We've all been there: that terrible moment when 'tea promise' turns to 'tea-disappointment'. Avoid despair by following these troubleshooting tips. They could well turn things around.

Tea is bitter

Possible causes and solutions: 
a) If your tea is bitter it is usually due to over-steeping. That is, letting it sit in the water for too long. This is often what happens when you order a pot of tea in a café. The leaves sit in the bottom and your second cup makes you want to reach for a lemon to suck on for some relief. This is especially the case for green tea, which usually only needs a minute or two in the water. However, no two teas are the same and you may find some greens need longer than others.

b) The quality of the tea may not be that great. Like all things in life, there are vast quality variations in tea. While you get what you pay for, also keep in mind that a high price is not always a good indication of quality. Try buying from a range of sources and compare.

Tea lacks flavour

Possible causes and solutions: 
a) Just as over-steeping can cause bitterness, not steeping for long enough can result in lack of flavour. Leaf teas, particularly full leaf teas, need time to unfurl in water for flavour to develop.

The more finely cut the leaf, the more quickly the flavour and colour will be released. Incidentally, this is why dust and finely chopped leaf is used in the manufacture of teabags - they are made for speed and convenience. Think instant coffee vs freshly ground coffee. It's not a crime to drink instant coffee, but the two are quite different beverages. The same parallel can be made with teabags and leaf tea. Read the instructions that come with your teas. Tea&Sympathylists recommended steeping times for all its teas based on what we believe brings out the best flavour in that particular tea. Experiment though; a lot comes down to personal preference.

b) Incorrect water temperature is a big contributor to lack of flavour. If the water is too hot for delicate greens and whites, it can damage the leaves – and the flavour. Here's a tip – don't use boiling water on green or white teas. Add an ice cube to the cup of boiled water if you must, before you introduce the leaves. Similarly, if the water's not hot enough, the flavours won't be released. All good leaf tea should come with recommended steeping temperature.

c) Stale tea can result in lack of flavour. Tea has a fairly long shelf life, particularly if it is stored well. Make sure your tea is stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. If it is in a zip lock or twist top bag, squeeze all of the air out of it before resealing. Tea deteriorates as it is exposed to air. Damp tea? Sadly it needs to go to tea-heaven. Avoid this problem by drinking tea immediately and regularly – don't save it for a special occasion. Enjoy it while it's at its best. If you think you purchased stale tea contact your tea seller (obviously as soon as possible after your purchase) and let them know.

Tea is not the same as last time you bought it

Possible causes and solutions:
a) Your taste buds have moved on. Your tea palate develops as you explore teas. This is a good thing. Don't waste time being sentimental.

b) No two teas are the same. In theory, tea leaves from the same tea bush harvested on a different day can produce a different tea. Just like wine, the different seasons and different weather events each year can produce vastly different teas from the same garden. While there will be some variation in single-estate teas from season to season, they also offer an amazing world of flavour, and allow the truest expression of all the elements of terroir and skills of the tea maker in that particular garden or estate. If you prefer consistency, go with a blended tea. The reason why large tea companies sells a consistently flavoured tea year after year, is due to blending. They blend a range of teas, which may be from different gardens or regions, and indeed different seasons and years to create a specific flavour profile. This is an art in itself.