How to steep tea?
In today's blog post we are going to be answering the ever elusive question of how do you steep tea types?
The Tea industry like others in the beverage craft, suffers from many sweeping generalizations. There are many companies out there for instance that give a general range for steeping tea types. This would be fine, but there are so many types of styles of tea steeping all tea at one specific setting would leave some tasting dry and astringent, and others tasting underdeveloped and thin.
Many times it depends on the style of tea processing that will ultimately determine how to prepare a tea. So a tea that is made from only buds, you might prepare differently from a wavy leaf, or a rolled leaf, or a steamed leaf.
There are three important questions to consider when you are preparing your tea:
- How much liquid volume of tea are you looking to produce?
- What water temperature are you going to use?
- How much tea leaf should you add?
Let's first touch on volume - generally speaking here is a good chart that tells you how much leaf to use per oz of liquid volume.
Style of Tea Weight Dosage
Small leaf 2 to 3 grams 1 to 2 teaspoons
Medium Sized 2 to 3 grams 2 to 3 teaspoons
Large Leaf 2 to 3 grams 1 to 2 teaspoons
Dosage and Tea Type:
White Tea .75 gram per oz of water
Green Tea .5 gram per oz of water
Oolong Tea .5 gram per oz of water
Black Tea .5 gram per oz of water
Let's do some examples:
If you were to brew a 12 oz pot of Green Tea how many grams of tea should you use?
Answer: 6 grams or 3 teaspoons
If you were to brew a 16oz pot of Oolong Tea how many grams should you use?
Answer: 8 grams
Based on these examples when you are looking to brew tea it is always a good idea to understand how much volume your tea pot is. This is why so often in the far east you see people brewing on small brewing devices like Gaiwans or Yixing pots that yield only 3-4 oz at a time. IT is truly the ideal way to get the most value out of your tea.
The second major factor is water temperature. What water temperature should you brew tea at?
White Tea: 180 degrees
Chinese Green Tea: 170-180 degrees
Japanese Green Tea: 140 degrees - 150 degrees
Green Oolongs: 180 degrees
Darker Oolongs: 195 degrees
Chinese Black Tea: 195 degrees
Indian, Ceylon, African Black Tea: 205 degrees
How do you know if you know if you brewed your tea incorrectly?
Though tea is likely to have natural levels of astringency (dryness on palette) you can typically identify if the tea is brewed incorrectly if it is overtly dry on certain areas of your tongue. The most common example is with Japanese tea like Sencha where many people will bring a kettle to a rolling boil and scorch the tea leaves. Essentially what is happening is the cellular walls of the plant are very sensitive and when the hot water is poured on the tea, it is releasing catechins into your water.
The final point in brewing tea is your water quality. Most people use water from the tap and dispense it into their kettle before brewing the tea. Because tea is so light to begin with one often just tastes minerals in the water. Alternatively you can over extract many things in tea if the right PH balance is not in place.
A simple rule of thumb is to use drinking water if you are going the bottled route, or to use a filtration system if brewing at home.