Chemis-tea Question
August 15, 2007 6:42 AM   Subscribe

My wife and I like our Iced Tea different, She likes her's sweet and I like mine not so sweet. Our tea recipes are basically the same. Take a pot of water, add tea bags (8 or so), boil, add sugar, dilute with water. We're making a gallon at a time. Assuming that we both use 8 tea bags, boil the same amount of time, and add enough water to make a gallon of tea.... if we start with different amounts of water, do we end up with the same "strength" tea?

For example, if I use 8oz of water, and she uses 12, she usually wants to use 9 or 10 tea bags. Her argument being that because she's starting with more water, she needs the same concentration as I do before diluting. My argument, no matter what water you start with you're ending with the same amount, a gallon.

Neither of us are educated enough to really express our thoughts regarding this logically..... and end up agreeing to disagree.

FWIW, I end up adding around a cup of sugar to my gallon of tea... she likes closer to two cups.
posted by TuxHeDoh to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Well, it depends on whether having tea-ness in water already prevents more tea-ness from coming into it. I suspect that you're nowhere near a saturation point, so by first answer is "no, there's no difference".

However, to be irritatingly exact, whenever you take the tea bag out, you take some water with it, right?

Think of the extremes, to make a good thought-experiment.

If you only had a few tablespoons of water, and the tea bag gave all the tea-ness it could, when you remove the bag, you're taking most of the water and most of the teaness with you.

Now, if you put a tea bag in a swimming pool. ... When you remove the tea bag, you take the same amount of water out, but there's not a lot of the tea-ness concentrated in that few tablespoons or so.

So, when you add the first bit of tea into the same swimming-pool sized pitcher, the former will be far less strong than the one that didn't need diluting later.

Now, the difference there is very small for the quantities you're talking about, so it's safe to say they're pretty much the same.

Make sense?
posted by cmiller at 6:54 AM on August 15, 2007


The intermediate quantity of water isn't important. Using 9-10 tea bags in the final gallon leads to more concentrated tea than the 8 tea bags in the final gallon.
posted by DarkForest at 6:56 AM on August 15, 2007


The intermediate quantity of water isn't important.

Assuming, as cmiller points out, that we aren't near the saturation point for any of the components of tea, and that the amount of water removed from the total by the (wet) tea bags is insignificant. Both of my assumptions are dubious if you are really putting 8-10 tea bags in 8-12 oz water. But perhaps I am misreading what you are saying.
posted by DarkForest at 7:03 AM on August 15, 2007


To channel both previous answers, the intermediate amount of watrer makes no difference, providing nothing becomes completely saturated. For that amount of water I would think that saturation is not an issue, so you don't need more tea bags for more boiling water if you always top up to a gallon.

The flaw in her logic is that she dilutes with less water than you do because she starts with more (assuming you top up to a gallon and that you don't add a gallon). So she doesn't need her concentrate to be as strong.
posted by GuyZero at 7:06 AM on August 15, 2007


What, 8 tea bags in 8 oz of water? I mis-read it as 8 cups (or something). Cripes, use more water. 2 tea bags will saturate 8 oz of water.
posted by GuyZero at 7:07 AM on August 15, 2007


Why don't you adopt a different approach. Make a jar of simple syrup (2 parts sugar boiled in 1 part water). It keeps fine. She can then add however much she wants to her glasses of tea.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 7:09 AM on August 15, 2007


The water amounts were chose arbitrarily... it's probably 2 cups and 4 cups.

Thanks for the responses, especially since they pretty much confirmed my suspicions.
posted by TuxHeDoh at 7:33 AM on August 15, 2007


A simple syrup jar is absolutely the best solution for this, and any other cold drinks that need to be sweetened.
posted by Wolfdog at 8:07 AM on August 15, 2007


What, 8 tea bags in 8 oz of water? I mis-read it as 8 cups (or something). Cripes, use more water. 2 tea bags will saturate 8 oz of water.

No -- this is the right way to make Southern sweet tea. A highly concentrated brew, sweetened while hot, diluted with cold water later. 2 tea bags would make a horrendously weak tea. Also, boiling the tea makes a difference.

I do agree that simple syrup will solve your problem, though. And that your wife's tea is stronger simply by virtue of having used more teabags in the final gallon.
posted by Miko at 8:29 AM on August 15, 2007


A lot depends on how long you steep it too. But all else being equal you are right.

I use six or seven bags to make a half gallon, btw. OR two giant family sized teabags.
posted by konolia at 8:57 AM on August 15, 2007


not sure if it applies in this case but boil size does have an impact when making beer. the volume of water in the boil changes the specific gravity which in turns impacts the amount of alpha acids extracted from hops. it is possible the same physics impacts the extraction of tea goodness.
posted by phil at 9:29 AM on August 15, 2007


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