A few years ago I saw a Superbowl commercial about people getting “bitter beer face.” I always found those to be funny, but also relevant to the tea world. If your tea is turning bitter, then it most likely means that you are doing something wrong. I don’t mean it in a negative way, but there is one thing that commonly causes even the finest tea to turn bitter.
Over-steeping causes tea to turn bitter
Over-steeping tea means that you let it soak in the water for too long. The result of over-steeping is a darker than usual tea liquid as well as a sharp, bitter flavor. This bitterness is not a part of the flavor of the tea, but rather a sign that too many tannins have been released.
Tannins cause bitterness
Tannins are what cause bitter tea face. They are found in all teas, as well as red wine and other foods. If you are curious about what a lot of tannins feels like in your mouth, try chewing on a grape skin and you will notice it has an almost mouth drying effect. But, this is not to say that tannins are bad. Tannins are extremely healthy for you and they are also prized in some teas. However, like anything else, they need to be used in moderation.
Here is a tip to keep your tea tasting sweet and smooth
While most tea companies include recommended steep times, you may want to adjust them according to your taste. If you find a tea too bitter, then reduce the steep time by 30 second increments until you find the perfect time for that tea. The opposite is also true. If you are looking for a brisk cup of tea and feel like your cup lacks an astringent kick, then increase the steep time by 30 seconds until your mouth gets as puckered as you desire.
Misconception: Tannins are not used to make leather
There is one more thing I need to mention, and it is a huge misconception when it comes to tannins. There is a rumor that tannins are used in making leather and that is why you get that puckering sensation when drinking or eating a lot of them. What people are thinking of is Tannic Acid, which is different than the tannins found in tea. So rest assured, that puckering sensation is 100% natural and won’t turn you mouth into a piece of leather!
To sum it up
If your tea tastes bitter, it is most likely because you steeped it too long. All you need to do is try reducing the time you let the tea steep for and you will most likely end up with a cup of tea that is much smoother than you imagined.