Need help steeping loose leaf black tea!!
I have just gotten into loose leaf teas. I’ve always been a huge tea drinker (1-2 cups a day, not a huge quantity but I LOVE tea!), but up until recently I’ve stuck with Twinings and Tetley black teas. My sister introduced me to DAVIDsTEA last month, and I LOVED it, and ordered a few for myself. Well…I can’t get them to steep properly for me :( I can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong…they end up tasteless :(. I use the amount stated on the bag, and just yesterday realized if your water is over the recommended temperature you risk “killing” (for lack of a better word) your tea. Well, I checked the temperature today…and it still turned out virtually tasteless, even after letting it steep for 8 minutes. What am I doing wrong?!! I have very hard water, would that make a difference?
Oh and the teas I’m trying are both from DavidsTea, I have English Breakfast and Kenyan Tinderet.
The thing I’ve found about loose leaf is that you can customize it to exactly what you like. That usually involves some experimenting to find what you want out of a cup of tea. So, I’d try adding more tea to less water next time. I would also note that DavidsTea recommends about a teaspoon of tea to 8 oz of water, but I use almost two teaspoons for 12 oz of water. And, yes, water temperature makes a difference. I let boiling water cool for about 30 seconds before steeping black tea.
Long story short, keep trying different combinations of tea, water, and water temp until you find what you love.
Try using more tea. My general rule if thumb is to get stringer tea use more tea not more steeping time. Also trying bottled or filtered water may help.
I think your problem is the water. I have noticed with hard water even my most strongly flavored teas taste like next to nothing. I would get a brita pitcher to filter your water for tea for sure.
I had the same problem when I was getting into loose leaf. I found that the thing that made the difference for me was getting a french press to steep my tea in. That way the tea leaves actually have room to unfold and steep properly.
You have some great suggestions here. I agree with all of them. Definitely all things that could be a contributing factor to your problem.
With black tea, you don’t have to worry too much about your water being too hot though. Black tea generally takes water at a full boil if they aren’t flavoured with something else. Black tea with added flavouring, in my opinion, often gives me a better result if the water is just below boiling. Around 90°C or so. If the water is any colder than that, though, it tends to slow down the steeping process tremendously and you don’t really get anything out of it. The warning against a too high temperature is far more important with green and white teas, as those can become undrinkably bitter in boiling water.
How exactly are you brewing now? What do you do with the leaf? Are you using one of these little metal contraptions acting as a prison cell for the leaves so that it doesn’t have any room to expand and unfold and doesn’t get in proper contact with the water while steeping? If you are, that may be your problem. Try not using it. In fact, just toss it. No, really, get rid of it. You don’t need it and it’s actively preventing you from getting a properly steeped cup of tea.
No, it’s not the same as a ‘sort of teabag that you can fill with loose leaf yourself and wash and use again’. A teabag would be preferable because it’s flexible and if you look at the way even a cheap teabag is made often expandable while filled with something requiring a lot less room. Often the holes in your various types of tea-eggs and what have you just aren’t big or plentiful enough to actually let the water in and do it’s business. Imagine how much water manages to get into the middle of such a tight wad of leaf. So if that’s your current method, I strongly recommend you bin it and try something else.
You don’t have to get expensive equipment to see if not using one is making a difference. Just dump the leaves loose in the pot in all their glory. When pouring, all you need is a small sieve which you should be able to get your hands on for next to nothing. I used to get cheap ones in my local supermarket and they cost about the same as two liters of milk (if you like brewing this way, it’s worth it to invest in a more expensive sieve of a better quality metal as the cheap ones rust after a while). Or just test it with what you’ve got. Brew in one mug, then pour into another for drinking, using a saucer as a lid to keep the leaf from getting out of the brewing cup, much the same way one pours water off potatoes. Alternatively you can see if you can find a mesh brewing basket that fits inside your pot or your cup. Some people prefer this to straining when pouring and there isn’t really any difference between the two methods.
Any chance the tea is old or was exposed to heat, sunlight, or air? All of these will kill the flavor. If your sister is a tea drinker have her give it a try to make sure its not you. If your Twinings and Tetley bags have tasted fine it suggests to me it is not your water. Possibly you’re underleafing?