How to avoid bitter tea

By John Rice, General Manager. When a customer is brewing loose tea for the first time, they sometimes comment that it came out tasting bitter. Unlike most bag teas, high quality loose teas require more care in brewing, and how to do this properly will vary with the particular tea being made. This is why we have specific brewing instructions on each bag of tea.

If your tea is coming out bitter, it is usually due to any of three different reasons. 1) The water is too hot; 2) The tea has been steeped too long; or, 3) You are using too much tea. The first thing to do is make certain the proper water temperature and steeping time are followed, as indicated on the label. For example, Sencha is a particularly delicate tea and should be steeped for 1 minute (no more) in steaming (not boiling) water or it will rapidly turn bitter. The final solution is to use less tea. Customers sometimes hesitate to try this, fearing they will lose flavor, but the fact is that the astringency of tea can actually cover up the flavor when too much tea is used. Using less will sometimes increase the actual tea flavor. The most fail safe way to measure your tea is with a scale, which needs to be accurate to at least 1/10 gram.  Use 2-3 grams of tea for each 6 oz of hot tea or 12 oz of iced tea, starting more toward 2 gm for unflavored or lightly flavored teas and more toward 3 gm for flavored teas with large pieces, like chunks of cinnamon or fruit rinds.