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What Is The Stuff Floating in My Iced Tea? 4 Likely Culprits

Tea is the second most commonly consumed beverage in the world, with water being the first. When you peek into the American pantry, you’ll find tea in 80% of them. It’s widespread popularity is well known, but what’s floating in your tea isn’t as clear.

What is the Stuff Floating in My Iced Tea?

There are several things that could be floating in your tea. These include remnants of tea leaves, tea scum, insects, and mold. Some of these can be harmful to your health, while others are simply off-putting.

What is the Stuff Floating in My Iced Tea?
What is the Stuff Floating in My Iced Tea?

Tea Leaves

Of all the things that may be floating in your tea, this is the one to hope for. Tiny bits of tea leaves can get through tea bags, and find their way into your tea. If you find small particles the same color as your tea, this is probably the culprit.

If you are drinking loose leaf tea, you may find bigger pieces of tea in your glass. This is because this type of tea isn’t prepared in a tea bag, which has tiny holes that prevent larger pieces from escaping.

Tiny bits of tea leaves can get through tea bags and find their way into your cup of tea.
Tiny bits of tea leaves can get through tea bags and find their way into your cup of tea.

Tea Scum

Tea scum is also a possibility. This appears as a film on top of the tea. This isn’t harmful, but it’s not particularly appealing either.

This is caused by a combination of chemicals in the tea, and chemicals in the water. Hard water is more likely to cause tea scum, because of its high calcium content. In fact, the scum floating in your tea is actually 15% calcium.

Chemicals in tea can sometimes form tea scum and can look like something is floating in your tea.
Chemicals in tea can sometimes form tea scum and can look like something is floating in your tea.

Mold

Now for the sometimes concerning things that may be floating in your tea. Molds and fungi can develop in many foods and beverages, including tea.

Some of these are harmless. In the case of scoby, they are even desired. However, some can make you very ill.

Scoby

A scoby typically looks like leather. It feels slightly slimy, and often floats on the top of the tea. The scoby is actually a colony of beneficial bacteria and yeasts, all on a bed of cellulose.

Scobys are used to make kombucha. Tea is brewed, and the scoby is added. Over time, the scoby ferments the tea, making kombucha. Kombucha has a distinctive sour taste, unlike typical tea.

It is unlikely you’ll find a scoby in your tea, unless you are making kombucha, but it’s not impossible.

In the case of kombucha, tiny bits of the scoby can find their way into your kombucha tea.
In the case of kombucha, tiny bits of the scoby can find their way into your kombucha tea.

Gelatinous Mold

Gelatinous mold is a common occurrence in tea. It can be disgusting. It’s often compared to mucus, or even jellyfish. This occurs when these gelatinous mold spores are in the air. The tea is exposed to air, and picks up the mold spores.

Once the spores are inside the tea, they begin proliferating, creating a visible jelly like mass floating in your tea.

The good news is that this type of mold is harmless, other than being disgusting.

It can occur in both bottled and home brewed teas. When it is found in bottled teas, it’s usually due to the lid not being on correctly. When the lid is on correctly, it creates an airtight seal. Without this seal, mold spores can get into the tea.

Similarly, home brewed tea is typically exposed to air. This means it can also develop this type of mold. However, this is rare because this type of tea isn’t typically kept for long periods of time.

Mytoxins

This is the most concerning thing that might be floating in your tea. Mytoxins are created by some types of mold. Tea can pick up mold at any point during its life cycle.

Tea leaves can get contaminated with mold spores before they are harvested. More commonly, they get mold during processing. They can also pick up mold in tea bags, or even in your kitchen cupboard.

The problem with these molds is that they can survive heat, even boiling water. One of the most concerning types of molds that can get into tea, aflatoxin, requires boiling for at least 60 minutes to kill the mold spores. Ochratoxin and fumonisins are also found in tea.

So, the process of making tea using boiling water is not able to kill all types of mold that may be present.

Mytotoxins can cause anything from a stomach ache to a severe or life threatening illness. If you have a strong immune system, there’s a good chance your body can fight off most types of mold.

However, the higher the concentration of mold, the more likely you are to become ill. A weakened immune system also raises the risk of negative effects. Lastly, some molds are more likely to cause serious illness than others.

It’s possible, but rare, to have a life threatening reaction to mytotoxins if you have a weakened immune system. They can cause an infection, typically beginning in the lungs. Symptoms include fever, difficulty breathing, and coughing blood.

More common, however, are gastrointestinal symptoms. These include vomiting, nausea, gas, and diarrhea. Severe cases of mytoxin poisoning can lead to liver damage.

Insects in Tea

Another possibility for what is floating in your tea is insects. Many insects are repelled by tea, particularly the caffeine content. However, some insects actually like tea. Other insects may be attracted to sugar which is in sweetened tea.

Sometimes insects can fall into your cup of tea.
Sometimes insects can fall into your cup of tea.

Meal Moths

Meal moths love dry goods, including your tea. They can infest tea bags, loose leaf tea, cereals, and other dry goods. They will also lay eggs in the dry goods. These pests can cause spoilage of food.

The moths themselves are white gray and reddish brown. Their eggs are white and difficult to see with the naked eye.

Insects Falling Into Tea

There are many flying insects that may find their way into your tea. The common housefly, and even bees, may make their way into your tea glass.

In most cases, you can simply remove the insect and continue enjoying your tea.

Frequently Asked Questions About What Is The Stuff Floating in My Tea

What is Tea Dust?

Tea dust is simply small particles left over from broken or processed tea leaves. You’ll often find tea dust in boxes of bagged tea. Unfortunately, tea dust is the main component of tea in regular tea bags.

Is Loose Leaf Tea Better Than Bagged Tea?

Loose leaf tea is generally a higher quality than bagged tea. Bagged tea is typically made from tea dust, while loose leaf tea is made from whole or broken tea leaves.

Conclusion On What Is The Stuff Floating in My Tea

There are a number of things that may be floating in your tea. These include tea scum, mold, insects, and tea particles. Some of these aren’t harmful, while some types of mold can make you quite ill.

Author Bio

Daniel Iseli (Head Chef)

Hi, my name is Daniel and I am passionate about cooking. I have been cooking for the past 20 years and am happy to share my best recipes and cooking-related knowledge with you.