Saturday, March 3, 2012
The Microwave Redeemed!
My experience with bad office tea tells me there are a few key reasons why it happens, and the use of a bag is not at the top of the list. Often the tea has been in the cabinet so long no one even remembers where it came from. The simple answer is use fresh tea. Yes, the better quality the leaf to start with, the better the chances of a great cup of tea, but stale is stale.
The next problem with an easy solve is especially true of bag users – over steeping. Bag users are notorious for leaving the bag in the cup until it is empty. Admit it, you have done it too. Removing the tea from the brew at the proper time will reduce, and often eliminate, the bitterness and stomach burn found regularly in office tea. To those of you who put the bag in the cup before using the microwave to heat it – well, you deserve what happens and I am not even going to try to change you.
The last major obstacle is the water temperature. The hot water spigot on the office coffee machine is probably not hot enough for black tea. Although for greens and white I find it works well. So what do you do if you need hotter water. You go straight to the microwave with your cup and the result is often flat boring tea.
While not a complete cure, I discovered how to greatly improve the taste while brewing loose leaf at home. I filled a cup with water and heated it for 2 minutes in the microwave. Our machine will heat the water to boiling in that length of time – you may need to adjust accordingly. Then I removed the cup and poured it into my French Press. This simple act changed the taste of the tea. Why? During the pour the water splashed around the press and this infused oxygen into the water. It may seem like a bit of work using a heating vessel and a steeping one, especially if you are using a bag, but this method is quite effective.
I have been told that you can also greatly improve the water by placing a chop stick or wooden popsicle stick in the cup while heating. This will break the surface tension and the rough surface of the wood encourages air bubbles to form. This helps the water boil. Microwaving water can be hazardous. There have been instances where super heated microwave water has exploded when the door is open. This happens when the water can’t bubble. It happens very rarely but the addition of the stick will reduce the possibility.
If you can't avoid the microwave, you can at least make using it worthy of your leaf.