Monday, September 16, 2013

Teaology 101: Brewing basics for the beginner!

When brewing your tea, there are some things you should consider for optimal benefits. It’s not enough to just pour hot water over tea leaves and drinking it. Tea is an experience unlike coffee which is about getting a quick hit to get you through the next few hours! By making just a few minor adjustments, you can enhance a tea’s aroma and flavour.

What to consider:

Quantity of Tea: The amount of tea leaves you use will depend on the amount of water you use. The basic ratio should be 2 – 3 grams of tea for every 1 cup of water. I don’t recommend brewing up large pots of good, quality tea. Save your tea leaves for smaller teapots. Make several infusions with fresh water each time. Sit back, and enjoy a good book while you sip away!

Quantity of Water: As already stated, the amount of tea leaves will depend on the amount of water.

Water Source: Do you use tap water, mineral water, spring water, cold or hot water? Where your water comes from will impact the final results of your brew. From personal experience, I did notice a difference in taste between tap and several different types of bottled water. Do not to re-boil the water you use. This is dead water. Water should ideally be cold or room temperature.

Water Temperature: Use a kettle to boil your water. Bring it to a full boil, and allow it to cool down if required for the tea you plan to infuse. Use a thermometer if necessary. You do not want to be pouring piping hot water over precious white tea! This will make the taste bitter and the appearance dark.

Steep Time: How long you brew your tea will depend on the type of tea being infused. Brewing too long will make your tea strong and bitter. Not brewing long enough will make your tea weak and thin.

Infusions: The number of infusions you can make from a single batch of tea will depend on the tea type. Some greens can be infused up to 4 times before losing their flavour. Pu-erh may be brewed 15 times or more. Tea goes a long way. More bang for your buck! You may have to increase the steep time by a minute or two for each additional infusion. You may even have to do an initial rinse of your tea before beginning the infusion such as the case of pu-erh or oolong.

Other things you may want to consider include the vessel being used and brewing procedures. Should you use glass, metal, clay, or porcelain to infuse your tea in? I’ve been sticking with glass and will eventually experiment with other materials as I continue to educate myself. Some tea aficionados suggest you pour water over the tea, while others suggest placing tea into the water. Do what feels right for you. I’ve not detected anything better or worse using either method, but of course, I am not a tea master!

Below is a quick chart that can be used for guidance when brewing your tea. I have a similar card-sized copy in my wallet. What do you have in your wallet? 

This chart is from a couple of sources with a few modifications I made as a suggestion from my own experience. There is not hard and fast rule really. When you purchase tea, read the brewing instructions on the package or talk to the tea seller. Also, it depends on what tea you are brewing. Is it Japanese Sencha or Chinese Longjing? Indian Darjeeling or Assam? I did quite a bit of research on what other bloggers and tea supplier sites were suggesting…I noticed some differences in steep time, water temperature, and the number of infusions, but there was nothing extreme. 

In the end it’s your own taste buds that will determine how you plan to prepare your tea. I prefer a stronger black tea and will therefore steep it for a much longer duration. I like my green tea mellow and so will brew it for a shorter length of time and at a lower temperature. Change up all your options and see what works for you. What you want to achieve is the best tea experience for yourself. Enjoy!

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