TEA101 – Tea & Heat

TEA101 – Tea & Heat

Further chapters of “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking” by Samin Nosrat  made me wonder about the relationship between tea and heat.

Heat is the element of transformation for any food or drink, and twice so for tea. Heat – what type, when and how much – is key in tea processing. And heat comes into play again when we brew tea.

The decision of water temperature is super important: heat will make a tea taste differently, both in real and perceived way.

Same goes for wine, although it’s rather about chilling than heating. I like the experiment quoted in “Wine Bible” : at workshops, Karen MacNeil  serves exactly the same wine at two different temperatures, with only 3 degrees difference. Her students invariably think those are two different wines and praise the one chilled just right. Just 3 degrees separate awe from indifference.

Different teas call for different brewing temperatures. Tender green teas prefer water that barely starts to simmer; oolongs and white like simmering water, and black and dark love when the water is close to the boiling point.

What is more interesting is how water temperature can influence existence or perception of other Flavours.

Ever tasted warm beer ?? Ugh. Remember how excruciatingly bitter it was? Higher temperature means higher perceived bitterness.


  • lower brewing temperature for green teas, which are generally bitter than the rest, makes total sense: they taste less bitter.
  • Longer exposure of leaves to hot water means bitter tea – hence the idea to empty gaiwan or teapot from water after each steep.
  • On the other hand, cold temperature will seal bitterness. Put a few green or oolong tea leaves in a water jug and leave overnight in the fridge (the simplest way to prepare a cold brew!) – believe me, zero bitterness.
  • Heat enhances perceived sweetness. Same soda drink tastes a way much sweeter when warm than when chilled. So warning for black tea lovers with a sweet tooth: it’s easy to go heavy on sugar when your tea is colder…
  • Heat and acidity have inverse relationship. So you will feel more acidity when your black tea is cold.

Have a fantastic day at just the right temperature!


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