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Starting Out on the Wrong Foot with Tea

If you are so unfortunate as to have your first taste of a particular tea be a very bad one, you can get started out on the wrong foot with that tea or with tea in general. So, starting out right can be important. This was clearly illustrated to me a few weeks ago when I tried a very disappointing tea. If it had been the only version of this tea I’d ever tried, or if it had been my first cuppa tea ever, I would have been totally turned off. Bleh!

Yes, the teabag can affect the taste of the tea! (photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)
Yes, the teabag can affect the taste of the tea! (photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

The tea in question was a bagged tea. That was the first sign that things were getting off on the wrong foot. Now, a first time tea drinker wouldn’t have any inkling that bagged tea is a very different experience from loose tea. We’re not talking about the size of the tea leaf pieces here. Whether the bag contains full leaves, broken leaves, fannings, or dust, being in a bag is the real difference maker. Many tea drinkers say it ain’t so, but I have tried a number of teas steeped both ways and have come up with the same result: the bagged tea doesn’t steep up as tasty and is often altered by the bag material.

In this case, the teabag was that Manila hemp (Abacá) material in the flo-thru design made popular by a very well-known American tea brand. It even had the same style string and tag attached (the kind of thing that Hollywood and various photographers and graphic designers like to use to show you it’s a cup of tea, not coffee). The smell of the bag and tea was unpleasant and could even be described as medicinal. What to do?

With high hopes of getting rid of at least some of that odd smell, I cut open the teabags and dumped the tea dust into the teapot. Would it help? Would the tea steep up without that taint? To make a long story short, nope!

The tea (a Ceylon black tea blend) was harsh, astringent, bitter, and retained that medicinal quality. Which brings me back to the original point of all this. If this had been my first experience with Ceylon black tea, I would have been quite turned off and very reluctant to try any other Ceylon black teas. Fortunately, I had tried a number of very nice Ceylon black teas before this (a fave is this one).

How do you prevent this kind of bad start to trying tea? Well, the first step is to read blogs like this one. Another is to talk with tea shop owners and anyone you may know who really likes teas. You can also buy sample packs from tea vendors so you can try various teas and even different vendors’ versions of the same teas. That way you can try and compare. And most of all, don’t give up on tea. If you try a bad one, take heart for there are plenty of good ones out there.

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

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