A tea vendor commented recently online that they were dropping tea concentrates from their product line-up and going with powdered forms only. Their chief justification for this action was a very sensible one: save on shipping costs. However, it got me to thinking about that and other pros and cons of tea concentrates.
Let’s face it, tea concentrates are heavy. Small wonder since they contain a lot of water. A gallon of water weighs about 8.35 pounds. So why are we seeing a lot of tea concentrates on the market these days? Probably the same reason that we see condensed soups in cans (some water is removed but a lot remains), concentrated fruit drinks, and such things as frozen meals and fast food restaurants: convenience. For many who live a busy life, taste can lose out to time saving. Tea is certainly no exception.
What Is a Tea Concentrate?
No big mystery here. It is a very strong steeping of tea. In fact a couple of sites showing how to make tea concentrate give a ratio of 1.5 quarts (48 ounces) of water to 1/4 pound (4 ounces) of loose tea to make enough for 40-50 normal strength cups.
- Normal: 1 tsp (1/6 ounce) tea per 6 ounces of water
- Concentrate: 3 tsps (1/2 ounce) tea per 6 ounces of water
That works out to about 3 times the normal amount of tea. This strong brew is then thinned with hot water or cold water and ice. Simple enough, and I know that intrepid tea drinker Janis Badarau often makes her tea up strong and then thins it with hot water.
- For hot tea, pour 2 tablespoons of tea concentrate into a cup and fill with hot water.
- For iced tea, pour 3 tablespoons of tea concentrate in a glass (the extra tea is to make up for the ice melting and diluting it) and fill with cold water and ice.
Seems pretty simple and reminds me of a Samovar, where a small teapot full of strong tea sits atop an urn full of water kept hot. When you want some tea, you pour a little of the concentrated tea from the teapot into a cup and then add hot water. The tea will taste as fresh as when it was first brewed (or so some claim) and be nice and hot. Someone posted a link on Facebook or Twitter to this amazing video of a waiter in a tea house in Iran pouring first the concentrated tea and then adding hot water into over a dozen cups in his hand.
Pros of Tea Concentrates
- Handy, easy, convenient – need a cuppa? Pour some concentrate in a cup and add hot or cold water. Pour some concentrate in a pitcher and add cold water and ice for quick iced tea.
- Lots of brands and flavors available — lemon and other fruit flavors, chais (spiced versions), and much more.
- Can also make your own and save money and control what goes in it.
Cons of Tea Concentrates
- Health benefits may no longer be there — some folks claim that teas need to be fresh and freshly brewed for you to get the catechins, etc., in the tea liquid. They also decry any milk being added, saying that it will keep the “good stuff” in the tea from being absorbed in your body.
- Taste will not be the same as fresh brewed — for me, this is the real crux of the matter, since taste in tea is important to me, but many swear that the difference is barely, if at all, perceptible.
- Higher shipping costs due to water content (increases weight) — this adds to the price of the product and makes it less economical, but that’s also true for those other convenience foods I mentioned above.
As always in life, there is no easy answer for or against tea concentrates, nor did I intend to present one. You will have to assess the practicality of tea concentrates based on your personal preferences and circumstances.
As for that company making the switch to all powdered tea mixes, I can tell you the powdered versions taste fabulous and even better than the concentrate version. So, full steam ahead and let the cost savings commence!
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