know by now that the temperature of the water for the steeping is important. Black teas generally use boiling water, while oolongs, green, and whites, use water heated to cooler temperatures. But once the tea is steeped, you drink it, right? Well, having reached this stage of tea awareness and enjoyment, hopefully you’ll say “No!”
Tea flavor is a pretty complex thing. There is the aroma, which helps convey flavor since smell and taste perceivers are in close proximity in your head. Anyone who’s had a head cold or been stuffed up from allergies knows that. It’s also one of the reasons that professional tea tasters slurp the tea into their mouths — they bring in air with the tea and force the fragrance up through their nose. Some tea flavors hit your tongue right away when you sip. Others emerge as you swallow and bits linger, stimulating your tastebuds. If you sip the tea when it’s piping hot, as many are wont to do, you risk scalding those tastebuds and can’t taste the tea at all. As the tea cools, you have less chance of tongue scalding but also you get to perceive the tea flavors more since some are more pronounced in a cooler cuppa. If the tea cools too much, though, bitterness can come out, especially for black teas that tend to be steeped longer.
When you have reached this stage of tea enjoyment, you might as well keep going. You can become a certified tea professional, a pro tea taster, and maybe even start your own tea company. Thrilling!
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