Cheap tea = bitterness?


Made from leaves that have not been oxidized.

Re: Cheap tea = bitterness?

Postby edkrueger » Jan 28th, '13, 23:31

zeto wrote:I'd argue price is mostly a function of perceived need and supply... simply supply and demand.


Only mostly?
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Re: Cheap tea = bitterness?

Postby Evan Draper » Feb 1st, '13, 18:16

Apologies if I retread some old ground here, but I think this thread is sorely lacking a systematic answer, and wth, it's still active.

Bitterness in tea comes mostly from its catechins (aka polyphenols, antioxidants, tannins, etc.). Caffeine contributes to bitterness. Bitterness is modulated--lessened, perhaps, or overshadowed--by amino acids (e.g. theanine, glutamic acid) and aroma compounds. So a high "catechin ratio" in your brew will taste bitter. I'm sure there are pesticides that add a bitter taste, along with manufacturing defects, soil composition and many other variables, but I can't speak to these in detail.

  • Catechins are synthesized in the leaves from aminos by sunlight. Leaves with more sun exposure--those that are not shaded, those that are older, those that are picked in the summer months--will have more catechins and less aminos.
  • Combine this with the delivery of things like aminos, aroma compounds, and glucose to the developing buds and younger leaves, and older leaves lower on the plant have more catechins and less aminos.
  • Assamica (or Daye, "big leaf") cultivars tend to have more catechins than Sinensis cultivars. This may or may not be separable from the fact that Assamica is suited to climates with more sun exposure than those of Sinensis.
  • Catechins dissolve in water more rapidly at higher temperatures. I've heard 175°F cited as a threshhold. So hotter water will produce a higher catechin ratio.
  • I've heard higher caffeine content correlates with plantation grown tea, but I couldn't explain this mechanism.
So, we have a lot of variables that can contribute to bitterness, and a lot of them correlate to cheapness. Shaded tea, budset tea, first flush tea, tea that grows more slowly in colder climes (sinensis): all of these are more expensive to produce and/or more limited in availability.

This is not to say that cheaper teas tend to have more catechins, or are more bitter. Many cheap teas are virtually flavorless, having not much more than fiber.
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Re: Cheap tea = bitterness?

Postby bambooforest » Feb 1st, '13, 21:59

Evan Draper wrote:I'm sure there are pesticides that add a bitter taste, along with manufacturing defects, soil composition and many other variables, but I can't speak to these in detail.


This is an interesting speculation: Whether or not pesticides can directly influence taste.
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Re: Cheap tea = bitterness?

Postby Brian Nametko » Feb 16th, '13, 16:29

Cheap tea isn't exactly bitter, however it's not as smooth as say an organic or well harvested one. Tazo and Bigelow teas seem to have a fresh crispness to their flavor.
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Re: Cheap tea = bitterness?

Postby beforewisdom » Feb 20th, '13, 10:49

Mo the leftfoot wrote:In a "Yahoo Answers" topic a guy asked the question why cheap green tea get´s always so bitter that easy. The answer he got was that cheap tea almost always contains plant material that doesn´t belong into the tea at all like lower and full grown tea leaves.

Recently I had a longjing that suprised me by beeing so cheap (I thought how can a longjing be that cheap at all) and I got my reward when I first brewed it: No flavour at all and gruesome bitterness at ANY temperature.

So my questions: Is it right that cheap tea is stuffed with things that don´t belong in it and is this the reason why it gets so bitter at any temp? or is it just that it´s to old?


Very interesting!

I always thought it was the antioxidants and tanins that made tea( all tea ) bitter. Those are the things that supposedly make tea healthier to drink than other things.
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Re: Cheap tea = bitterness?

Postby beforewisdom » Feb 20th, '13, 10:50

entropyembrace wrote:I´m really not sure why exactly...but it´s definitely my experience that cheap teas are often extremely bitter and rather bland. :?


By "bland" do you mean it doesn't have that grassy (or any) taste aside from the bitterness? What constitutes cheap tea? At what price does tea become cheap tea and possibly poor quality tea?
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Re: Cheap tea = bitterness?

Postby rdl » Feb 20th, '13, 17:09

beforewisdom wrote:What constitutes cheap tea? At what price does tea become cheap tea and possibly poor quality tea?

you ask an interesting question. there is a centuries old uji tea company selling their sencha (100g) from under $10 to $65. i am sure they don't feel their tea is "cheap" in any way, and price it according to the quality of each grade of tea.
i in no way speak for them, i mean to make the point that the quality of a tea is not based on price, but grade. if you buy a lower grade tea from them it will be a delicious lower grade tea. and if $65 is spent it will be a delicious top grade tea.
if you're knowledgeable about the tea you're going to buy, then price indicates a taste profile, if you trust the tea company, rather than cheap or good.
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