I traveled this weekend, and gulped a mouthful of hot, steeped tea from my paper cup at the Rest Stop. I immediately spit it out, but it was too late. Within 5 minutes, the roof of my mouth started to peel in ribbons, and thus, I spent the rest of the weekend eating soft food and drinking tepid tea like this:
It was not a smart move.
Some like it hot…but can it be too hot?
Most people assume when making tea that the water must come to a roiling boil, but in fact, water temperatures that are too hot can dissolve tannins, destroy compounds or burn sensitive tea, resulting in bitter, astringent, and unbalanced brews. Boiling water and then cooling it removes oxygen from the water and decreases the flavor of the tea. And not all teas benefit from the same temperature.
Green and yellow teas are the most delicate and should be brewed at a low temperature. Often the bitter or strong grassy flavour is a result of the water burning the tea leaves. Steep for 2-4 minutes.
White tea should be brewed with water that is well below boiling, but can be warmer than green tea. Tiny bubbles just begin to form on the bottom of the kettle and rapidly rising to the surface. Steep 4-6 minutes.
Oolong tea is best a little hotter than white or green tea. Larger bubbles form, and a moderate amount of steam is released. Oolong should be steeped longer than black tea (5-8 minutes).
Most black teas and red teas should be brewed at a high temperature in order to draw out the full depth of flavour. The water will have very large bubbles and a large amount of steam. Steep for 4-6 minutes.
Finally, tisanes or herbal teas have widely differing instructions. Yerba Mate, shouldn’t be steeped in fully boiling water.
So whether you like it hot or cold, or somewhere in between, be smart…
Tea, though ridiculed by those who are naturally coarse in their nervous sensibilities will always be the favorite beverage of the intellectual. -Thomas de Quincey
…brew it according to the directions, and don’t gulp it down!