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The Tao of Tea: Part Three (Art of Preparing Tea )

In the previous entry, I wanted to set up the parameters for how to brew tea well. While much is permitted, there are still ways in which one can go wrong. What is essential is that we remember to mind things like water quality, temperature, teaware, and water to tea ratio. With time and experience, we can take other things into consideration, such as the size of the tea leaves and the amount of time we steep the tea.

In this entry, I want to share some tea brewing techniques so that you can generate some of your own ideas.

Why would you want to try different techniques to prepare your tea?

The answer depends on the person and the context. Maybe you feel like expressing your creativity differently? Maybe one tea brewing technique favors your available teaware more than another? Maybe there’s more harmony between you and one tea preparation technique as opposed to another? There could be many answers to that question.

Remember: The guidelines below are just that…guidelines. Feel free to vary them according to taste. In each case, it’s always a good idea to preheat your brewing vessels with the same temperature of water that you will be using to prepare your tea.

 The Flash Brew

      General Guidelines:

  • Water-to-Tea Ratio: 4-5g / 100-200mL (3.5-7.0 oz)
  • Temperature: 200°F (90°C) or Warmer
  • Teaware: Small Vessel (less than 200mL)
  • Time: Less than 5 sec.
  • Tea Type: Best Suited for Darker Teas and Pu-Erhs

With a flash brew, you generally want your water to go to the hotter side. The idea is to taste the tea throughout each of its infusions, noting how the character changes each time.

The two most variable aspects here are the temperature and tea type. You can definitely flash brew with green teas, especially if you do so at lower temperatures, but don’t shy away from experimenting with greens at higher temperatures as well, especially one like Liu An Gua Pian green tea. With such a short steep time, you minimize the chance for unpalatable bitter tea and maximize the chance for bringing out very complex flavors. 

                Advantages: Greatest number of infusions; Widest range of flavors

                Disadvantages: Takes the most time; Small servings of tea

 Grandfather Style

      General Guidelines:

  • Water-to-Tea Ratio: 4-5g / 150-250mL (5-10oz)
  • Temperature: 180°F (80°C) or Cooler (try 20-40°F (5-10°C) cooler than recommended temperature)
  • Teaware: Large Teacup, Gaiwan, Glass, or a Tea Bowl / Chawan
  • Time: N/A
  • Tea Type: Best Suited for Larger Leaf or Hardier Teas

Grandfather Style tea brewing is slowly increasing in popularity, in large part due to the re-emergence of widespread interest in tea bowls. This is perhaps the most relaxed of all of the brewing methods and requires the least amount of effort. Essentially, you place your tea leaves in your cup or bowl, and then you gently and slowly pour the water over it with the intent of letting your leaves be.

The obvious drawback is that this gets to be very impractical with smaller-leafed teas. The purpose of this is to slowly sip the tea as it steeps indefinitely, and the last thing you want is to sip some leaves along with your tea. On the plus side, this can be a very meditative way of drinking your tea, and it is certainly one of the more beautiful methods as far as providing you the opportunity to observe the tea leaves at their best.

In China, this method is sometimes used with a tall, heat-resistant glass. You can take a small sample of tea like Tai Ping Hou Kui or Dragonwell, and then pour the water over it, watching the tea leaves dance in the glass and grow with their time immersed in the water.

Sometimes this method yields a tea that is very strong in its first brew, almost undrinkable to some. The first brew can be an acquired taste…or it can be discarded. The subsequent brews are usually fantastic though, and so this should be kept in mind if trying this method.

Alternatively, I sometimes use a different method for my first couple of brews in the day, and when I have to leave, I will sometimes throw the rest of my tea leaves in a travel mug Grandfather Style. This is also a really nice and convenient way to implement it.

                Advantages: Convenience; Most beautiful with the leaves

                Disadvantages: First result can be bitter; Least number of flavorful infusions

In the next and last entry in this series, I will discuss two of the more popular ways of brewing tea, Gongfu Style and Western Style. I will also briefly discuss why I don’t like Sun Style brewing. If you have any other methods, please leave them in the comments below!


MeiMei Fine Teas
MeiMei Fine Teas

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September 21, 2016

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