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Should you squeeze your teabag?

To squeeze or not to squeeze?

After sharing a cup of English Breaky Tea with a very dear friend this weekend and her family, the topic quickly turned to how to serve the perfect cup of tea (to my absolute delight) and if squeezing the teabag resulted in a bitter flavour or not.

To be honest, I have always been one to squeeze the teabag after the recommended brewing time, without even thinking about the consequences on flavour, believing that this was standard practice and optimized the flavour of the tea. Granny GG, however, was utterly appalled by my tea etiquette and soon suggested that squeezing the teabag resulted in an unpalatable cup of tea due to its bitter flavour.

Not that I’ll be having tea with the King anytime soon, but since this is a tea-focused business, I am all for unpacking if and /or why tea may be more bitter after squeezing the teabag when brewed.

Tannins and their role

It seems that the main aversion to squeezing the teabag after brewing is that squeezing may increase the concentration of tannins into the cup, resulting in a more prominent bitter flavour.

Tannins are naturally occurring chemical compounds that are responsible for giving the tea its characteristic flavour and astringency (that familiar mouth-drying feeling).

The brewing time of any tea that is derived from the Camellia sinensis plant (á la our English Breaky tea or a Masala Chai tea) would contribute to the end flavour of the cup, with longer brewing times resulting in a stronger, more bitter flavour and shorter brewing times resulting in a lighter flavour.

So why does it matter if the teabag is squeezed, if there are already tannins present in the cup based on the chemical composition of tea leaves as well as the preferred brewing time by the drinker?

Would squeezing really change the flavour of the brew that much?

The quality of your tea

Now the above does all make sense when you reflect on that last cup of tea that you made using a teabag that contained dusty tea (yes, we see you!).  Dusty tea's achieve a stronger flavour more rapidly during brewing due to the smaller particle size of the broken tea leaves and stems used. There is nothing wrong with opting for these types of teas, especially if you’re pressed for time as they make for a quick and easy brew #life. But squeezing a dusty tea after oversteeping, may well in fact result in an unpalatable drink, with the concentration of tannins dispersing into the brew a lot quicker than a whole leaf tea.

When it comes to using high quality whole leaf tea leaves, on the other hand, the larger tea leaves require a longer brewing time than those dusty tea bags to allow for all of the complex flavours and oils to be released into the water. And when it comes to squeezing these quality teas, some tea purists argue that squeezing high quality tea leaves ensures that every essence and note from the tea leaves are fully utilized, creating a more flavourful cup, as opposed to the debated bitter cup.

So perhaps it’s not so much the act of squeezing the teabag, but rather the tea-grade enclosed as well as the brewing time followed that’s the real ish.

It’s up to you, baby!

Due to the natural chemical composition of tea leaves, one would always find tannins present if the blend contains leaves derived from the Camellia sinensis plant. It is, however, more likely that the length of brewing time and the tea-grade used would have a direct link to the astringency (a.k.a bitterness) of the brew, as opposed to squeezing the teabag, itself. The choice to squeeze or not ultimately boils down to personal flavour preference. 

Whether you're a die-hard squeezer or a staunch opponent, the beauty of tea lies in its versatility and the endless possibilities it offers for customization.




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