The list of articles that address the issue of how to prepare a proper cup of tea, be it British-style, gongfu style, or other, would probably fill a book as large as the phone directory for New York City, including the Burroughs. That’s a lot! There are also lots of articles about how not to prepare tea. And again it’s a rather voluminous quantity I’m referring to here. So, why bother with this one? To give you a handy reference that is easier to print out and have available. Who wants to tote around a stack of phonebook-sized tomes full of tea preparation information? Certainly not this Tea Princess!
First, a bit about broken leaf vs whole leaf teas. They are certainly important but not the only factor, rather just a starting point. On the one hand, I find that broken tea leaves steep up better for Ceylon, Assam, Darjeeling, and other such teas. They seem more ready to soak up the water. Whole leaf teas seem more inclined to need a bit of “waking up,” that is, a light and brief exposure to hot water that is then drained off. This is especially true of teas that are tightly rolled during processing or that consist of mainly tight, young buds.
On to my list of five things that can make your tea taste awful. I’m sure you’ll have more.
1 Bad Water!
Not enough can be said about this potential taste killer. It pops up continuously on social media sites. How many additional chemicals are in the water besides hydrogen and oxygen is one factor. To reboil or not to reboil is another, with claims abounding that reboiling makes the tea taste flat. Ratio of water to tea leaves is an issue that pops up repeatedly, too.
2 Bad Technique!
Water that’s too warm or too cool. Teapots not properly prepped (usually a bit of pre-heating by pouring in some hot water and swishing it around). Steeping too long or too short. These can all kill that exquisite flavor of your Ti Kuan Yin, Dragonwell, or even that golden tippy full leaf Assam.
3 Bad Health!
Yes, you could be sick and that would affect your tastebuds. Allergies, colds, and sinus infections all reduce your perception of aromas and therefore your sense of taste.
4 Bad Timing!
I know what you’re thinking — there’s no such thing as a bad time to have tea. But, even though I would agree with this sentiment in general, I must say that there are times when it is definitely not good to have tea. Such as: giving birth, acting on stage (unless the role calls for you to drink tea), changing tires, playing some professional team sport, etc. Of course, there is also the issue of under- or over-timing the steep. But you’d never do that!
5 Bad Karma!
The whole idea of karma is that whatever you do bounces back to you. Sort of like that physics principle of every action having an equal and opposite reaction (a bit wrong since every action has an opposite but slightly less reaction and thus perpetual motion is an impossibility). So if you’ve been less than sweet and lovable, your tea could bear the brunt of your misdeeds. I’m not one who subscribes to such notions, but you never know. Best not to take any chances when it comes to tea!
See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.
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