|A chilled black tea (Keemun/Assam blend)
that is very cloudy yet rather tasty.
(photo used with permission)
We’ve written here in a previous article about mist and tea, and now think it’s time to address the question of clouds in your tea.
The “Cloud” Type of Cloud in Your Tea
Yes, mist is a cloud, one that hugs the ground. But the clouds higher up also become part of that tea in your cup. Clouds form when air expands and rises, then cools to where water molecules gather together faster than they are pushed apart by their thermal energy. Some water vapor condenses, forming visible cloud “droplets” or “crystals.” There are convective clouds formed from warm air pockets rising from the underlying surface. Other clouds are stratiform, that is, they are featureless and cover a wide section of sky. Water molecules join together to form rain or snow or else they evaporate back into the atmosphere. It’s that rain or snow that can end up in your teacup!
From cloud to ground, those water drops or snowflakes pass through the air and tend to pick up “stuff” along the way. Then they hit the tea plant leaves and the soil, where they soak in and get sucked up by the roots, traveling through the network of xylem vessels to the leaves that then get harvested and processed into tea.
The Steeping Cloud in Your Tea
Clarity in the tea liquid varies from tea to tea, with some being very clear to others being very non-clear or “cloudy.” This is especially troublesome to people who make iced tea, due mainly to marketing efforts by bottlers of ready made iced teas on how “clear” their tea is. The cloudiness is attributed by tea makers to tannins (a natural compound that color tea leaves) are released into the boiling water during steeping. While hot, the tea is fairly clear since the heat dissolves these tannins. However, they separate out as the liquid cools. Ironically, the better teas tend to have more tannins and therefore make cloudier chilled tea, and this can vary from harvest to harvest in part due to that cloud raining on the tea plant and what each raindrop brings with it. Hard water (containing high amounts of certain minerals) can also make your tea cloudy since they can become fairly visible in the steeped tea, so try to use water that is “soft” (free of certain minerals). Another cause is quick cooling. Let your hot tea cool to room temperature before putting it into the refrigerator or adding ice. Or you can just not worry about it since that cloudiness does not affect taste.
The Bottom Line
Don’t worry about that cloud in your tea. Whether it’s what rain fell on that tea plant or how murky your chilled tea gets, it’s the flavor that counts.