how do I get that tea glow?
January 30, 2008 6:20 PM   Subscribe

I drink a lot of tea-- two or three cups a day, black with milk and sugar. Maybe one in twenty cups of tea will taste sublime and leave me with a pleasant sort of afterglow that lasts for an hour or so-- not a caffeine buzz at all. The other nineteen cups are just tea. How do I get that tea glow more reliably?

Cheap tea never works, nor does green tea (which I do enjoy anyway, without milk or sugar). The more expensive the tea the more likely it seems to be to do the job, and brewing it really strong (with more leaves rather than a longer time) also helps a bit. But I just can't seem to get that very special tea experience consistently. Can you?
posted by moonmilk to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Does it bear relation to the water being fresh or not? Or do you use fresh water every time?

(Possibly helpful link , slightly self-linky)
posted by gomichild at 6:35 PM on January 30, 2008

I feel the same way about coffee. Every once in a while, I make the "perfect" cup--but most of the time, it is just plain old coffee.

For me, I've found drinking coffee out of a ceramic/earthenware cup somehow makes it taste better than if I drink out of a plastic or glass mug.
posted by pushing paper and bottoming chairs at 6:38 PM on January 30, 2008

I drink even more tea than you (with milk, no sugar) and yes, the quality of the cups can vary widely, although I don't get that afterglow. (Making I'm drinking it wrong.) Off the top of my head, here are some possibilities:

1) As has been mentioned, making the tea with fresh, boiling water and drinking it out of a good cup can make it taste better.
2) Optimal mix of tea and milk, or milk freshness, can make a difference.
3) Optimal temperature: I find that if the tea has cooled slightly, the flavour seems fuller than when it is too cool or if it is scalding.
4) If you have eaten foods with flavours incompatible with tea, or if it has been so long since you've eaten that your breath goes bad, those tastes can react badly with the flavour of the tea, no matter how well it is brewed or what temperature it is at.
posted by maudlin at 6:47 PM on January 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would guess that it's freshly boiled water. Apparently you will drive more oxygen out if you reboil it (though I'm not exactly sure that this holds up to science) which affects the taste.

My suggestion is to drink more tea. :)
posted by GuyZero at 7:03 PM on January 30, 2008

FYI, my late mother drank 8 to 9 cups of tea every day (no, her death was not tea-related). Plain, what we locally call "gumboot", milk no sugar.

I have learned to get consistent good espresso shots by making careful note of all factors involved. It took a lot of practise and observation.

I was taught to make tea (by the tea-holic mother) at age 7 and don't even think about it now. However, here are some things to keep an eye on:
- freshness of leaves.
- quantity of leaves. Rule in our house: 1 heaped teaspoon per person plus one "for the pot."
- quantity of boiling water.
- temperature of water. Water should have been drawn cold, should be well oxygenated, and should be poured onto tea when at a rolling boil.
- temperature of vessels. Both teapot and teacup should be prewarmed with hot water.
- length of time steeping; three minutes is minimum.
- milk in first, or tea in first? Opinions differ, but the flavour IS different.
- sugar quantity.
- sugar variety and quality.

Also, I find with all sorts of comfort drinks, whether tea or coffee or hot chocolate or cold beer, your frame of mind has a lot to do with it. Possibly a side benefit of tea ceremonies is that you are really focussed. Perhaps you are doing everything right, but you need to drink and prepare your tea mindfully.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:04 PM on January 30, 2008 [6 favorites]

Could it be that it's you (or your particular neural/chemical make-up at the time of drinking the tea) rather than the tea or the brewing method itself that causes this?

In other words, are you looking for your keys under the street lamp -- because it's where the light is -- even if you dropped them half a block away?
posted by AwkwardPause at 7:08 PM on January 30, 2008

Try drinking on an empty stomach - like first thing in the morning and compare. I don't get the same buzz from coffee, tea or energy drinks when I have recently eaten.
posted by vizsla at 7:16 PM on January 30, 2008

I'm new to drinking tea but it was always better with half & half. And I agree with not drinking it scalding hot.
posted by drea at 7:49 PM on January 30, 2008

What type/brand of tea are you drinking? I am an avid tea-drinker due to my British grandmother and prefer Twinings Irish or English Breakfast. Tazo Awake tea is also fantastic. I think that a fresh bag of the right tea makes all the difference.

