So tell me: When you've just steeped a mug of tea, and you're taking out the sachet, what do you do with it? Do you dangle the dripping sachet over your mug and quickly navigate it into a trash can, or do you squeeze the life out of the sachet over your mug, either with your fingers or the help of a spoon?
And if you really want to be considered a tea lover, which is the right answer? It seems to me that squeezing the sachet says, "I love this tea down to the very last drop." But then again, in the past I've squeezed a tea bag against the empty mug with my thumb after enjoying some tea, and found that teaspoon of liquid incredibly bitter. Do I want that in my tea?
So, I did what any curious tea neophyte would do. I Googled, and then I held a taste test with the local tea guru (that would be two leaves and a bud founder and owner Richard Rosenfeld.)
And here's what happened:
Google is full of tea purists warning you that the taste of your tea will be ruined by squeezing a tea bag into the mug. It releases too much tannic acid into your tea, they say — which is why I get that overly dry, bitter taste from teabag squeezings. "Squeezing your tea bag is a crime," someone commented on one site, rather emphatically.
But taste aside, there's a health element that's bothering me. Dr. Steven Pratt, author of "Superfoods Rx," tells us which foods on the planet are the best, and makes a big point of having tea on his list of approved Superfoods. (No big surprise there — I can write you a list as long as my arm on all the reasons why tea is good for you.) But he adds this: "Squeeze the brewed tea bag to almost double the polyphenol content [in your tea]." Nothing against polyphenols, Dr. Pratt, but what if I just want to enjoy my cup of tea? If it doesn't taste good, I'm not going to drink it at all. Then, no health benefits for me.
So I set up a taste test, explaining to Richard that he'll be tasting teas prepared in slightly different ways. He doesn't know what I'm doing, but he patiently puts up with my in-office antics.
First, our Organic Assam black tea:
Richard detects the mug that includes a squeezed sachet is a little stronger. The color is darker, he notes, the scent is about the same, but ultimately he prefers the non-squeezed tea. "The average consumer wouldn't be able to detect the difference," he says.
Then, Organic White Peony tea:
No difference detected. Not even in the color of the tea.
Finally, Organic Orange Sencha, a green tea:
He thinks the tea with the squeezed sachet might be a little more orangey tasting, and a little more astringent. But he's not certain.
My research isn't over. First, I want to hear from you: To squeeze, or not to squeeze? Second, I'm going to compare more kinds of tea in squeeze tests. Could it be that because our tea is whole leaf, rather than the sort of tea dust you find in cheap tea bags, that squeezing doesn't affect it so much? Next up: we'll taste a bag of Lipton tea, squeezed, against a higher end, whole leaf black tea.
As for our tea, maybe you'll detect a difference, maybe you won't. Maybe you're so used to squeezing the sachet into your tea that it doesn't matter to you either way. And if you want all of the polyphenols Dr. Pratt says are in that tea sachet but not risk adding any strange taste to your mug of two leaves and a bud, here's my recommendation: Squeeze the sachet into a separate cup, and drink that bitter tasting liquid down fast, like you would a wheatgrass shot. Wheatgrass is supposed to be good for you, too. But that doesn't mean I have to like the taste.