Yes, of course burning tea is technically possible.
However, that’s not what actually happens when brewing tea – it’s merely getting extracted.
Some teas are more sensitive to water temperature variations than others. For example, oolong, green, and white tea are prone to burning if the water is too hot. Ergo, you’ve effectively burned the tea.
If you burn your tea then its taste changes, which may or may not be a pleasant experience. The over-boiled tea leaves can register a taste ranging from bitter or very bitter to even almost charred.
Tea is considered ‘burned’ when it is steeped at too high of a temperature.
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Burning vs. Extracting Tea
The water might be boiling hot but as the tea leaves are submerged in water, they cannot “burn”. If left in boiling water they’ll be over-extracted instead.
The quickest way to prove this: No matter how much you boil the water with tea in it, you will never get a “burnt” taste – which you get for nearly anything else when overcooked.
When tea is over-boiled, it’s essentially releasing more tannin than normal.
Tannin is extracted out of the tea leaves as the temperature increases. The additional tannin content is the reason behind the bitter taste of “burnt” tea.
Over-boiling tea is actually a common part of making chai or milk tea and masala chai, which includes additional spices that must be deconcocted in boiling water.
Is it Okay to Over-boil Tea?
The ideal temperature for the tea depends on which type it is.
White tea, for example, is recommended to be brewed at 85°C or 185°F.
However, as long as you like the taste, it’s completely fine. There are no temperature rules, so to speak.
Some prefer the bitter taste. Some like their tea sweetened. If you like the taste of extra tannin then by all means go for it.
Remember, making the perfect tea is a highly personalized affair that largely depends on experimentation.
You might stumble upon a great taste or flavor by doing something out of the ordinary!
It’s perfectly safe to drink over-boiled tea. What should be avoided is reheating the tea. It can affect the taste and potentially be harmful if the prepared tea sits out at room temperature for to long.
Why Does Burnt or Over-boiled Tea Taste Flat?
If your tea is tasting flat when over-boiled then that’s because you have already stripped the water of most of it’s oxygen. This can give the tea a listless and flat taste. Combine that with the extra tannin and the flavor actually becomes bitter on top of bland.
However, that’s not the case always. Depending on the type of tea, how long it was boiled for, the quantity of the constituents, and at what temperature it was boiled, the results will swing from just flat to extremely bitter.
The antioxidant potential and EGCG content of green tea is negatively affected with increasing temperature and brewing time. Boiling water can also destroy some of the catechins contained within the tea.
Many green teas will typically taste sweeter and better with cooler water. An common water temperature recommendation for green tea is about 160 degrees fahrenheit. So, over-boiling is a bigger issue for green teas. Broadly speaking, darker oolongs and black teas mix well with hotter water – but that’s no reason to over-boil the water or tea.
Furthermore, the hotter you brew, the stronger, more robust, and darker will the tea become. On the other end of the spectrum are teas brewed with somewhat cooler water – making them sweet and milder, with less astringency.