Three Keys of Brewing A Good Cup of Tea

by Brooke Davis April 22, 2016

Three Keys of Brewing A Good Cup of Tea

There is no golden rule can tell you how much loose tea should be just right when you try to make a good cup of tea. Tea tasting is highly subjective. The ways of brewing are utterly influenced by personal preference, tea sets, and tea kinds. If you want to figure out your own way of brewing catering to your personal tastes, you’ll need multiple tries.

Unlike tea bag with set amount of tea in it, loose tea can be made either stronger or lighter in taste depending on how you like to brew your tea. It's important to add the right amount of loose tea to obtain that perfect tea taste.

According to many instructions given by tea websites and books, 1 gram of loose tea is recommended per 50ml – 60ml cup but this is not always relevant. You can choose the quantity of tea according to your taste or tea species by adding less or more next time.

A recommended way to measure tea leaves

The easiest way to get an accurate measure for how much loose tea to use is by weighing it. An inexpensive kitchen scale or a digital gram scale that is calibrated in grams can give you more accurate measurements. So the best advice is to weigh any new loose tea you are trying for the first time. Once you are familiar with the leaf and know the right volume to use, you can remember for the next time and just measure out the number of teaspoons, depending on the type of leaf.

By reference to tea kinds

There are six basic types of teas: green tea, black tea, white tea, oolong tea , pu-erh tea, yellow. All come from the same plant family – Camellia sinensis. So the plucked tea brought to the processing facilities or factory starts out basically the same, from the same kind of tea leaves. However, they are substantially different in several aspects, such as growing conditions, type of pluck, harvest time as well as taste. All those factors directly influence their own ways of brewing.

Black tea, green tea and white tea are types of tea which come as loose tea. Black teas usually stay the same size when brewed, but white and green tea usually expands so you end up with half a cup of brewed tea leaves. Green and white teas are strong in flavor so you might realize that just a 2-3g of loose tea is enough for your tastes.

Generally, 50 – 60ml water is good for 1 gram of black tea or green tea. Based on this, we can roughly calculate that 3 gram of loose tea would need 150 – 200ml water. But for pu-erh and oolong tea, you need to double the amount or increase more tea for the same cup of water. If brewing in a pot, determine how many cups of tea will be brewed and measure the loose tea accordingly.

By reference to personal condition

Another two things to consider along with the tea kinds are the personal preference and physical conditions. As we know, caffeine in tea leave has negative effects on sleep, if you are sensitive to caffeine, avoiding too much tea leaves when brewing is always reasonable. But for some people, like elder tea lovers who enjoy strong tea very much would put slightly more tea than those newbies do. For some people who have physical complaint, pregnant woman as an example, should decrease the amount of tea. Similarly, lactating women, Neurasthenia patients, Gastric ulcer patients, intoxicated person should always bear this rule in mind.

Water temperature highly influences the taste of tea liquid. The best temperatures for all kinds of teas are varied. Therefore, it is necessary to know more about the water temperature in order to get the best taste of a tea.

Best Temperatures for Different Teas

Low temperature(70℃ - 80℃): to brew some of green teas which have tender buds, such as Ming Qian Dragon Well and Bi Luo Chun Green Tea, and some high grade white teas such as Organic Silver Needle.

Medium temperature (80℃ - 90℃): to brew some Oolong with tender buds, or green tea with only tea leaves like Liu An Gua Pian, or some heavily withered white teas, such as White Peony, and Shou Mei.

High temperature (90℃ - 100℃): to brew Oolong tea with mature leaves only, such as Dong Ding (Tung Ting) Oolong Tea, Tie Guan Yin Iron Goddess, Da Hong Poa and post-fermented Pu-erh teas and fully fermented black teas.

Usually when brewing green tea, some people will brew it with 3g teas and 200ml boiled water and then brew it for 4-5 minutes to drink. The disadvantage of this brewing style is that the temperature of water was too high and could easily burn the young leaves. However, if brewing with too cold water, it will be very hard to steep out the taste of it.

How the Temperature Affects Tea Liquid

The amino acids in tea will dissolve in 60℃ water. And when water temperature is over 70 ℃, the vitamin C will be ruined under the heat, while the tannic acid and caffeine will dissolve. Therefore, if you use high temperature water to brew a fresh green tea, the tea liquid will become bitter and astringent and with less vitamins. Then why we use higher temperature on other teas, such as flower teas, black teas and low grade green teas? This is because the leaves of these teas are mature with low permeability. If we use a lower temperature, the constituents in tea leaves can’t dissolved in water.

And when brew Oolong or Puerh tea, we use more teas and the material of these teas are mature leaves, so we have to use 100℃ boiled water. Sometimes, we have to pour boiling water on the surface of our teapots to keep the heat.

Other Factors That Determine the Temperature

Did we warm the teapot?

Usually we will warm the teapot with boiled water. If pour water into a cold pot, the water temperature will decrease about 5℃. So we need to use a higher temperature or brew the tea a little longer.

Did we rinse tea?

Rinse is the step before first steep. We usually pour away the rinse liquid, then go on to the first steep. After rinse, the tea is warm and wet, and will be release the solute easier. This way, we will decrease the time of first steep.

Did we put the tea in a refrigerator?

If we brew a tea taken out from a refrigerator immediately, then we need to increase the temperature or length the time a little bit.

How to Get Different Water Temperature

Some people wonder how can we get a 70℃ water? Just to boil water to 70℃ or boil it up to 100℃, and then wait its cooling down to the target temperature? It depends. Water’s quality is very important in this case. For most 100℃ to kill the bacteria in water. But we still can’t let the water boil over and over again, because the amount of oxygen in water will decrease if water is repeatedly boiled. This will result a lack of aroma in tea liquid, as well as the unsmooth or even astringent taste.

The brewing time and steeps of all the teas have tremendous difference. They have a close connection with the tea leaves, the temperature of water, the amount of tea and the drinking habits.

The temperature and the quantity of tea could take important roles on deciding how long the tea should be brewed. High temperature of water and more tea leaves need a shorter time, but low temperature and less tea leaves should be longer. Then how long the tea should be brewed? Actually, this depends on the drinkers' taste.

Core Factor – The Tenderness of Tea Leaves

Tender tea leaves should be brewed much shorter than the coarse tea leaves; on the contrary it will be longer. Loose tea and the broken tea should also be brewed shorter than the compressed tea and full leaves. For those teas famous for the fragrance, like oolongtea and flavored tea, the brewing time should not be too long. However, for the white tea, it is not rolled when processing, so the cells of tea leaves have not been broken. Thus the taste of tea is very difficult to extract, the brewing time should then be longer.

By Tea Types

Yet different teas are featured of various characteristics, which present very distinct flavor based on different brewing time. Here are some experiences of time controlling of brewing each type of tea.

High grade green teas are formed with tender buds, which should not be steeped for too long, 2 to 3 minutes would be enough. Otherwise its aroma and freshness will be ruined.

For oolong tea, the Yixing teapot is the best choice. If use tea leaves about half of the teapot’s capacity, the first steep can only be a few seconds. Then the second steep can be 15 seconds and one minute; the third 40 seconds and one minute and the fourth 15 seconds and 2 minutes. That’s to say, from the second steep the brewing time should be increase.

In fact, each tea should not be brewed for too long or for too many times. It is better to drink the tea immediately after brewed, otherwise, the good ingredients will be oxidized and only the nutritional value will be lowered, but also can produce the harmful substance.

Brooke Davis
Brooke Davis


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