How To Manipulate Any Tea's Flavor To Make It Perfect For You
Don’t you hate it when you buy a high quality tea, brew it, and don’t love it as much as you expected? I know that feeling of disappointment as well, but I don’t see it as a failure. I consider it an opportunity to make the tea better.
You have the power to change your tea to make it right for you. Now we’re not talking major flavor changes (you can’t turn green tea into black tea), but with a few tricks and a bit of knowledge, you can manipulate the strength and flavor to fit more closely to your preferences.
That’s what this blog is about: empowering you to brew the best tea you possibly can by making small adjustments and manipulating flavor. It’s not difficult a difficult skill to learn, but it’s incredibly rewarding.
Let me show you how it’s done.
Before we get into flavor manipulation, let’s first break down what we mean by flavor and strength. Flavor refers to the taste of your tea. Strength refers to how intense it tastes or how concentrated the flavor is.
Excellent tea is going to have a great flavor at a pleasant strength. Your goal is to find the balance between these two elements when you steep your tea leaves.
The first step in making your tea taste better and better is to taste it. Use a generic recipe for your tea’s type, brew it, and taste it carefully. Think about the flavor. Is it well rounded? Is it bitter? Think about the strength. Is the tea too light? Is it overpowering?
Here are a couple phrases that come in handy when you’re trying to describe what you taste:
When tea tastes light and lacks flavor. Essentially, the leaves didn’t steep long enough and not much flavor or strength was extracted.
When tea tastes bitter and unpleasant. Essentially, the leaves steeped for too long and too much was extracted into the water.
Think carefully about what you like and don’t like about the tea. Is there an aftertaste that’s on the bitter side? Is the flavor barely noticeable? These kinds of observations are what you’ll base your flavor adjustments on, so write them down if you need to.
Thankfully, tea steeping is a fairly simple process, so improving your tea’s flavor will be as well. For the most part, it boils down to three variables that you have control over: time, temperature, and the amount of leaves you use.
How To Use Time
When your tea leaves are sitting in hot water, they are slowly releasing tasty things into it.
If you don’t allow the leaves to steep long enough, the rich flavors don’t have time to come out as much as they should. If you let the leaves steep for too long, too much is extracted and the resulting tea is bitter.
Flavor increases in quality for the first 2-5 minutes of steeping, depending on your tea’s type. After that, it takes a sharp dive as the sweet and pleasant flavor notes are replaced by darker, more bitter ones. Strength, on the other hand, just climbs higher and higher with time as more and more stuff is extracted from the leaves.
Here’s how to use time to manipulate your tea:
If your tea is not strong enough, add time to increase strength.
If your tea is too strong, reduce time to reduce strength.
If your tea is over extracted, reduce time.
If your tea is under extracted, increase time.
Time is one of the easiest variables to manipulate, since all you have to do is add or subtract a few seconds. I suggest going this route to improve your tea before trying the other methods.
How To Use Water
The hotter your water, the faster it will draw flavor and strength from the tea leaves.
Too hot, and your leaves will quickly over extract. You can even scald and damage the flavor of lighter tea leaves if you’re not careful. If your water’s too cold, it will take a long time to extract the right amount of flavor and strength from the leaves. This is why cold brewing takes hours, instead of minutes.
Flavor quality is highly dependent on your water temperature. Certain tea types thrive with certain temperatures, so make sure you know the acceptable range for your specific tea. Strength, once again, increases constantly with temperature. The hotter your water, the more concentrated your brew will be.
Here’s how you can use water temperature to manipulate your tea’s flavor:
If your tea is over extracted, reduce your water temperature by a few degrees.
If your tea is under extracted, increase the temperature. If your tea is under extracted, increase the temperature.
We suggest using water temperature only to manipulate flavor. However, it can be easier to adjust time to change flavor if you don’t have a way of heating water to specific temperatures.
How To Use Tea
Leaf Amounts To
The more leaves you use, the more concentrated your tea will become.
If you don’t use enough leaves, your tea may taste weak and light. The flavor may be there, but it may be hardly noticeable. If you use too many tea leaves, the strength could be overpowering.
Some tea leaves release a lot of flavor very quickly. You don’t have to use as many of these leaves to achieve a balanced strength. Some teas, on the other hand, are more subtle and gentle. You’ll want to use more of these leaves.
For most tea types, you’re going to want to use around 2-3g of tea leaves per 150-200ml of water. However, you’re free to use more or less when a certain tea calls for it. Just listen to your taste buds
Here’s how to use leaf amount to manipulate your tea’s strength:
If your tea is weak and thin, increase the number of leaves.
If your tea is too strong, use fewer leaves.
Changing the amount of leaves you use is an easy way to manipulate your tea’s strength, but it doesn’t do as much for flavor development as time or water temperature.
You now have all the tools you need to brew your tea to suit your unique tastes. Remember to listen to your tongue. It’ll tell you when there’s room to improve your tea’s flavor. Then you can make the adjustments using time, temperature, and leaf amounts to improve it.
However, if you just can’t seem to get it right, it’s entirely possible you just aren’t a fan of the specific tea you have. Tea is extremely diverse and complex, so you may just need to check out some other teas (maybe higher quality teas) to see if they fit your preferences better.
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