Riddle me this: why does 1 cup always taste better than 2?

This has been going on too long to be a fluke.

Every tea I make in my little two-cup Amsterdam teapots (I have three, one of each primary color; they brighten up my office and allow me to brew in one, pour into another), ALWAYS tastes better if I make one cup rather than two. I am careful about water temperature and amount for each brewing, so that’s not the factor. And I weigh the leaves on my tea scale to exactly 1 or 2 cups before adding to the warmed pot.

What’s going on? If I want to make two good cups of tea, do I have to use my 3-cup pot??

10 Replies

English tea brewing calls for a teaspoon per serving plus one for the pot, maybe there is a good reason for this otherwise ceremonial tradition. :)

There’s also all sorts of lore about how foods/drinks made in small quantities are better than those made in bulk even if the process is the same.

And enough of the funky tea juju myths now, lol. . .really, I don’t have the answer for you. Sometimes my tea comes out better one cup at a time, but I blame it on half-hazard brewing parameters.

ETA: come to think of it, I’ve often thought that my tea tastes better poured into a small cup than into a large mug, even if its from the same pot. Psychosomatic maybe, but what is sensory experience other than what the brain tells us it is :p

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Lala said

I think it might be something to do with “texture”. Not that most tea has a texture but it does have a sensation in the mouth for whether is it thick, thin, heavy, etc.

I think about it the same way as with cheese. Grated cheese always tastes better than a slice of cheese.

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I make my tea one cup at a time usually but I’ve used the 2cup teapots also. Do you use a strainer basket with the 2 cup pot? if the leaves are left in the pot then the second cup is still steeping while you drink the first cup possibly making it taste different, if you remove the leaves then the the temperature difference between cups could affect the taste. both of those things can change the “texture” and taste of the tea,

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K S said

Drink the second cup first.

Seriously, are you saying you brew two cups at the same time and the first tastes better? If so, try pouring both cups of tea at same time as an experiment and taste each. They should taste the same. The difference you are seeing is probably due to the second cup setting and going through chemical changes. ever notice the cup gets darker as it sets? I never brew a pot of tea for myself.

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ifjuly said

I don’t know if it’s related, but I’ve always found when I make a dainty cup of tea in a proper tea cup—so 6oz or less—it tastes way better than when I make enough for a 2-cup mug. I’ve carefully measured/weighed and all that too. I have no idea why but brewing smaller amounts always tastes and smells better.

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Lynxiebrat said

It might depend on the type of tea. I’ve noticed that with some green and white teas, (Even if I’ve taken out the basket.) after a while the tea tastes odd. Not as flavorful. Even kind of nasty tasting sometimes. So with those I save for a 1 cup. When I do make a pot it is usually a black tea, like an Earl Grey that tastes relatively the same even if it’s cooled down. And I only make a pot when I want to write and not have to get up for a while to make another cup. My favorite teapot is a Q Tea pot from David’s Tea. It holds 1 cup and enough to top it off a few times.

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Honestly I’ve never noticed. Though I haven’t made more than one cup of tea in awhile since I like being able to change what I’m drinking and it’s too warm to keep a full pot around. Lol. I would be inclined to agree with K S since it seems to make sense that as tea sits, the taste and all would change.
Maybe if you make two cups, try to keep the pot warm/at the same temp you brewed it at? Like set it on one of those cup warmerbases or something It could be just because the tea is getting lukewarm.

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Uniquity said

I prefer to make my tea cup by cup as I also don’t like the second cup froma the teapot. I know that my water temp, time, leaf ratio, etc is all good. The problem for me is that even though I removed the leaves so it wouldn’t keep steeping, there is always a little bit of leaf/dust that seems to fall through and that little tiny amount keeps steeping and makes the second cup come out stronger – usually bitter. I also don’t drink the last sip of my cup for that reason. Drives my husband crazy, hah.

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This is all interesting and helpful. I love the cheese analogy. (People always say the cheese tastes better because it’s room temperature when sliced thin, but I agree with you — it’s a texture thing.) To clarify: I brew two cups of tea at once, and then pour all of it off the leaves: I strain the entire pot through a hand-held strainer into a fresh teapot I’ve just warmed with a swirling of hot plain water (the same kind I use to make the tea with). I drink the entire pot slowly, pouring a little into my teacup at a time. I do not notice the difference between the first cup and the last unless I’ve left it on my electric cupwarmer, which, despite having no direct contact with the contents of the cup, introduces an unfortunate plastic/metal presence into the flavor profile of more delicate teas like Darjeelings and some Oolongs. But I digress. The point I want to make is that I am comparing two fresh pots of tea, one made with two cups (and 2 cupweight of loose tea) and one made with one cup (and 1 cupweight of the SAME loose tea) made at two different times but with the same equipment, water source, water temperature, and brew time. I had some kooky theory that the airspace left in the pot when I’m making just one cup somehow helps the flavor develop better. I’ll try adding a teaspoon for the pot when I make more than one cup, and see if that ancient British trick helps. You all are great. I feel so much less alone in my tea nerdiness here.

K S said

Around here you would probably feel more alone if you weren’t a tea nerd.

Is the electric warmer on? I never use one because I think it increases water evaporation making the tea more likely to be bitter and cooked tasting. Just my opinion.

Putting a lid on the cup might help stop evaporation.

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