Why does my tea taste funny?
November 19, 2007 12:59 PM   Subscribe

Some, but not all, cups of tea made with my Brita water filter kettle are tasteless and undrinkable. Why?

I have a Brita water filter kettle, less than two years old. Approximately every third round of tea that I make with it are unbearable. It looks like tea. It looks really tasty. But it tastes just like milky water. It doesn't matter how long I infuse the tea or how new the cartridge is. Why does this happen?

I live in Colchester, Essex, in the UK (if that makes any difference).

posted by satellitebadger to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you send tea through a Brita filter, it'll taste like water. Are you brewing the tea after the water passes through the filter?
posted by suedehead at 1:07 PM on November 19, 2007

LOL... yes, I am indeed making tea with freshly-boiled filtered water, rather than filtering the tea itself!
posted by satellitebadger at 1:23 PM on November 19, 2007

Are you sure you don't just have a bad batch of tea?
posted by dcjd at 1:25 PM on November 19, 2007

Sounds like bad tea. You should do some science - brew from two different bags with the same batch of water; also consider having a third party taste the tea to confirm the tastelessness.
posted by 0xFCAF at 1:41 PM on November 19, 2007

Is it freshly-boiled freshly filtered water? If you keep boiling the water, out goes the oxygen, and with it the taste.
posted by bonaldi at 2:11 PM on November 19, 2007

I doubt its bad tea. Assuming we're talking PG Tips and not swanky loose tea, that stuff is uniform in manufacture and individual bags are very unlikely to be substandard.

When I get that effect, it is usually just an underbrewed bag. If I drop the bag in the cup and forget to stir it immediately, for example, it can happen; it never happens if it gets a good stir. Perhaps stirring oxygenates the water, ala bonaldi's suggestion?
posted by DarlingBri at 2:13 PM on November 19, 2007

While we're at it, my top tea tip: pour the water on from a ridiculously great height, like some show-off waiter. Yes, you get some splashing, but the force of the water pummels every bit of taste out of the bag instantly; no stirring required.
posted by bonaldi at 2:16 PM on November 19, 2007 [2 favorites]

Are you consistent with the milk-putting-in? I don't drink tea often, though every once in a blue moon I will accept a cup from a co-worker. Co-worker A puts the milk in with the teabag before adding the boiling water and it tastes like hot milky water. Co-worker B adds the water after the tea has brewed and it tastes nice and tea-y. Also, my mother-in-law, who drinks more tea than anyone I know, says that the tea is worthless unless the water is actively boiling when it hits the tea leaves. Not water that was boiling five seconds ago, or five minutes ago, but rolling, bubbling, boiling water right out of the kettle (she also uses cute little teapots and loose tea rather than brewing in the cup and it is always amazing). Anyway, take my advice with a grain of sugar (haha) because I am from America, only been in the UK a year so all this tea drinkery is new to me.
posted by cilantro at 3:11 PM on November 19, 2007

I suspect that what you call a filter kettle in the UK is called a pitcher filter in the US. That's what I use and I make a lot of tea. In any case, no matter how hard I try to standardise for best practise, my results are pretty variable from drinkable to really good.
posted by Huplescat at 3:28 PM on November 19, 2007

Wild suggestion: it might not be your tea or your kettle. It could be your cups or spoons have some detergent residue on them. I'd do a little more research.
posted by chairface at 3:28 PM on November 19, 2007

Aside from the other comments (agree about wanting at least most of the water to not be reboiled), filtered water can be less than optimal for tea. Spring water with a low concentration of minerals (but with some mineral content) is probably ideal. That's what I do, but it is a little expensive / wasteful.

Using a better filter (3 stage or reverse osmosis) might improve (or worsen) the taste of your tea. One of my fellow tea-nerds uses RO filtered water but then adds a few drops of this stuff that's designed to remineralize the water.

All that said, the fact that the problem is so dramatic and comes up once out of every 3 or so times is strange. I assume you've checked to make sure the kettle doesn't need to be descaled, and doesn't have any strange smells or buildup?

Does it make a difference if you filter / boil using separate devices? The kettle / filter thing seems like a weird combo, and I'd be a little nervous about boiling water in a plastic kettle (those things always smell a little weird inside).
posted by PandaMcBoof at 3:40 PM on November 19, 2007

If you care about the taste, you should take notes and be as consistent as possible. To reinforce what Bonaldi said: the most important thing about brewing tea is the boiling. Take the water off the heat as soon as it's boiling, and pour it on the leaves immediately. (The mnemonic mom taught me is "take the teapot to the kettle, not the other way around.")

I prefer to not let the water come to a full roiling boil; I take the water off just before it starts boiling.

Something else to pay attention to is how long you let the tea steep. After much experimentation I've decided that I should steep my favourite tea for just under three minutes. (I don't like tannins.)
posted by phliar at 3:49 PM on November 19, 2007

Sometimes tea can contain Trichloroanisole, the chemical compound that is responsible for corked wine:
Corked Wine on Wikipedia.

This happens to me every now and then with Salada Tea. Some people are more sensitive to it than others.
posted by bumper314 at 4:27 PM on November 19, 2007

When do you put the milk in? You can't put the milk in before brewing, since the proteins in the milk bind to the teabag and block the tea from brewing. Likewise, if you put the milk in the kettle after you're finished brewing, there's probably enough residue building up that, by your third time, it stops the brewing process. Pour the tea into another container, then add milk.
posted by penguinicity at 5:11 PM on November 19, 2007

Ahhhh... for our confused friends over the pond. This is the kind of filter kettle that Satellitebadger is talking about. Also, the milk first/last debate is one that has kept our nation debating for many, many years; you might not want to go there.

I can't help much with odd tasting tea, as I take it as it comes (but not too watery please!). I know it kind of defeats the point, but have you checked the kettle doesn't need descaling? Are you using tea bags and a cup, or loose leaf and a pot? Is it always you making the tea?
posted by Helga-woo at 1:24 AM on November 20, 2007

Ohhh that linked got borked... and it's all Argos's fault. Here's an example of the kettle, we use the electric sort, that you plug into the wall, no milked added.
posted by Helga-woo at 1:27 AM on November 20, 2007

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