Awhile back on this blog we wrote about eating tea leaves, which some folks have since responded they do regularly. However, others have said that they can’t abide any bits of tea leaf in the liquid, that it distorts the flavors. Which brings up the question: What’s your tolerance for tea leaf pieces in the cup? But first, a look at why they would be there in the first place.
Steeping it loose
A bit of a play on the expression “keeping it loose.” Here we mean the tea leaves are steeped loose in the pot, gaiwan, steeping glass, or other vessel of your choice. Just put in the desired amount of pu-erh pried off that cake (or one of those mini-tuochas), or measure out some oolong, green, white, or black tea. Add the water heated to the appropriate temperature, set the timer, and then pour into your chahai (pitcher for tea) or directly into cups. Some teapots will have little holes over the spout end attached to the body of the teapot to help keep big pieces out, but smaller ones will make it through. If you’re using a gaiwan, pieces may slip around the edges of the lid as you pour. And steeping glasses may have no strainer at all. Voilà! Tea leaf bits in your tea!
The good and bad aspects
First on the good side: you avoid using a strainer that can thin out the mouthfeel of some teas; you get a bit of extra benefit from the leaf pieces you swallow.
Now on the bad side: yes, the tea flavor may be altered in a negative way, usually by some bitterness entering the liquid, but this will depend on how long the liquid sits around and will only be an issue for those who dawdle over their teacups. I do like to let the liquid cool slightly so my tongue isn’t scorched by searing hot liquid and so my taste is dulled, but it’s not long enough for tea leaf bits to affect anything.
You will, of course, need to determine your own level of tolerance and may find yourself liking those bits more and more as time goes on…or maybe not. Only time will tell. Give it a try and let us know how it goes.