Is Tea a Clear Liquid?
Tea is a beloved and ubiquitous beverage known throughout many cultures, but does it meet the definition of a clear liquid?
The Scientific Definition
The technical definition of a “clear liquid” is one that is “free from suspended matter.” When you steep a cup of tea, no matter the variety, and allow it to cool, the liquid that you have created is technically a clear liquid.
The Perception of Clarity
Aesthetically and spiritually, however, the picture may not be quite so clear. Many types of tea can appear cloudy due to the presence of tannin, an astringent polyphenol found in a variety of plants. This causes tea to appear cloudy and can also change the flavor.
Tannins in Differing Teas
Tannin can be found in many brewed teas but its presence varies greatly depending on the type and preparation of the tea. For example, most green and black tea will contain tannin, but a white or oolong tea will have a much smaller presence. Likewise, the control of water temperature, steep time, and number of tea bags used will all have an effect on the amount of tannin, and therefore cloudiness, that appears in your cup.
Here are some examples of tannin levels in tea:
- Green Tea: High levels
- Black Tea: Moderate levels
- White Tea: Low levels
- Oolong Tea: Very low levels
While some tea drinkers prefer the clear appearance of less tannic teas, others actually enjoy the low levels of tannin that contributes to the cloudy appearance of their favorite brew.
In conclusion, when science and perception collide: is tea a clear liquid? The answer from a purely scientific perspective is yes, but from the perspective of looking into a cup of brewed tea the answer is sometimes yes, sometimes no.