Why Does My Tea Taste Bad?

Genmaicha is best appreciated in a sipper cup. (Photo source: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)
Genmaicha is best appreciated in a sipper cup. (Photo source: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Ever since the dawn of tea drinking, the same question has been asked time and again: why does my tea taste bad? The answer, as always, has a number of aspects. Recently, I had a tea experience that was probably a combination of several of these.

Water Quality

This is usually the first place you should look for the culprit responsible for that bad tea taste (but it’s not always the one tea lovers do look at). A lot has been written about water quality. Hard or soft. Reboil or not reboil. Oxygen levels. Let’s face it, these can all make a difference, especially considering that some tea blends are crafted for specific water types. Pick the best water (the one that matches the tea you’re steeping) and get the best taste.

More info:

Tea Quality

This is usually the first thing people blame when their tea tastes bad. But it is usually the last cause of that icky experience. (I say “usually” because I recently had a bad tea taste experience that was definitely the tea — or rather all the “stuff” that had been added in to “flavor” the tea, as if tea did not by itself have enough flavor.) However, the real culprit is mostly the water, but after that it’s the preparation methods used. And then there is the teabag issue, where the kind made of hemp add their own peculiar flavor to the taste of your tea.

More info:

Preparation Issues

Some tea drinkers who mainly drink a particular type of tea, such as black tea (the most common type consumed in the U.S. by far), will suddenly try a different type such as green or white. That’s great. Experimenting and expanding your tea horizons is a wonderful thing. But what works for your usual tea may not work for other teas. Timing can be critical in achieving the right tea taste. So can the water temperature. Timers and thermometers designed especially for use in tea preparation are very useful. And pay close attention to vendors’ steeping instructions.

More info:

Teaware Issues

The teabag, which I technically count as a teaware since the tea steeps within it, is an extremely popular method of steeping tea. But those hemp teabags (as opposed to the ones made of “silk-like” material) tend to distort the taste of the tea. I tried it myself and truly tasted a difference. Another teaware issue is when you steep a delicate tea in a large teapot that is better steeped in a smaller cup or gaiwan multiple times. And then there are those small teaball infusers, infuser sticks, and other devices where tea leaves are crammed in and have no room to fully expand and infuse. Small wonder that the tea tastes bad!

More info:

Bottom Line

If your tea tastes bad, check your water first, then the steeping instructions, then your method of steeping, and finally the tea. So many fine teas get a bad reputation needlessly. Happy steeping!

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3 thoughts on “Why Does My Tea Taste Bad?

  1. Pingback: 5 Things That Can Make Your Tea Taste Awful | Tea Blog

  2. James Kennedy

    Very comprehensive. I’m pleased you included “water temperature” in the list—I think that’s the most common brewing mistake around (they add water straight from the kettle).

    1. A.C. Cargill

      Yeah, I agree, James, water temp is probably #1, but I’ve nagged about it so much in other articles that I gave folks a bit of a break here. 🙂

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