Why do teacups leave damp spots
Tea myth "patina": rinse the teapot or not?
Over time, stubborn tea deposits build up in tea utensils. Black tea in particular manages to leave stubborn, dark deposits very quickly. The question of whether one should leave these tea deposits (the so-called "patina") in the pot or rather use "clean" dishes is answered differently by tea friends:
One group - I call them tea traditionalists - is of the opinion that the slowly growing layer of tea deposits increases enjoyment and describes this as "patina".
The other group - let's call them tea modernists - would rather have patina-free ("clean") dishes for their tea enjoyment and do not consider the "patina" in the jug to be valuable, but fear that mold and bacteria can settle here.
So far, I have not been able to find any sound, even scientifically-based evidence for the claim of the Pro-Patina faction. However, it can be read again and again that the small Chinese Yixing pots in particular make the pot more and more valuable over time due to frequent use with only one single type of tea and the tea aromas that have been absorbed into the open-pored clay. After decades of use, such a pot should deliver tasty tea simply by filling it with hot water - without adding any tea leaves. At least that's the legend.
But so that we don't get ourselves wrong: Patina fans also at least rinse their teapots with hot water - before and after use. Not that anyone here comes up with the idea of leaving the remaining tea (possibly including the used tea leaves) in the pot in order to obtain a thick layer of patina particularly quickly. 😉
Proper cleaning of teapots
Most people are familiar with the fact that open-pored pots should not be cleaned with washing-up liquid, because otherwise washing-up liquid residue could get stuck in the "pores" of the material and then spoil the taste of the tea. It's quite different with glass, metal and porcelain - nothing stands in the way of cleaning with washing-up liquid and a sponge or brush. Strongly abrasive cleaning agents should, however, be avoided if possible so as not to unnecessarily roughen the surface of the inside of the jug. Because the rougher the surface, the faster stubborn deposits form.
Incidentally, stuck tea deposits (the patina) can be removed with simple home remedies. Patina fans, however, only use hot water and would rather accept a less than charming look than remove the (supposedly?) Valuable coating.
As long as the jug is thoroughly rinsed with hot water and - especially important for open-pored clay jugs - is then dried thoroughly, I don't see any problem in it (apart from the unsightly appearance). However, you shouldn't make the mistake of putting an open-pored clay jug in the cupboard with the lid on, moist. In this case you can look forward to a lively growing layer of mold in the jug guaranteed after a few days ...
But what is right now: is the patina good or an annoying evil?
What has been made as an assertion so far
The patina is formed from the tannins of the tea leaves, some materials promote the formation of the patina (open-pored clay pots, Chinese Yixing pots, silver pots, teapots for the East Frisian tea ceremony) and this patina then serves as a "protective layer" between the material and fresh tea - and supposedly enhances the taste of the newly brewed tea. This patina should therefore not be removed under any circumstances. The pot should only be swiveled out with hot water and preheated with hot water before preparing fresh tea.
My thoughts on this - explanations
I have made the following thoughts about it, but I haven't really gotten any smarter in the discussion with tea friends:
- If the binding of the tannins makes the tea tastier and the material of the pot already binds the tannins to itself, then a cleaned pot should have the same effect. I don't need the patina for that. (Unless the patina intensifies the effect, as allegedly already deposited lime in the kettle is supposed to pull the lime out of the water even faster.)
- If the patina serves as a protective layer between the material of the pot and the tea: Then I have probably chosen a "bad" material for the pot. Either the material should improve the taste or it should be neutral to the tea. So again I don't need the patina - or I actually have a bad pot.
- If the patina of tannins improves the taste of the tea because it releases flavors again, then it seems to be the tannins that promote the taste. So why do they have to be withdrawn first? Or does the process of depositing, drying and later dissolving again result in a chemical / biological transformation of the patina? So some kind of continued oxidation that then brings out completely new flavors?
Perhaps the third comment is the key to solving this “tea myth”? Regarding the question of whether unwanted effects such as mold and bacteria could also settle in the patina, it should be noted: These do not always have to be harmful to health in the same way (e.g. blue cheese, yeast fermentation, Pu Erh tea, etc.) - but I also have reliable information on this can not find.
My preliminary conclusion
At the moment, the question of the value of the patina in a teapot is still unanswered for me. Personally, emotionally, I am on the side of the “tea modernists”. For me, tea should taste good in and of itself. And clean tea utensils increase the pleasure I feel when drinking tea for me. Different materials (clay, glass, porcelain, ...) can influence the taste or at least the sense of taste - but whether a patina is required for this, I dare to doubt.
Nevertheless, I put a request to a science editorial office, hoping to get a clarifying answer from this site. But maybe there is also a scientist among the readers of this article who has already done or read a study on this topic? Then I look forward to a hint or a well-founded answer by email!
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