Blog 77: Why does your tea look muddy?

If you open a bottle of fine Bordeaux wine and find out it’s muddy, would you still drink it? Of course not, the muddy wine means there’s something wrong with it.


We often see tea lovers post photos. In some photos, the tea soup looks very opaque. Evidently, most tea lovers haven’t realized that it’s usually not a good sign when a tea has muddy tea soups (please see the end of this blog for some exceptions). Today, let’s talk about a bad sign of a tea that is often overlooked by tea drinkers: the muddy tea soup.



The muddiness refers to tea soup that looks cloudy as if the water is contaminated. No tea should look muddy.


Normally, the tea soup should have a see-through clearness. When a tea is judged in a tea competition, the clearness of the tea soup is an important factor to the overall ratings of a tea and its tea-making.


The muddy tea soup looks like a sandstorm in a cup. If you think your tea looks like the picture below (it can be a different color depends on what tea you have), you need to seriously consider stopping drinking that tea.


A muddy tea soup (photo selected from: Baidu search result)

By comparison, a clear tea soup is very recognizable. No matter from what angle, the tea soup is always transparent and bright.




What could have happened to a tea that makes it so visually muddy?


If you’re a regular reader of our tea blog, you might remember that we introduced the importance of water in tea (click here for previous blogs: Blog 4, Blog 7). Yes, using bad water (e.g. low quality tap water) can absolutely destroy a good tea. For example, if we use a bad tap water to make tea, we’re definitely going to get a muddy tea soup.


Good water is the key to a good cup of tea (in picture: a random water stream near our black tea plantation in Tongmu Village)

However, this isn’t the only reason. More commonly, it’d be something wrong with the tea prior to infusion.


As we’ve introduced before, oolong tea has the most complicated tea-making process. From the harvest to the roast, there’re at least 15 steps involved in making a Wuyi oolong tea. During these painstaking steps, if part of a batch of fresh leaves dies before the shaking process finishes (see our previous blogs: Blog 12, Blog 13, Blog 15, Blog 16, Blog 17), the final tea product might develop a muddy tea soup.


Tea plants grow in this environment produce better fresh leaves

The reason behind this can often be traced back the tea plant growing environment. Tea plants that grow on dirt and those grow on scattered rocks deliver different leaves. In general, tea plants that grow on scattered rocks have deeper roots and produce higher quality leaves. These leaves can endure the tea-making processes better. Fresh leaves from tea plants that grow on dirt are slimmer and somewhat weaker, and they are more likely to falter during the process.


This is why we always emphasize the importance of a good “tea mountain field” (山场, pronounced: Shān Chǎng). Better tea mountain fields grower healthier and stronger tea plants, and stronger tea plants produce better quality fresh leaves that can pass the cruel tea-making process.


If the muddiness is caused by flawed tea-making process or ill fresh leaves, the first infusion of such tea would be significantly more opaque than the following infusions.


Good mountain fields are key to a good tea

Another possibility of the muddiness is a tea gets bad in storage due to the extra water content in air. If a tea moulds, the tea soup would become muddy as well. If bad storage is the culprit, all infusions would have similar muddiness.


To be fair, if a tea has muddy tea soup, we can be almost certain there’s something wrong with the water, the tea-making, the growing environment or the storage. No beverages should have a muddy liquid, and tea is no exception.


Finally, we’d like to address that some of the highest quality black tea and white tea (such as Dragon Beard and Silver Needle) might have an opaque tea soup as well. This is due to the fact that these tea uses buds/tips instead of leaves. Please visit our previous blog for a more detailed explanation (click here: Blog 46).


We hope you enjoyed today’s blog. As always, if you have questions or suggestions, please leave a comment, tweet us @valleybrooktea or email the author directly at zhang@valleybrooktea.com. Please also follow us on Instagram @valleybrooktea and join our mail list to get our daily tea updates and our latest promotions!


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