If you’ve been following along, you’ve probably noticed something of a theme in my writing–I’m something of a stickler for accuracy when it comes to information about tea. As a result, I do a lot of head-butting with the received wisdom of nearly five thousand years of product marketing and other forms of not-quite-accurate information.
In the hopes of getting people to engage more fully with their tea, to question their assumptions, and to stimulate conversation, I’m launching a new occasional feature of the Tea Geek blog. I’m calling it Try This At Home. While I enjoy getting orders at the Tea Geek store, these experiments will be ones you can do with teas and equipment that you may already have–or can easily find online or at your local specialty tea shop.
Each Try This At Home will be like a mini science experiment–equipment, procedure, and so forth. I want you to have some fun, play with your tea, and do the experiment. You’re welcome to send me the results or not as you see fit. I will collect the information that people send, which may turn into future blog posts.
I’m starting with an experiment I’ve done myself a number of times that came up at a recent tea class I taught. It takes aim at the idea that you need to brew certain teas at a certain water temperature. Here’s what I want you to try at home:
- Two identical brewing vessels. These can be anything you want–English teapots, gaiwans, cupping sets, whatever. Shape isn’t too important, but material and capacity should be the same.
- Tea–specifically high-end, unflavored, green or white tea. Enough to make the same tea in both vessels.
- Water and something to boil it in
- A timer
- A scale, as accurate as you can find
- Weigh out two equal quantities of tea, appropriate for the size of vessel you’re brewing in. If you need a guideline, try about 4.5 grams per US cup (236 ml).
- Put a measure of tea into each brewing vessel.
- Bring the water to a boil; while you’re waiting, set the timer to 15 seconds
- When the water boils, fill the first brewing vessel and start the timer.
- Strain the tea as soon as the timer goes off.
- Wait two minutes; meanwhile, reset the timer to five minutes
- Use the water that has now cooled slightly more than two minutes to fill the second teapot and start the timer.
- When the timer goes off, strain the second pot
- Compare the two tea liquor samples you’ve made. Note differences in color, fragrance, mouthfeel, flavor, astringency, and bitterness.
Questions for Discussion
What qualities did the first sample have that were absent or reduced in the second sample? What qualities did #2 have that #1 didn’t? Try to describe inherent qualities of the tea, differentiating them from whether or not you like/dislike them.
Given these differences, what conclusions can you draw about brewing the type of tea you used?
It is often said that green or white tea should never be brewed with boiling water because it will ruin the tea. Given the differences you’ve noted, what do you think of that advice?
And if you decide to report your findings to me, please include the name and source of the tea you chose to use. Thanks!