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Tea is such a popular drink and you might be one of the millions of people who need to start the day with a great cup of tea. If you’ve been making tea for a while, you’ve probably noticed the tea starting to foam up at least a little.
Most people don’t think about it, but curious minds may wonder why exactly the tea foams. Is there a specific thing that causes tea to foam, and is there something wrong with tea if it foams too much?
Read on to find out why tea foams and you will also get other information about what tea foam means. You will feel much more knowledgeable about tea foam so you can satisfy your intellectual curiosity.
Usually you don’t have to worry about tea foaming, but it’s still something interesting to learn. The information below will really shed some light on things, and when you’re done, you’ll feel like you know the most relevant information about foam tea.
Why bubble tea
From a simple scientific point of view, you will see that the tea foams because of the amphiphilic compounds contained in the tea leaves which are extracted during the brewing process. It may sound fancy, but it just means that the steeping of the tea is the direct cause of the foam.
It actually works the same way suds are created when you combine soap and water. Putting soap and water together creates bubbles or foam and you can think of tea in similar terms.
The infusion of the tea causes a molecular reaction which produces these bubbles of foam. This is because there are many different substances in tea that can cause tea to foam.
Keep reading to learn more about the compounds responsible for making tea foam. You will better understand why this is happening in the first place.
Amino acids are perhaps the most common compounds that make your tea frothy. Tea with more soluble amino acids will produce more foam on the surface.
Denatured proteins can also be responsible for creating foam when steeping tea. These proteins are actually large molecules made up of amino acids, so it makes sense that they froth up the tea.
Finally, there are probably also fatty acids that cause tea to form. These fatty acids have the potential to make tea foam in a more soap-like way, which means that a tea with a high fatty acid content can be particularly foamy.
How is foam made?
Now you know which substances cause tea to foam during the brewing process. What you don’t know is how exactly foam is formed.
Below are the likely reasons why foam forms when you steep your tea. It could be a combination of these or just one.
Dissolved gases can cause your tea to foam, as gases can dissolve in water. If some of the dissolved gases escape during the brewing process, foam bubbles may form.
Trapped air is one of the most common reasons brewed tea becomes frothy. When you brew tea, it froths more if there is air in the tea leaves or tea bag you are using.
When this air is released it can form bubbles which will show up on the surface of your tea. If you see that your tea has a lot of small bubbles, trapped air is probably the reason they are there.
The way the water is poured
Sometimes the way the water is poured can play a role in the foaming of the tea. You could have poured the water in such a way that the air was forced into your tea.
The air can actually cling to the tea bag or even whatever you’re steeping your tea in. This creates a foam that looks like the foam mentioned above.
Various factors can cause more or less foam
You learn that tea foam is a more interesting subject than you first thought. There are many reasons why tea may foam during the brewing process, and there are also several factors that can cause more or less foam to form.
Finding out what factors may influence this can help you better understand what is going on. It might not be easy to completely avoid tea foam, but at least you know what to expect.
The temperature of the water while steeping the tea can play a role in the formation of foam. Depending on whether you brew your tea with hot water or cold brew your tea, you can expect more or less froth.
If the water gets too hot, it can whip, which makes things easier to dissolve, and it will create more foam. The cold brew can also make things happen differently, and it’s best to try to do things the way you want, so your tea tastes the way you want.
The type of tea you brew
It should make sense that the type of tea you brew will come into play. Some teas are more likely to produce significant amounts of foam than others.
This is because one type of tea may contain more compounds that make the tea foam. If you use a tea that contains less of these compounds, you will get less foam or perhaps almost no foam.
Where the leaves are broken
Broken tea leaves are more likely to form a lot of foam. This is because more of these compounds are extracted during the brewing process.
The surface area of the broken tea leaves is higher, so the compounds dissolve faster. If you want your tea to be frothy, using crushed tea leaves is one way to achieve this.
