Steeping Tea – How Low Can You Go?

Far be it from me to set the rules for preparing tea, a beverage that’s probably consumed by more than a billion people around the world each and every day. But I can’t help finding myself a bit disconcerted at the trend toward shaving seconds – or even minutes – off of how long it takes to prepare it. While that sort of thing seems to fit in with what I know about the coffee drinking experience (which is not much), it doesn’t seem quite right for drinking tea, something that many of us perceive as a slower paced, more leisurely kind of experience.

Yorkshire Red Tea Bags (ETS image)
Yorkshire Red Tea Bags (ETS image)

I’ve written about this very same topic a few times before, most recently in this article. Which questioned the need for gadgetry that is supposedly able to turn out a cup of tea in about a minute. Which is useful if you’re on the retailer’s side of the equation and you want to prepare more tea in a short time. But how does it affect the quality of the tea itself, not to mention what for many is the more low-key experience of drinking tea?

Rather than rehash the topic of one-minute tea let’s move on and tackle the even more fast-paced and thrilling subject of 25-second tea. Yes, that’s right. It seems that the optimum amount of time to steep your tea in teabag form is a mere 25 seconds. That’s according to Martin Isark, a “professional food and drink taster,” who recently undertook to study the issue. Whatever his qualifications for doing so might be, the study was interesting enough to catch the attention of the press in that great tea-drinking part of the world that we know as the United Kingdom.

Over the course of two days Isark sampled 400 cups of tea made with teabags from some of the most well-known British tea firms. The manufacturer’s recommendations for steeping times for those teas ranged from 40 seconds to five minutes.

Though he claims that 25 seconds is an optimum time for tea steeping, Isark is not a fan of this type of tea, which he notes is often made “with tiny particles of broken leaves that have lost the wonderful flavour nuances” that we’re likely to find in other teas. Though he claims to be a fan of pricey first-flush Darjeeling tea, he did allow that of the teas that he surveyed Yorkshire Tea got his thumbs up as the best of the bunch.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

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