My heart completely melts any time I come across an old photograph of my now-grown children having tea parties in their youth. We used to go all out with wide brimmed hats, flowers, fancy dresses and more. Once, at a geography fair we attended with a bunch of homeschooling families, a young lady gave a presentation on Great Britain. She included instructions on how to properly stir tea. Not only was there no squeezing tea bags, there was no dunking them either.
The question of whether squeezing tea bags is bad (or bad for you) has been trending in foodie and social etiquette outlets for a while now. Should you squeeze or shouldn’t you? Is there a right or wrong here? Is it dangerous to your health? I’ve always loved the idea of taking a tea break in mid-afternoon. In fact, when my children were younger, we made it a regular tradition at least several times per week. If you’re a tea enthusiast, you’ll definitely want to get your facts straight about the stirring, dunking and squeezing business.
Let’s talk about dunking first
We’re going to put squeezing tea bags on the back burner for just a minute. (See what I did there? ::winks::) Before we decide if we should or shouldn’t squeeze, we must determine whether it’s okay to dunk. This article says that dunkers basically rush the steeping process, which can ruin or at least lessen the quality of a good cuppa.
Avoid the temptation to zap a cup of water in the microwave, dunk a tea bag in a few times, then squeeze the bag and toss it in the trash. Instead, those who apparently know such things say you should never dunk. It’s best to bring water to a full boil, then pour it over your tea bag and let it steep (meaning sit without dunking) for four to seven minutes.
Now we’ll discuss squeezing tea bags
When determining whether or not you want to be a tea bag squeezer, you must first make sure you know what tea is. If the bag you are steeping is made from herbs, it is not tea! What most of us call “herbal teas” are, in fact, merely “herbals.” Not much is going to happen if you squeeze herbal bags although some contain low levels of tannin. Squeezing tea bags, however, is another story, especially if it’s black tea.
Actual tea contains moderate to high levels of tannin. Most tea bags are filled with tea “dust” as opposed to leaves of tea. Squeezing tea bags releases tiny tea dust particles into your cup. This means tannin is getting into your drink. The more tannin, the more bitter or sharp your tea will taste. Some say the terms bitter and strong are synonymous when discussing tea. Really, it’s personal preference. If you like the taste, feel free to squeeze away!
What else does tannin do when squeezing tea bags?
Tannin also happens to be the culprit that stains your teeth. If your goal is to enjoy tea but avoid teeth stains, you might want to join the non-squeezer club. It’s logical to assume that if squeezing your tea bag releases tannin into your cup and tannin is what stains your teeth, then…
Tannin is part of what gives tea its flavor as well. Black teas have the highest levels of tannin. There are suspected, potential adverse health issues connected to consuming high levels of tannin. However, tannin also happens to be an integral component of the anti-oxidant properties in tea. Anti-oxidants are super-hero cancer fighting and prevention agents.
A final say about squeezing tea bags
Highly cultured tea connoisseurs typically use loose tea rather than tea bags. Most would find squeezing tea bags unsightly or poor form, particularly in the presence of others. You’ll definitely want to research tannin to decide if you think squeezing tea bags poses any sort of health risk. In the meantime, it’s all about whatever floats your boat.
If you like strong tea anyway and are too impatient to boil water and let your tea bag steep, then squeezing might be a good option. It makes the tea more acidic. Buying high quality tea and developing your steeping style as a passion or hobby takes time. If that’s where you’re headed, you might want to nix the squeezing. The bottom line here is to do whatever happens to be your personal ‘cup of tea’ — see what I did there, again? ::winks::