Friday, April 22, 2005

"Tea that smells/tastes like seaweed," redux

Earlier in the week, a reader asked about a tea she had that tasted like seaweed. I replied that I had never come across such a tea. However, whether by coincidence or because her question made me more aware of such tastes and aromas than I usually am, the same thing happened to me while putting a competitor's tea through the paces: I brewed a cup of tea by putting the leaves directly in the cup and let it sit awhile.

When I finally drank it (especially the last of the brewed tea, which had by that point been steeping for a half an hour or more), lo and behold, I did detect a slightly "seaweedy" smell. I hadn't detected it when brewing it in a teapot or cup.

When I used an over-the-cup strainer for the first cup, I let the tea brew for only five minutes. After removing the strainer and taking a sip, the tea had the taste and aroma I'd expect from a green tea.

So what could be responsible for the difference?

The strange aroma could be because:

  • the water was too hot the first time. ("Cooking" the tea could alter it somehow, just as coffee kept in a thermos for too long tastes different than freshly brewed joe.)

  • I used too much tea. (Although I sometimes brew super-strength green tea but have never noticed a strange taste or amora.)

  • I let the tea steep too long. (For instance, there could be unpleasant-tasting substances that take a long time to seep out of the leaves.)

Oh, there's one more possibility: I went too long without washing the cup!

If anyone has had similar experiences, and has an idea of what the cause of the strange aroma was, please drop me a line .

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—Mellow Monk