Last week came news of a lawsuit filed by Zeynep Inanli, who bought a hot tea at a Manhattan Starbucks, then claimed she suffered second-degree burns as a result of the tea being “unreasonably hot.”
But what is “reasonably hot” for tea? We called James Oestreich, the house manager at Teacup on Queen Anne, to find out.
Starbucks was in the right, says Oestreich, if the tea Inanli purchased was black or herbal. His shop uses boiling water, at about 212 degrees Fahrenheit, to prepare cups of dark Darjeeling or chamomile, for instance. “I don’t think you get the full strength if you brew it cooler,” he explains.
But if Starbucks is using boiling water for its Tazo line of green and white teas, not only does the coffee giant run the risk of burning you, it puts the very flavor of the tea in jeopardy.
Overbrewing leads to bitterness. So for oolongs (slightly lighter than black teas, and used in Tazo’s “Joy”) and heftier green teas, Oestreich says, stick to temperatures around 180 degrees. And for the most delicate teas, very light greens and whites, the temperature of the water in which you steep should be closer to 160 degrees.
Starbucks didn’t respond to a message asking for the company’s official policy on water temperature. But at a store down the street from Weekly headquarters, an employee said all tea is brewed in water of 200 degrees. A second employee filled our order—a cup of black and a cup of green—from the same steaming tap.
We were unable to determine what kind of tea Inanli was drinking.