Saturday, 28 April 2012

How long should you leave a teabag in?

Just the title of this is going to infuriate Robert Godden, but I can't get around it. Hopefully he's so busy with his budding tea empire that he won't notice.

Although I only drink loose-leaf tea at home, I travel quite a lot and there are times when a teabag is simply the most practical option.

Also, I write this blog partly for the tea curious and the tea newcomer. They normally start with teabags. I can point out the subpar tea that's normally in a teabag. I can admonish them and insist that the whole experience of loose-leaf tea is far superior. I can say all I want, but my experience so far is that when starting out people go to their nearest supermarket and buy teabags.

This is for them.

Incidentally, not every teabag is created equal. This is something I remember seeing in a video from Cindi Bigelow at Bigelow Tea called How do you know you are drinking high quality tea? 

Here it is:

I assure you that I'm getting no financial compensation from Bigelow Tea for including that (this'd be a terrible ad anyway - I'm only using the clip as an example of how some teabags really are better than others).

Back to my original question: How long should you leave a teabag in?

Some really love to know exact timings for such things, but my friend Joe told me the way he knows his teabag's ready. He leaves it in for a while and then pulls the teabag out and looks to see if the water dripping off the bag is still brown. If it is, there's more tea goodness in there.

If there are drops of clear water dropping off the teabag, that teabag's tapped. Time to throw it out. No timer. No bother with water temperature and the like. Boiling hot water and leave the teabag in there till the water's clear.

Sounds simple enough. It really is.


  1. what about the tea lazy?

    i am a bit embarrassed to admit it, but i get supermarket generic teabags. i squish mine, but ten doesn't like that, so i leave his in for a while then give it a stir before taking it out.

    builder's tea all the way, in this house. apart from the tisanes, that is.

    1. 'ten' is Elaine's kid for those of you following at home.

      Oh Elaine, one of my goals is to get you drinking better teabags and eventually better tea.

  2. I appreciate your willingness to guide rather than push people towards loose-leaf tea. Just because they aren't willing to deal with the hassle of cleaning up after loose-leaf brews doesn't mean they don't deserve an okay cup.

    I think the problem is both that companies that make teabags don't really put the highest quality tea in them that they could, and that it's hard to get into loose leaf tea unless you go looking for it. My mother uses teabags that you fill with the tea of your choice, staple shut, and let go--that seems like a happy medium.

  3. Yes, Em. I let the leaves float freely at home, but often I use those tea filters when I travel. It's really the best option when on the go.

    It's the perfect happy medium.