Microwaves are a “marvel of engineering [and] a miracle of convenience,” so says Harvard Health Publishing. We agree. And we take it for granted in the 21st century. Having an appliance in your kitchen that heats up food quickly is a perk of living in modern times.
But, these magical boxes can’t do everything. Microwaves do have their flaws—especially when it comes to heating liquids.
Everyone knows that tea is mostly water. This isn’t big news, but this is an important fact when it comes to the right way to make your tea. How you heat your water is the key factor in whether or not your mug is filled with a first-rate brew or something completely tasteless.
Here’s why you should never microwave tea.
Different Teas Require Different Water Temperatures
Heating a mug of water in the microwave might sound like a good idea, but the devil is in the details.
Oftentimes, microwaving a mug will make the water too hot—making it difficult to handle and exponentially increasing your finger-burning risk. Then, you have to wait for that scalding water to cool down before you can drink your fully steeped, improperly brewed tea.
But these are just mild inconveniences. The biggest problem with heating a mug of water in the microwave to make tea is that different teas require different water temperatures.
On the low end of the spectrum are white tea and green tea—including matcha. These teas should be steeped between 170 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Black, oolong, rooibos, and herbal teas should be steeped at much hotter temperatures— at least 200 degrees or more.
Of course, trying to achieve the proper water temperature with a microwave is an exercise in futility. The cold spots alone would make the task impossible.
If the proper water temperature still doesn’t seem like a big deal, let me break it down this way. Using a microwave to heat your mug is a waste of money. If you are buying better, more expensive loose-leaf or bagged teas, microwaving the water and steeping at the wrong temperature will destroy any chance of fully extracting the flavor.
The Laws Of Physics Say Microwaving Tea Is A Crime
I don’t know about you, but the reason I drink tea is because of the flavor. It’s kind of a big deal. So when the science tells me that microwaving water to brew tea destroys the flavor and is very, very wrong, I must listen.
In 2020, researchers at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China conducted a study that was all about how heating liquid works in a microwave. Remember those cold spots I mentioned earlier? Well, this research showed that heating liquids in the microwave produced a lot more than cold spots.
They found that a microwave’s electric field—which acts as the warming source—actually prevents the convection process and causes water to end up at completely different temperatures depending on location. In other words, the top part of the water in the mug is boiling while the bottom is much cooler.
“Because the entire glass itself is also warming up, the convection process does not occur, and the liquid at the top of the container ends up being much hotter than the liquid at the bottom,” states the study.
A good cup of tea is all about a uniform temperature throughout the mug, and that’s not going to happen with a microwave. You have to heat your water from below—like on the stove or within a kettle—so convection occurs. That’s the only way to get a perfectly uniform temperature and a fantastic cup of tea.
If you are cheating yourself out of a good cup of tea by using the microwave, that ends today. I can’t allow this to continue because there is such an easy fix—buy a tea kettle.
No matter your budget, you can find a kettle with a built-in thermometer that will allow you to make the perfect cup of tea every time without any hassle.
Wenegg Stainless Steel Gooseneck Tea Kettle
If you prefer to use a kettle over the stove, the Wenegg Premium Stainless Steel Gooseneck Tea Kettle is a budget-friendly option with a price point under $30. But that low price doesn’t indicate low quality. The slender spout and ergonomic handle give you ultimate pouring control.
But the best part of this kettle is the built-in thermometer, which allows you to hit the precise temperature every time and extract full flavors from your tea leaves.
Shop Now: Wenegg Tea Kettle, Amazon.com.
Cuisinart PerfecTemp Cordless Electric Kettle
There aren’t many names in the world of small kitchen appliances that are more trusted and loved than Cuisinart. If you drink different types of tea regularly, the Cuisinart PerfecTemp Cordless Electric Kettle is a smart investment.
This kettle literally has the proper water temperature for each kind of tea written on the six preset heat settings, which allows you to steep your tea at the perfect temp with just the push of a button.
Shop Now: Cuisinart Electric Kettle, Amazon.com.
Cosori Electric Gooseneck Kettle
The Cosori Electric Gooseneck Kettle will boil a full kettle in just three to five minutes. It features five precise temperature presets for white, green, and oolong tea, plus a preset for coffee and boiling. There’s also a one-hour keep warm function so you always have hot water ready.
Shop Now: Cosori Electric Kettle, Amazon.com.
If you are a regular tea drinker, stop heating your water in the microwave and invest in a kettle. It might take an extra minute or two to get hot water this way, but the high quality of your brew will be so worth it.