Teabag causes hot water to boil?

I’ll usually have a couple of mugs of black tea in the afternoon. It’s my preferred method of caffeine intake.  It’s milder than coffee (which I’ve never liked), and since I use Earl Grey tea, there is no need to add sugar, cream or anything.  I don’t have access to a teapot in the afternoon, so I have to boil a mug of hot water in a microwave oven, then drop the teabag in to steep.

I give the water enough time in the nuke so that it’s at a vigorous boil when I take it out.  Part of the reason I do that is to ensure evenness of temperature in the water—the bubbling action also stirs the water, which ensures that the entire mug is roughly at the same temperature, namely boiling hot. Which is fine for black tea.

The bubbling stops shortly after the nuke turns off, then I’ll take the mug out, set it on the counter and drop the teabag onto the top of the water.  The water will usually fizz when the teabag hits it.  It’s an interesting effect (especially if you’re easily amused like I am).

Today, though, something different happened.  When the teabag hit the water it caused the water to suddenly boil, fiercely enough to literally slop scalding hot water all over the counter and even a little onto the floor in front (I am really glad my foot wasn’t right there). The boiling lasted for about a full second and when it was done the mug had lost at least a quarter of an inch (6 or 7mm) of water.  I needed two paper towels to mop it up off the counter.

I wonder why it did that. I wasn’t really paying attention to what I was doing when it started; in fact, I was in the middle of a conversation with someone, so I’m not sure if I did something subtly different than normal.  Hmm!

Here is one scary possibility.  (I think I’m going to locate some stir-sticks before I make my next mug.)

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