Also, keep a cup specifically for tea. Don't drink anything else out of it (especially coffee). Seconding a rolling boil!
posted by anthropoid at 8:16 PM on January 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

You can get as insane as you want with brewing tea. A guy I know carefully weighs the quantity of leaves he uses, always uses very fresh-boiled water that has been drawn from a tap that was run for quite a while before filling the kettle, and brews the tea in special teapots depending on the type. He will also, on the first few brewings of a given tea, measure the temperature of the water to get it to the recommended range. Sometimes that is close to boiling, other times a minute off.
Different teas take different situations. Quality of leaves is definitely extremely important. I can't comment too much on black tea, but oolong tea made in an Yixing teapot is of a really noticeable quality difference than oolong made any other way.
posted by ch1x0r at 8:38 PM on January 30, 2008

I nearly forgot: don't forget the George Orwell method.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:31 PM on January 30, 2008 [3 favorites]

FYI its bad to drink a excess of green tea. Bad for your kidneys and can cause low blood pressure.
posted by mphuie at 12:40 AM on January 31, 2008

I drink a couple of pots of Yorkshire tea every day, and though I don't take things to the measurement level I do think I know what you're talking about. My sense is that there's a "tang" to the mix that is a combination of sharpness in the tea, governed by the steeping time, sweetness from the sugar and smoothed out by the milk. Too much fat (over 2%) and it gets overwhelmed by the creaminess. Too much steeping and you can't add enough milk and sugar to take the bitterness away. Too much sugar and it's just too sweet. I think these things are very personal and it may be impossible for any of us to satisfy your quest for this knowledge, but now I'm inspired to master my brew! Oh, and PS, one of my archetypes for a great mix was the tea you get on UK National Rail trains. Poured out of a pitcher!
posted by rhizome at 1:52 AM on January 31, 2008

People think I'm weird for this, but I always run a digital timer when I make tea. 3 minutes, 30 seconds? Lousy tea. 4 minutes, 30 seconds? Lousy tea. 4 minutes exactly? Completely sublime tea drinking experience.
posted by bcwinters at 5:32 AM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

I agree that temperature seems to have something to do with how my tea experience is. I'm not really a fan of very hot (scalding) liquids, but there is a sweet spot just below the scalding mark that is ideal for me to get that tea glow. I've found that a teapot (I brew in a cast iron teapot that is squat and has a very small opening for releasing as very little heat as possible) that keeps the temperature high throughout the life of the pot is the best for achieving this desired result.

But I also think that it has something to do with the type of tea. There are a few types (lapsang sauchong and orange pekoe) that have higher success rate than other teas.
posted by greekphilosophy at 6:52 AM on January 31, 2008

Yes, while I usually too lazy to do so, pre-warming the pot helps keep the water temperature up longer and usually results in a better cup of tea. Also, if I'm using good loose leaves (whole leaves, not just bulk tea that's torn/crushed) then the second wash is often better than the first.
posted by GuyZero at 8:36 AM on January 31, 2008

Try adding less milk or no milk and no suger. You should get more of the tea "essence" with out adding different flavors.

I personally cant enjoy coffee or tea if suger has been added. Only after my third cup or so of coffee do start to add half/half. Also like anthropoid said, use seperate cups for tea and coffee, i have 3 insulated mugs on my work desk right now just to keep the flavors and smells separate.
posted by Black_Umbrella at 8:41 AM on January 31, 2008

I don't know what the "trick" is to perfect tea. But I suggest you make this a science experiment. Change each variable one at a time, and take notes.

My tea making method, for what it's worth...
- One tea bag of Bewley's Finest Regency (black box)
- Bring water to a boil
- Pour a little water in cup, and pour out
- Re-boil water, tea bag in cup, add water
- Steep for 6 minutes, remove bag, add sugar & milk

Same for a pot, but more tea bags.

Good luck!
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 9:17 AM on January 31, 2008 [2 favorites]

Thanks for all the advice and suggestions! I'm going to start experimenting.

My usual teas are Ahmad English Tea #1 and Twining's Irish Breakfast or Darjeeling, both usually in bags because I'm too lazy for the tiny extra inconvenience of loose tea.
posted by moonmilk at 10:47 AM on January 31, 2008

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