If the tea contains additives
Sometimes tea contains additives that can play a role in foaming. Some common teas contain additives that make the tea lather more.
Earl Gray tea is probably the best example. There are plenty of others that also contain additives, and you’ll want to research details on each type of tea you’re brewing to learn more.
Microwave ovens can also produce more foam
It’s amazing put your tea in the microwave may cause the tea to bubble more than usual. If you’ve microwaved tea recently, you may have noticed that the tea is frothier than when you steeped it using the standard method.
If you heat water in the microwave and then steep a tea bag in a cup, it will likely produce a thick froth. However, why is this happening?
In short, the water you are using has been overheated and the overheating can cause excessive foaming. The microwave will heat the water past its boiling point, and the cup you’re using may not boil the water properly either.
People who microwave tea in this way often find that a large number of air bubbles appear on the surface of the tea. It will also likely be thicker than usual, and if you want to avoid that, you should probably stick to steeping the tea the standard way.
Should you be worried about foam?
Moss is by no means something you should be concerned about. It won’t hurt you and it’s actually completely natural.
That said, some people may find overly frothy teas a bit more boring to drink. You can try to make your tea less frothy if you can prevent air from getting into the tea during the steeping process.
It may also be good to buy teas that foam less. You don’t have to go out of your way to avoid tea foam, but some people may prefer teas that contain only small amounts of foam.
The only time you should worry about foam in your tea is if it looks particularly odd. For example, if the tea tastes strange or foams in an unusual way, it could be bad.
Sometimes tea can go moldy if you don’t store it properly, which can cause the tea to look very strange. If you think there is something wrong with the tea you are brewing, simply throw it away and clean your kettle so you can brew fresh tea.
In general, the foam in your tea shouldn’t be too much of a reason to think twice. If your tea turns out a little more frothy than usual, the most likely situation is that there is too much air in the tea.
Foreign substances added to tea
Sometimes the tea may foam more than usual if foreign matter has also been added to the tea. For example, you may not have rinsed your kettle as well as you thought.
If you recently cleaned your tea kettle with soap and water, it is possible that soap residue has been left in the kettle. If you are going to boil water for your tea while the kettle is still a bit soapy, some of that soap may have soaked into the tea.
If your tea tastes a bit soapy, that’s probably the culprit. You probably forgot to rinse the kettle so you’re ready to make some more tea.
There is no need to worry if you drank tea with soap. It just might have tasted a little bad, that’s all, and you can definitely remedy that the next time you brew tea.
Other things can make your tea taste bad if added to the mix as well. For example, your tea kettle will form scale due to prolonged use, and you will need to clean the kettle to remove it.
Leaving the kettle alone and not cleaning it can alter the flavor of your tea. It is not known if this can affect the froth of the tea, but it can definitely interfere with the taste.
It is recommended that you wash your kettle often enough to remove any mineral buildup. It should be easy to access and you can enjoy your tea as usual.
Knowing more about tea and why it foams should put your mind at rest. Those new to tea brewing may be concerned about frothy tea, but most people understand that this is normal.
You have a lot of information on why tea foams and what factors can contribute to tea foaming. This can really help you decide which types of tea you prefer, as you can look for teas that contain more or less of the compounds that contribute to foaming.
Above all, take the time to savor your tea. Tea is such a wonderful drink enjoyed by people all over the world, and you should embrace it whether the tea is frothy or not.
Hopefully all of your burning frothy tea questions have now been answered. When your curiosity is satisfied, it’s easier to focus on a hot cup of tea and relax.
I have a bachelor’s degree in film/video/media studies and an associate’s degree in communications. I started producing music videos and recordings almost 15 years ago. I’m a guitarist and bassist in southwest Michigan and have been in several different bands since 2009. In 2012 I also started making custom guitars and basses in my home workshop. When I’m home, I enjoy spending time with my three pets (a dog, a cat, and a snake) and gardening in my backyard.
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