I can remember the first time I tried to make Matzo Ball soup. I had just come back from New York and had a great bowl of it at Katz’s Deli and was eager to make my own version.
After 2 bags of groceries and 2 hours later, the final result was terrible. The soup literally tasted like I was drinking water with a little bit of chicken flavor in it. It was nothing like the thicker, mouth-coating delicious soup I had at Katz’s. It turns out that the problem I had is that I didn’t let the chicken simmer for long enough in the water.
Matzo Ball Soup is not the only thing that turns out too thin if it is made incorrectly. Tea can also taste like nothing but water.
Make Sure Your Tea Steeps for Long Enough
A sure fire way to know if your tea has been steeped for too little time is to test the thickness of the liquor (the finished tea “broth”). All teas should have some consistency when you drink it. Most teas have just the slightest bit, like chicken soup you would find in a can. Some teas, like Oolongs or Gyokuro’s have a thicker mouth feel, almost like Matzo Ball soup.
The Key to Thickness is Amino Acids
In the most basic sense, amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. They are also the molecules that give the tea liquor its thickness. So if your tea is too thin, it is lacking amino acids.
L- Theanine is The Star of The Show
L-Theanine is a very interesting part of tea and it deserves its own discussion. But, as far as we are concerned right now, it plays a large role in the thickness of the tea. L-Theanine is an amino acid that is a derivative of glutamine. It is also unique to tea.
Many people believe that the L-Theanine is responsible for most of the mouth feel that the tea liquor has. For example, Gyukuro’s have some of the highest levels of L-Theanine of all teas. It is this reason they have a thicker feel than a black tea that does not have as much L-Theanine.
Amino Acids Need Time to Be Extracted From The Tea Leaf to The Tea Liquor
The rate of extraction for each tea is different, but the general rule is as follows:
- Black Teas – 4 minutes steep time
- Green Teas – 3 minutes steep time
- White Teas – 3 minutes steep time
- Oolong Teas – 2 minutes steep time, with each additional steep around 1 1/2 minutes
So, if you ever taste tea that is too thin, you now know that the tea needs to be steeped for a longer amount of time. If now I could only figure out how Katz’s Deli makes that amazing Matzo Ball soup…