K S said

Tea and the microwave

At work I use a Hot Shot water dispenser. It does a really great job brewing my favorite teas. At home I seldom made a cup I enjoyed until I realized the difference was I used the microwave to heat water at home. The tea was always flat and boring. Any one else noticed this happening?

It does not seem to matter whether I am using bagged or loose. I drink a variety of green, black, white, and oolong. I notice the same thing with all of them.

Unrelated question – I can’t add teas to my cupboard? I go to my dashboard but I can’t type anything into it. If I try to search for a tea to rate, the screen just goes blank. Is there a how to or help section somewhere?

29 Replies
Cofftea said

Hmm… I’ve done microwaving (actually exclusively til the past year) and have never found that. As for your unrelated question, I’d shoot Jason a PM or email.

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Caitlin said

I’ve done microwaving too – I would guess the problem would be not getting the water hot enough, but I haven’t experienced the flat and boring problem.

Cofftea said

Bingo Caitlin.

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Seconding Caitlin a bit: I use an electric kettle most of the time, but when I’m travelling and using other people’s microwaves I find it can take quite awhile (3-6 minutes) to get the water actually boiling, so – maybe not hot enough.

A couple other things that occurred to me: if you’re sure the water gets hot enough in your microwave, maybe it’s actually boiling too much! I haven’t had this problem personally, but I keep hearing that overboiling can make your tea taste flat because all of the oxygen comes out of the water. Relatedly, do you have different water at home? City vs. filtered or distilled could definitely make a difference. Last one – do you microwave the tea itself (as opposed to just the water)? That could definitely make it taste dull…

I’ve got no ideas on the technical problem, but good luck with your steeping!

K S said

Boiling the tea, oh the horror!

I did consider the water difference and tried using bottled water at home and at work. The taste was still obviously different.

Out of curiosity I will experiment with some different times on the water and see what happens. I am using a variety of teas and you would think one of them would work ok with the water temp.

Whatever the difference the easiest solution for me was to get another hot shot. I was just curious if others had the same experience. Seems not.

Heh, well you never know. I saw a tea blog somewhere recently (Golden Moon maybe) suggest putting the tea in the microwave and I was kind of agog, but… would have explained the bad taste :P I have actually had bad experiences with trying to microwave tea, I just always attributed it to the bagged/different water/slow boiling combination I get when travelling – it never occurred to me it might be the microwave itself!

Cofftea said

The tea leaves in the microwave?! Eeek! Heck I’m just getting used to the fact that it really is ok to use boiling water for greens if the steep is 30 sec or less.

K S said

Teabird I have wondered if some of the dislike of bagged I hear expressed isn’t the manner in which it is prepared. I guess that was a big part of my questioning the microwave. Many of my bagged teas stand up very nicely against my loose when I do not use the microwave. Based on my experience I would never chance my coconut pouchong to nuked water.

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Kristin said

I’m definitely noticing some difference. At home I use a tea kettle on the stove. I just started a new job and my only option is filtered water in the microwave. Our microwaves are ridiculously slow too… But I go about 3 min and when I pull it out, the water looks like it is boiling, but the tea is not brewing as strong as it does at home (or something). It’s just off and flat.

wombatgirl said

Do you have a desk at work? If you do, and you can bring things – could you bring a small electric kettle? I’ve got one at my desk at work, and while my co-workers all think I’m nuts, I get good tea. Or maybe bring one in that you could use in the break room?

Kristin said

I’ll probably just bring one and put it in the kitchen for all to use. It’s just not in the budget right now.

wombatgirl said

If it helps, I’ve found decent ones for really cheap on Amazon. The ones I use at work and home I got for $20 or so. (Kalorick – Sunny Morning)

But I understand about a tight budget!

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This has given me some food for thought. I use the microwave to heat my water, however, I am going to get myself a tea kettle today (I have been going to get a kettle anyway).
I heat my water for 3 min and I admit it is a process if I am going to make more than one cup of tea.
Still learning all I can about tea!

K S said

Let us know if you notice a taste difference.

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Shadowleaf said

As previously menitioned, it might be that the water is just not boiling at all.

While I often use the microwave to preheat the cups I am using for tea that require boiling or almost boiling water, I have never tasted tea from microwaved water. I do, however, use water when I am heating the cups in the mikrowave, but 2.5 dl at 1.5 minutes at 900w does not make the water temperature anywhere near boiling stage.

When the water is getting so hot that small bubbles start to rise, it is still far from boiling. It usually boils when the bubbles are big and really shake the surface. However, this might be hard to spot from outside a microwave, and makes me wonder if some of you here are just guessing the temperature wrong.

Then again, It might just be that because microwaves heat in such a different way than usual, they also affects the water differently.

PS: I notice that most of you heat the water for about 3 minutes. How many watts do you use?

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It could also be what you’re using to heat the water in the microwave. When I’m at college I use a microwave and i’ve noticed that when i heat it up in a plastic cup it doesnt make the same tea as when I heat it up in a ceramic mug. Still, both make not so good tea as compared to when I make tea with an actual kettle at home.

This year I’m going to buy myself an electric kettle, or a real one considering i’ll have a stove!

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Caitlin said

Random thing I noticed about microwaving tea… the tea bag or infuser sinks in microwaved water and floats in water heated in my kettle? Anyone else experience this?

K S said

The infuser floats! Really? I don’t have one yet. I have a 2" tea ball that always sinks (ha), and a $1 kitchen strainer. It fits perfectly across my mug after I bent the handle and is maybe 2 1/2" tall. Not ideal but cheap.

As for nuke vs other method – I had to try this to find out. I knew the bag usually floats with my hot shot. Turns out it floated in my micro mug as well. I have been experimenting with the time and went longer for this cup. I used my daily go to Earl Grey Green. I use the same size ceramic cup at work and at home. The steeping time is the same. So far I have yet to acheive the same results.

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VegTea said

I think the problem with microwaving water for tea is that it can be tricky to get it boiling without superheating it (so it doesn’t boil until you break the surface tension, then it boils over dangerously: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superheating#Occurrence_via_microwave ). For Christmas one year, I got a “microkettle” – http://www.amazon.com/Progressive-International-Whistling-Micro-Kettle/dp/B0006G9I5Q – it whistles when the water boils, and I think the red thingy keeps it from superheating. It seemed a little silly when I first got it, but I have actually used it a lot when I don’t want to use my regular tea kettle on the stove.

Could it also be the container you use for steeping? When I’m at work, I use and insulated thermos for steeping tea. The water that comes out of our hot water dispenser isn’t quite boiling, but the thermos keeps the water hotter for longer than it would in a ceramic mug.

K S said

The microkettle seems to be no more :(

After reading your superheating article (thanks) I stumbled on this one titled Kettle or Microwave: Water For Tea"
http://www.teamuse.com/article_020502.html

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K S said

I just realized another difference in brewing methods. With a kettle one pours the water over the leaves. With the microwave you lower the leaves into the water. I don’t know if this is enough to make a difference but thought I would mention it.

Cofftea said

The only way I can see this making a difference is if the leaves aren’t getting submerged when you put them on top of the water. To make this happen, you can very gently sink them into the water w/ the back of a spoon or a spatula. Just make sure you swish all the leaves off the untensil and back into the water or the tea will be weak because not enough leaf was steeped.

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