Wednesday, July 17, 2013

This activity exploring science behind brewing tea was part of our China Elementary School Unit.
History and Science of Tea from Planet Smarty Pants
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Think Like a Scientist – Ask Why

Why Do We Boil Water for tea In our study of Chinese history and culture we learned that tea is a very popular drink in China and, in fact, second most popular drink in the world about water. We drink tea at home quite often, but it occurred to me that I never discussed with my 7 year old what happens when we make team.
Me: Do you know how we make tea?
Smarty: We take a packet of tea leaves and add hot water to it.
Me: Why do you think we use hot water?
Smarty: Because we want hot tea!
Me: So what if we want iced tea?
Smarty: Well, then, we’ll be using iced water.
Me: And what do you think happens to the leaves?
Smarty: They go… dissolve in water, and that’s why tea is orangey-brown.

Test Your Hypothesis

Using Scientific Method Investigating How Tea Is Brewed
  • Set out 4 glasses, and add 1 tea spoon of loose tea leaves to each.
  • Put ice cold water in the first glass, room temperature water in the second glass and boiling water in the third glass
  • If you want to also see what happens to tea that is brewed for too long, add another glass with boiling water – this is why we had 4 glasses.
  • Set the timer for 3 minutes.

Describe What’s Happening

Describe Your Experiment

Here are Smarty’s observation from this experiment:
  • Hot water turned brown almost instantly, and it took a very long time for cold water to start changing color.
  • Tea leaves fell on the bottom in hot water but mostly floated on the surface in cold water.
  • Tea leaves didn’t dissolve. Instead they got bigger and soggier.
  • Tea that brewed longer was darker and more bitter than 3-minute tea.
  • Tea leaves are not tasty, and getting them out is a pain – this is why we use tea filters or packaged tea.
  • It’s possible to “oversugar” your tea – that’s when you start to bargain with Mom to make you another cup of three minute tea. 
  • We don’t make iced tea with ice, after all.

Learn About History of Tea

10 Plants that Shook the World
A few months after our original experiment we have stumbled upon a perfect book to go with it. 10 Plants that Shook the World by Gillian Richardson is an amazing book that ties together botany, history, and geography. One chapter of this book is about tea and its journey to conquering the world. We read one chapter a day from this library book, but if I were homeschooling, I would certainly do a week long study on each of the plants featured in this book. My 7 year old enjoyed it a lot, but the recommended age on Amazon is 10-12 years. I would say that the book would work well for families with children of different ages, and the story lines can be simplified and summarized for younger children.

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Your Turn

What do you do to disprove false ideas (like an iced tea made with ice) in your house?
I am sharing this post at my favorite kid blogger link ups.


maryanne @ mama smiles said...

I love this type of experiment too! Did Anna get her second cup of tea?

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

Our mint is going wild in the garden right now - so it would be a good time to try this with C - I doubt she'll believe the lesson about the sugar without trying it for herself :)

hey said...

I love how this fit so naturally into your study about China and so naturally into your day. What a fabulously simple experiment full of thinking and learning!


Marie-Claude Leroux said...

I love that you used tea as a starting point for a science experiment - and how well it fits with your study of China!

Ticia said...

We did a much simpler version when we studied China (the boys were 4, I think), and now I'm wishing we'd done it with loose tea.

Jeff leaves the tea bags in, and it does get very bitter after a while.

Bethany said...

I've never thought of tea science before!

Angela Bennett said...

My daughter and I have a tea party every Tuesday. I may have to incorporate a little science into our next tea party! Thanks for the idea. :)

Ticia said...

As I'm rereading this I'm thinking I kinda want to do this with some very cheap tea leaves. Not the ones we got from teavana, oh and I kinda want to restudy China, but that's probably partially because I find China fascinating.

Crystal said...

Cool article! I love the way you have your daughter come up with a hypothesis and then test all of her ideas. Tons of great learning going on there :) Thanks for sharing at Saturday Science!

Deborah Nielson said...

This is a great exploration! I love the "over-seeped" tea option as well, and the way Smarty worked through all the parts of the scientific process. Just wonderful. :)