Water for brewing tea
The type of water used for brewing plays a very important role in the final flavor, clarity, and color of the liquor.
While tea brewed in one particular water may taste dull and flat, the same tea brewed in different water can be wonderfully brisk and bright.
All the ingredients and impurities in water including added chemicals like chlorine play their part in the brewing process. To remove unwanted solubles in water some sort of filtration is required and the most effective type is called ‘reverse osmosis’ where the water is passed through membranes that force unwanted chemicals and other deposits to leave the water almost 99.4% pure.
The Chinese believe that spring water is the best for tea and the poorest is water that has stood for any length of time and has, therefore, become flat and lifeless.
Hard water, which contains calcium, is poor for any type of tea, deadening the flavor and causing a scum to form on the surface of the tea in the cup.
If bottled water is used a pH level of 7 is ideal, but choose carefully as bottled water may contain salts and other minerals that can spoil the flavor of tea as can some tap water.
Remember that even good water that has been boiled repeatedly to prepare tea is poor, as most of the oxygen has been boiled out which makes the tea taste flat and lifeless!
Brewing Tea & Methods
The method of brewing tea differs according to the type of tea and the traditional tea culture of the country in question, yet it is still the most simple of tasks as it requires just good boiling water and tea leaves.
The temperature of the water is important for different teas and for all black and most oolong teas, boiling water is ideal and for green and white teas the temperature should be around 90 degrees C. (185 F.)for green and around 80 degreesC. (170 F.)for whites.
To achieve a temp of 90 degrees simply bring the water to boil and let stand for 2-3 mts. and to reach 80 degrees let stand for 3-5 mts. For some rare very delicate green teas a lower temperature of around 70degrees is recommended.
The amount of tea is generally as a rule of thumb ‘ a teaspoon for every cup and one for the pot’… however this is not engraved in stone and if you desire a strong cup, a heaped teaspoon or 2.5 to 3 gms of straight tea per cup ( 8ozs.)would be more apt.
The tricky part of measuring tea is remembering that volume and weight are not identical!
A rounded teaspoon of small-leaf tea will weigh more than an identically piled up spoon of large leaf tea. It takes what looks like a mighty mound of white tea, for instance, to make a single cup. Experience seems to be the best teacher.
Use a timer when steeping teas.
Some black and most greens can be completely unforgiving if steeped more than the ideal duration. Over steeped tea can be astringent and undrinkable .
For most black loose leaf teas 3- 4 minutes. is the ideal although some blacks may be steeped for up to 5-6 minutes. This again can be a matter of personal preference.
For green teas though the steeping time should not exceed 2 minutes. otherwise, the tea can get bitter and whites may need up to 3-5 minutes. to draw the flavor out.
The most important variable is the size of the leaf; the larger the leaf, the longer you must steep it; the smaller the leaf, the more surface it exposes to the water, and the quicker the goodness is drawn out of it.
Also remember the shorter the steeping time, the more aroma!
Traditional brewing method
for Black tea in a teapot.
1)Select a teapot of the correct size for the number of cups required.
2)Fill a kettle or pan with freshly drawn good cold water and bring to the boil.
3)When the water is almost boiling, pour a little into the teapot, swill it around and then pour the water out.
4)Measure the loose tea into the teapot and when the water is coming to a rolling boil, pour the water onto the leaves. Whenever possible, place the tea leaves inside an infuser that can then be lifted out of the liquid once the tea has brewed. Allow 2.5 -3 gms. or 1 heaped teaspoon for 1 cup or 8 ozs. of water.
5)Put the lid on the pot and set a timer to the correct duration for the tea being brewed. For small leafed teas allow 2- 3 mts. and for large leaf teas allow 3-4 mts. depending on personal taste. Remember the longer the steeping time the stronger the flavour.
6)After the correct duration, lift the infuser or if not using an infuser pour the tea out using a strainer into cups. If the tea is of a variety that can be infused a second or third time add more water and leave for required time again.
Brewing Puerh teas
Most puerh teas yield up to nine or ten infusions and so, although the leaf can be expensive, it does offer good value for money.
1)Bring freshly drawn cold water to boil and warm vessel in which the tea is to be brewed.
2)Measure 3- 5 gms. of tea into the pot and add 8 ozs. of boiling water. Infuse for only 10- 20 seconds then strain liquor off the leaf.
3)Add more boiling water and steep for up to 2 mts. before straining liquor into cups.
For multiple infusions progressively increase the steeping time.