Ask The Experts: How To Steep Tea

Ask The Experts: How To Steep Tea

How To Steep Tea: The Water
Always start with cold (and preferably filtered/mineral) water. Hot water saps unsavory minerals and heavy metals from the plumbing, which will impart a bad flavor to the tea that it produces.
The temperature of water is also crucial when preparing tea, as even a difference of just a few degrees centigrade can radically under- or over-extract delicate tealeaves. 
In the olden days, before highly accurate mercury and/or digital thermometers, the Chinese determined the temperature of pre-boiling water by the size of the bubbles collecting as the bottom of the kettle. In case you are without a thermometer yourself, you can literally and figuratively “eyeball” you water to get a sense of where the temp is.

  • 160°F: Shrimp-eyes, or tiny pin-sized bubbles. Perfect for fresh Japanese greens like sencha or Gyokuro.
  • 175°F: “Crab-eyes,” or slightly larger bubbles with a diameter of just a few millimeters. This is the ideal temperature for Chinese greens, oolongs, and white tea.
  • 180°F: “Fish-eyes,” which will actually begin to glob up to the surface of the water. Good for more robust gunpowder greens.
  • 200-205°F: “Rope-of-pearls,” or streams of bubbles that rise continuously to the surface just before boiling. The only teas that can withstand this temperature are darjeelings, and black teas such as Earl Grey or dark oolong.
  • 212°F: “Raging Torrent,” aka boiling. Never use this temperature for steeping tea. It will just destroy whatever you have in the bag/pot. 

How To Steep Tea: The Time

Once you have the water at the temp you like, add it immediately to your cup or teapot for steeping. One teabag or teaspoon of tea produces an average of 6 oz. of tea, so measure carefully.

The following are approximations. Most teabags and loose leaf canisters contain steeping times, so consult those is possible.

  • White tea: steep 1 – 2.5 minutes.
  • Green tea: steep 2 – 4 minutes.
  • Oolong tea: steep 3 – 5 minutes.
  • Black tea: steep 3 – 5 minutes.
  • Herbal: steep 5 – 7 min.

How To Steep Tea: The Pour

Once your tea is fully steeping, remove the leaves immediately. If you are using a tea bag or tea strainer, remove it from your cup. You can either preserve the leaves for a resteep or discard them. It’s up to you.

Your tea should have cooled enough to enjoy right away. Let the luxurious, complex aroma waft into your soft palate as you take your first sip. Take note of the different flavors expressions that reveal themselves as the tea cools. Your perfectly steeped tea is good to the very last drop.

Posted on 06/24/2016 by Tea River Home, Steeping Tea 0 2341

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