When it comes to steeping teas, it can be done in a zillion different ways. Okay, maybe not a zillion, but when one is brewing loose leaf teas, four main aspects come into mind. You must be mindful of the water, tools, quantity and time you steep your tea leaves for. This may seem a bit overwhelming, but it is actually a simple process. Just keep in mind that it all depends on your mood and availability.
What are you in the mood to do with your tea?
Are you a busy professional that likes to drink in the mornings and only want to have enough for a cup or two to get your day started? Or, are you enjoying a cup of tea with some company after Sunday brunch? I ask because we want to start with the amount of tea to use depending on any situation.
For the one or two timers, who don’t like to keep steeping and just want a cup, we would recommend an infuser tool or cup. Our only suggestion is that the tool be large enough to accompany the expanding tea leaves. This is so the full flavor profile can be experienced as the leaves need room to expand and give off its primary and subtle secondary characteristics. Within every cup, place around 5 grams and steep for 3-5 minutes depending on the type of tea you are brewing. There is a simplified brewing chart for this at the very bottom based off of recommended time and temperature per tea type.
Using a TEAPOT?
If you are using a teapot or a more formal vessel to brew your favorite leaves, then we would recommend a different approach. All teapots come in various shapes and sizes, so the general rule of thumb is to cover the bottom of your pot with tea leaves until you can barely see through to the end. Think of yourself being snowed in and you poke holes through the powder to find the best direction to dig until a bit of sunlight shines through the cracks. Yeah, that’s the idea of how covered you want the bottom of your teapot to be. Please note, this only applies for rolled teas such as oolongs that are scrunched up into balls. For leaves that are just twisted, such as the greens or black teas, we recommend filling the teapot with leaves that covers up a third or near the halfway point inside. Depending on the size of your teapot, steeping times can range, so we have a chart below that demonstrates an idea with a teapot we used. It includes the volume of the teapot, how many grams were used, and how long we steeped our tea to give you a starting point.
Let’s get a bit nerdier with the details now.
Why does water matter?
Heck, even the various types of water give off a different taste?! My question to you is, do you like ice? Ever have good ice? Good ice uses water that is distilled once, twice or maybe even three times to give off that quality. Same thing when choosing water types to make your tea. Our recommendation is to use anything from filtered to natural spring water. We do not recommend using tap water at all! Tap water can vary, but most are chlorinated which affect the flavors of the tea when steeped. So what is a good example of ideal water one should use to brew tea? Thawing ice from the Alps and boiling it down to a liquid would be our water of choice. More the power to you if you have that availability, and if you do, then please film yourself drinking tea so we can watch for the moment your eyes roll to the back of your head.
Just like how brewing tea using different quantities, time durations and water types can produce different tastes, the vessel one brews their tea in can give off different experiences too. Think of the different temperatures a glass mug can give off compared to a ceramic teapot. Each retains heat in different ways and this will certainly change the taste of your tea. Aficionados sometimes even use specific types of teapots for specific types of tea. For example, I’ve seen high mountain oolongs, from one region, only brewed in one type of clay teapot. This is done so that the user can further enhance their tea by utilizing the minerals found within the sediments of the clay to add to the overall quality of their tea. Yes, it can get that intense and detailed if you dive deeper into the world of tea!
All in all, the world of tea is incredibly vast. I like to always say: “Tea is to the east as wine is to the west.” Tea spans back centuries and is deeply rooted in history and cultures. It is extremely diverse as it is produced in numerous nations and tastes can differ depending on the state, region, district, elevation, farm, processing techniques and storage types. From there, drinkers can also experience different tastes and flavors depending on how it is brewed as mentioned above.
We’ll dive into more technicals later on, but for now, we hope this gives you an idea on steeping tea, and for you to start experimenting and determining what is the best way to brew your favorite type.