10 ultimately disappointing tea hacks

Steepster shared a link on Facebook to a Lifehacker.com article ingeniously titled ‘Top Ten Tips and Tricks for Terrific Tea‘. “Great,” I thought. “These must be really good if Steepster are sharing them.” Unfortunately not. I give you ’10 ultimately disappointing tea hacks’.

Teabag by Anders Adermark

Photo credit: Anders Adermark

10. Don’t Make Tea in the Microwave

I fail to understand how this is a ‘tip’ or ‘trick’. I mean, the actual default way to make tea is to use a kettle. This is like saying ‘when you play tennis, don’t use a squash racquet’. Yes, a squash racquet will have to do if you want a subpar game of tennis but… never mind, I’ll drop this analogy.

9. Get the Temperature and Time Down for Steeping Tea

This assumes that you’re overbrewing when actually plenty of people underbrew (especially when they use teabags; because the colour comes out before the flavour, many just dunk-dunk-remove). Yes, there are recommended steep times and temperatures but people’s palates are different. Maybe they like bitter green tea?

The tip should have been something like ‘find out the optimum temperature and time to steep your tea’ to precede a short discussion about how tea changes according to these two elements and to encourage experimentation to account for personal taste.

8. Control the Caffeine in Tea

Good luck. There are so many myths about tea and caffeine I do not know where to start. The truth is, there is no real way of telling how much caffeine is in tea without testing every batch. So much depends on the growing conditions, picking conditions and the processing that even tea picked at the same plantation can vary from season to season.

The worse part is this myth perpetrated by Lifehacker:

“For more caffeine alertness, steep for a shorter amount of time. For less caffeine, you can do a brief steep, pour out the brew, and then re-steep to cut as much as 80% of the caffeine.”

Nup.  Science says no.

This wonderful blog post written by Nigel Melican of Teacraft for Cha Dao summarises and explains two significant studies on this topic, one by Monique Hicks, Peggy Hsieh and Leonard Bell and another conducted by Professor Michael Spiro.

If you can’t be bothered to read the post, it concludes that it takes more than 5 minutes for 80% of the caffeine in tea to come out. If you want to remove caffeine completely, you’ll be waiting 15 minutes, after which point if you re-steep your tea you’re going to miss most of the flavour.

7. Buy the Best Tea-Brewing Gear

I’m guessing this was a good way to fish for engagement by getting people to share their recommendations and maybe generate some advertising leads. Once again, it’s misleading. You do not need ‘the best’ tea-brewing gear, you just need to know what gear suits the tea you like.

Instead of “You don’t need a special tea kettle to make great tea, but they sure come in handy,” what would’ve been more helpful is perhaps a few tips (remember those, blog post?) on how to tell if the water is at the right temperature e.g. looking for bubbles in the water or waiting # minutes after boiling to get it down to  the temperature you want.

Same for all the suggestions it courts about brewing baskets. A real tip would’ve been explaining how size of brewing basket might affect the tea and therefore by changing the size you can change the taste of your tea.

6. Buy Better Tea Leaves

I think it’s stretching the reader relationship to suggest that buying better tea leaves is a ‘trick’ that no one else might’ve thought of to make better tea.

5. Avoid Watery Iced Tea

Oh, my mistake! This is a real tip:

 When it comes to iced tea, make sure you use double the amount of tea normally used so the ice cubes don’t dilute your drink or use iced tea you’ve frozen in ice cube trays to avoid this problem. You can also cold-brew your iced tea for a stronger, smoother cup (and brewing tea in the fridge avoids the risk of bacteria like sun tea has).

4. Find the Tea Alternatives to Coffee

Um, this is not a tea trick. This is a coffee trick that involves tea. Stop it.

3. Ditch the Tea Bag

Oh FFS, this is right up there with the microwave ‘tip’. Tea is tea leaves and hot water. Everything else is technology. It also assumes that you’re only using teabags and you’re so stupid you might not have thought to use loose leaf to get a better cup of tea.

This section does have a little on making your own tea bag from a coffee filter, which I grant is an actual bona fide hack.

2. Learn Everything You Need to Know About Tea in About 10 Minutes

‘Need’ to know is a pretty big call. Some people may ‘need to know’ about the caffeine content of tea and we’ve already found out the post can’t even get that right.

Granted, this disappointing post’s better educated sister post, to which it links, is pretty thorough considering how concise it is. Not really a hack though.

1. Drink to Your Health

Hmm, this is less about brewing ‘terrific tea’ and more about why you should drink tea. Not a real tip or trick.

Bonus: The Many Other Things You Can Do With Tea Besides Drink It

OMG! Actual tips and tricks hidden in this bonus section!

Use used tea bags or fresh tea to hack your body and your home. For example, feed plants with used tea bags, clean windows with tea, sooth sunburns and stop bleeding with tea bags, clean hardware floors and hide scratches with tea, freshen up small spaces with a tea bag, and maybe even get rid of warts with tea.

In conclusion, this is a cobbled together, badly researched listicle vaguely related to tea. My biggest issue was that the tips and tricks weren’t tips or tricks in any accepted definition of these two words (though I’m prepared to begrudgingly acknowledge it may be a post for absolute morons who may not have realised that using better tea leaves might actually result in better tea).

Don’t be a tip-less, trick-less reader, what’s your best tea hack?