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When I make black tea, I usually put the leaves (or tea bags) into cold or room-temperature water before I start boiling it. I've noticed that certain cultures always insist on first boiling the water, and only putting in tea leaves once it reaches a full, rolling boil.

Does boiling the water before putting in the leaves make a difference? I tried both ways and couldn't find a difference in taste. It seems like boiling for more than a few minutes means both would have similar levels of oxygen (not sure why that would make a difference).

To clarify: I personally *boil my tea leaves (or bag) for several minutes, as in 10-20 minutes or more. It seems like the other popular way to make tea is to steep in boiling water for several minutes.

I would like clarity on whether putting the leaves/bags in cold water makes a difference, especially given the time-scale of boiling (should it be shortened).

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You don't need to go to anything wacky like oxygen for there to be a difference; the steeping temperatures (and probably times) of the two methods are totally different. –  Jefromi Aug 25 '13 at 14:13
@Jefromi my question is not about steeping; it's about boiling. Yes, some of us boil our tea leaves to death. –  ashes999 Aug 25 '13 at 14:23
Could you clarify how you're making your tea then? I assumed that this was about the difference between "boil, drop tea bag in, wait a couple minutes, take it out" and "put tea bag in, bring to a boil". If you're instead boiling for a long time either way, that's a bit different. –  Jefromi Aug 25 '13 at 14:25
@Jefromi clarified. The process is "put the bag in cold/boiling water, wait 10-20 minutes, and take it out." That's the question: cold or boiling water, what's the difference? –  ashes999 Aug 25 '13 at 14:52
Possible duplicate of: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/10721/… –  ashes999 Aug 25 '13 at 14:54

1 Answer 1

As you're heating the temperature of the water will rise at different rates, depending on the amount of heat, on the quantity of water, and on whether the pan is covered or not. With the tea in the pan, this would create an infusion gradient, as the temperature rose over a varying number of minutes.

If you boil the water first, then infuse, you've fewer variables: the quantity of tea and the quantity of water. So you'll have less to adjust to get the brew perfect.

I don't see how you could brew even the finest black tea for 10-20 minutes without over-extracting it, producing a stewed, bitter flavour that dries the tongue.

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It does impart a lot of flavour as well. If I cut down the brewing time, how else can I extract so much flavour without over-extracting? –  ashes999 Sep 4 '13 at 10:18
I've never tried your way, but I'm satisfied with the flavour I can get with boiling-water steeping. If it is possible to brew tea for such a long time without stewing it (sun-tea?), then it's something I'd like to try. Might try it this weekend. What's your recipe please? –  silves89 Sep 5 '13 at 10:55
If I find steeped tea "tasteless," you will probably find this very bitter (perhaps that's what I relate to as "the tea flavour"). The "recipe" is simple: hot water in a pot with tea leaves (one spoon per cup) until it boils; then add milk until it boils; done. Serve with sugar or honey. –  ashes999 Sep 5 '13 at 12:59

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