“Where are the berries?”, said Mrs. Teaist. “You did, did you not, promise me berries?”.
She was right. I had, and there weren’t any.
I stared into my cup, wondering where they were. They should have been lurking in that very vessel, ready and waiting to be unleashed upon my taste buds. Alas, they were not, to Mrs. Teaist’s disappointment and my consternation.
I’d made us a pot of Gruzia Tjakvi. One of the reasons I’d taken this tea along on our holiday was because we both agreed that it reminded us so much of the very same house we were now sitting in. We were huddled indoors during a rain shower and had thought it the perfect time to brew up the tea, only to be greeted by about as bad a leaf based anticlimax as you could ever hope to not encounter.
What could possibly have gone wrong?
One of the first things I considered was a kind of cancelling out effect. If the tea had reminded us so strongly of our summer house when at home, could it be possible that drinking it in the place that it reminded us of had negated those very taste and aroma expectations?
As an experiment I brewed up a pot of Wu Yi Bai Rui. The results were shocking.
All that was left of that tea’s complexity was a vague, general sense of “black tea“, albeit one with a good, thick, creamy body.
If it was happening to both the Gruzia Tjakvi and the Wu Yi Bai Rui then it was safe to assume that my first theory about aroma and taste cancellation was not the cause.
The next thing I looked at was the possibility that the old aluminium kettle we have at our cottage was effecting the water somehow. True, we hadn’t noticed anything in years past, but maybe, I reasoned, it had reached some kind of tipping point age wise, one where it had somehow broken down chemically to such an extent that it was altering the water in it in unpredictable ways. Or something.
On our next shopping trip into town I picked up a 1.4 litre stainless steel kettle, and once back at the cottage got a brew on.
Same result. Oh.
That lead me to my next line of inquiry – the water.
This possibility was a bit troubling, because we hadn’t noticed this kind of effect since we got our water pipe installed 20 years ago.
So, the day after I bought a 1.5 litre bottle of Imsdal Norwegian spring water, which as regular readers might remember I occasionally use when testing teas for the first time.
Back at the cottage I filled up the new kettle with the spring water and put it on to boil. If this didn’t work, the only thing I could think of would be that somehow the plastic food grade bags and containers I’d taken the tea away in had managed to kill the flavour in some unfathomable way.
Once the water had reached a boil I dropped a few grams of Wu Yi Bai Rui leaf in a tea filter bag and steeped it Western style. After letting it infuse for a couple of minutes, I pulled the filter bag from the pot, and took a sip.
Well, that’s that mystery solved. It was the water what done it, guvnor!
Hang on though. In a sense this is just a jumping off point for a whole new branch of investigation.
Had the water at our cottage always been murdering teas all this time and we’d just never noticed before, or had its composition changed since we were there last a year ago?
What exactly in the water is responsible? We know it’s not chalk – the water there is known to be very soft.
Once I actually find out the cause, is there any easy way to easily remove it for the purposes of tea making, such as a common or garden filter jug, or am I doomed to trail dozens of bottles of Imsdal through a forest and over a hill when we stay there?
Hmmm. This might take a while.
Watch this space, etc.