MartyMom said

Newbie with Questions About Steeping and also About Decaf

Hi Everyone! Newbie here.  I have two questions:

1. I’m an American, but I try hard to make a proper Brittish tea that wouldn’t offend an Englishman.  In addition to tea quality and proper temperature, my understanding is that steeping for the correct amount of time is important because over-steeping produces tannins which lead to bitterness.   If I’m using tea-bags or loose tea in an infuser, this is simple.  However, if I’m using loose tea and an over-the-cup tea strainer, then won’t everything still in the teapot after the first cup get bitter?     For me, tea is a fancy/special occasion, so I usually have several servings, but perhaps the proper thing in this scenario would be to only have one cup?   Does it really make that much of a difference?  Am I over-thinking this?

2.  My ten-year-old and I have gotten in the habit of making tea whenever we’re having an argument.   Maybe it’s because it’s a soothing ritual, or maybe it’s just harder to slam things around when you have the fine china out, but it works for us.   However, it seems that my daughter is really sensitive to caffeine.   Even if we have it in the morning, she will have trouble sleeping later that night.   I know that there are herbal teas, but she genuinely loves the taste of English Breakfast tea or Earl Grey with milk and a tiny bit of sugar or honey.  Is decaffeinated black tea sacrilegious?   Does anyone have any recommendations for a favorite decaf?    (And is it weird to make two separate pots because Mama needs her go-go-juice?) :)

2 Replies

Welcome! :)

1. You’re correct – leaving the loose leaf directly in the pot and using an over the cup infuser will definitely result in the tea getting quite strong and bitter over time; it’s one of the reasons you see so much milk and sugar used in your typical British-style afternoon tea service. If you’re sharing a pot with many people you can often consume the tea fast enough that it doesn’t get unthinkably bitter, but for most people drinking alone it’ll be pretty harsh by the time you’ve gone through the pot. The easiest thing you can probably do is just use a teapot with a strainer and remove it when it’s at a strength you’re happy with – but things like “tea for one” teapots (basically a small teapot) exist as well and using an infuser mug and both of those are also perfectly fine solutions! The best fix is honestly just the one that works for you – if you’re enjoying what you drink then you’re not doing it wrong!

2. There are definitely a group of people who find decaf tea a bit sacrilegious – but I would argue that they’re snobs and their opinion doesn’t matter! Though it’s worth noting that in most decaf blends there is technically trace amounts of caffeine, but it should be a small enough amount that it’s negligible. The process of removing caffeine from the leaves DOES also strip flavour, so most decaffeinated teas will taste much milder/lighter than their caffeinated counterparts. Also, totally not weird to make multiple pots!

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1. You might try loose leaf teas that are better for long brewing sessions like grandpa style brewing where you just add more hot water to your cup. Most Oolong tea will brew well this way, you could look for loose leaf Oolong in an Asian supermarket, or a Big Red Robe might be a good place to start. Then you could leave the leaf in the pot and not worry about it getting bitter.
2. The second steeping has less caffeine than the first steeping. If you are using quality leaves, you could brew half a pot for yourself, then use the same leaves to brew the half a pot for your daughter and it will have less caffeine, but not be decaffinated.

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