We’ve all been there. You tried your best to enjoy a particular tea but it just doesn’t work. The taste might be bland, bitter, or just downright unpleasant. I’ve had my share of ‘tuition teas’ over the years but things may not always be as bad as they first appear. Here are some options to explore that might help save those leaves from the trash bin.
Change It Up
Tea is different from many other beverages because the end-user ultimately controls how it prepared. The vendor’s recommendations are always a good starting point but that isn’t the only way that a certain tea can be made. Don’t be afraid to experiment if you don’t enjoy a particular tea. Changing your water temperature, leaf volume, and infusion time can all change the taste dramatically.
Keep in mind that your teaware choice has an effect as well. A tea that does well when prepared in a gaiwan might not taste nearly as nice if brewed in a large mug. There are no rules when it comes to this. Go with your instincts and if it doesn’t work, try something else the next time. Keeping notes on your tea sessions can help with this so that you can jot down how the tea changes.
Hot water has a tendency to bring out the faults in a tea. Cold brewing removes that aspect from the equation so it can often result in a tastier cup. There are teas that I don’t enjoy hot but that come out fairly drinkable when brewed with cold water. This is particularly true for teas that are very brisk or astringent. Cold brewing is also a great way to use up an older tea that is past its prime. I did this a lot to use up the massive store of tea that I took home when the Teavana that I worked at closed.
Age or Air It Out
Puerh is fermented and stored for a long time so odd odors can be a pretty common occurrence. Letting the tea air out can allow these to dissipate. To do this, you’ll just need to place the tea into a loosely lidded jar until you have achieved the desired result. You’ll want to make sure that your jar is in an area where you won’t accidentally introduce other aromas. In extreme cases, it may help to break up the cake to expose more surface area to oxygen. This option mainly only applies to puerh, heicha, and perhaps very smokey oolongs. I’m not an expert on this subject so I would recommend taking a look at resources like TeaDB.
Cook With It
One of the best uses for tea that you don’t like is to cook with it. Brewed tea can be added to soups and broths. Leaves can be crushed or ground and incorporated into baked goods. I don’t like to drink earl grey but it is pretty tasty when added to sugar cookies. Rather than adding the actual leaves to the batter, you can try infusing butter or milk with tea. Lower quality matcha is also super easy to add to just about any recipe.
Trade or Give Away
It is important to keep in mind that tea is subjective. What one person enjoys might have a flavor profile that someone else hates. Trading with a friend can let you offload something that isn’t your cup of tea and you’ll get to try something new in the process. Of course, you’ll always want to be upfront about why you are getting rid of the particular tea. I receive a lot of samples of random things at tradeshows and other events. They usually aren’t a good fit for the blog but I will give them away to friends.
If you truly don’t like the tea after trying all of these options, it is OK to admit defeat. Sometimes bad tea simply means a lesson learned. You now know more about your own preferences and can use that information to guide future purchases.
Do you have any tips that I missed? Let me know about it in the comments below!
Great suggestions! I agree that cold brewing can mask a lot of a tea’s faults (especially the fault is too much astringency or bitterness!). And like you, I prefer to have Earl Grey in baked goods rather than as a tea :p