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In a pickle: How to fix bitter tea

What causes tea to be bitter? And, more importantly, what can you do to correct it? Here, we’re uncovering the world of tea and teaching you to make the perfect cup.

Woman drinking tea

What’s your favorite type of tea? With so many to choose from, it’s hard to decide.

Lately, I’ve been on a green tea kick, but there are so many other wonderful flavors to choose from — white, oolong, black, herbal, rooibos and blends. There are chai teas, peach teas, mint teas and blueberry teas. There’s tea for breakfast, caffeinated tea as an afternoon pick-me-up and tea to drink after eating dessert. Here, we’re learning all about bitter tea — its cause and how to fix it — plus we’re providing tips on making the perfect cup.

What causes bitter tea?

Did you know? The more caffeine a tea contains, the more likely it will taste bitter.

Tea can turn out bitter for a variety of reasons. The water may be too hot or too cool (though typically too cool water just leaves the tea tasting weak), the tea may have been stored in a wet environment (tea is best stored in cool, dark and dry areas), the teapot may not have been cleaned properly or you may have brewed your tea for too long.

More specifically, there are natural chemicals in tea leaves that lead to the bitter taste. These chemicals are polyphenols, which cause tea to taste astringent (think red wine), and theophylline, which is what specifically causes the bitterness.

How to fix bitter tea

Did you know? Tea is an acquired taste. True tea connoisseurs believe bitter tea is the way to go.

Whether you brewed your tea for too long, stored your tea improperly or used water that was just a tad too hot, your tea is bitter, and you need a solution. To fix bitter tea:

  • Add a pinch of baking soda. Just a pinch will do or else you’ll wind up with tea that tastes like baking soda.
  • Add a dash of honey or agave syrup. Though no amount of sugar will completely rid your tea of its bitterness, sweetening it up a bit can mask the taste.
  • Pour over ice. If your hot tea is bitter, pour it over ice and enjoy. Adding ice waters it down plus helps conceal the bitterness.

Tips on brewing tea the right way

Remember, bitter tea is caused by not brewing it properly. Master the art of brewing the tea, and you’ll never experience bitter tasting tea again. A few tips include:

  • Do not overboil the water. Once the water starts boiling, immediately remove from the stove and let it cool for 1-2 minutes before adding the tea leaves.
  • Use high-quality tea leaves. The better quality the leaves, the better tasting and less bitter your tea will be.
  • Do not overbrew the tea. If you like your tea to taste stronger, add more leaves instead of steeping it longer. Also, never “ring out” your tea bag into your mug.
  • Once it’s done brewing, let it rest. Tea is similar to meat in that it needs to rest in order to be at its best. Let your tea sit for 5 minutes before enjoying in order to enhance the flavor.

More on tea

A non-tea drinker’s guide to loving tea
5 Benefits of drinking tea
Tips for making iced tea

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