The Tempo's guide to Art of Tea Ceremony.
Did you know that for centuries in the East, the art of brewing the perfect cup of tea has been practised, mastered and revered from generation to generation? The finest tea can be ruined by bad preparations, so it is worth learning some more about the key factors that can upgrade your “tea game”.
First things first say GOODBYE to the TEABAGS! There’s a massive difference between the powdered sweepings inside a teabag and proper loose leaf tea. Other factors to consider when choosing to purchase your perfect brew would be:
Area of origin - think soil, climate, altitude and surrounding plants.
How was it grown? The agricultural and picking methods chosen by plantation play a big role. Always opt for hand-picked to ensure the best quality.
Year and time of the harvest. You would be surprised how the timing of the year can affect the final taste! For example, Spring season is best for light teas while Autumn is better for oolongs and malty black teas.
Processing method - steamed or pan-fried, shaken or rolled there are many variations and each of them affects the final flavour.
Storage and ageing - dry-aged and kept in air tight container gives the best results.
The true tea connoisseurs are fanatics about water! The first tea guide books highlighted the importance of water quality and source. Ideally, tea should be made from glacial or artesian water but filtered, freshly boiled water is a good alternative. Do not use mineral or distilled water.
Temperature-wise, it all depends on the type of tea we are about to brew. For Red and Pu’Erh teas, the water should be close to boiling. Oolongs vary depending on how dark they are but between 90 degrees a boiling is good. Greens, Yellow and Whites need slightly cooler water (80-85 degrees) due to delicate leaves and to prevent the bitterness.
Washing your tea:
Seemingly unimportant and often omitted step. Always rinse the tea leaves in a hot water for a few seconds before brewing. This cleans away any impurities and prepares leaves for the proper brew. Believe us it does make a difference!
A good rule of thumb is to brew all teas for about 2mins. Brewing tea for too long will cause the release of excessive tannins which will give the tea a dry finish and spoil the flavour. If you like a stronger brew, simple use more leaves than extending the brewing time. You can remove the leaves after brewing and keep them for the next infusion!
In Asia, people delight in tasting how tea changes flavour over multiple infusions. Indeed the second infusion is generally considered the best.
There is a saying in China that “the first infusion is to wash the tea, the second is to taste the tea and the third is to experience the spirit of the tea”. Whites, Yellows and Green can be infused up to 3 times (reuse, reduce) when Oolongs, Reds and Pu’Erh teas up to 7 times!
Amount of tea:
The amount used will vary depending on the tea type and personal liking but generally, a teaspoon is the right amount for 350ml of water.
Type of cup and pot used:
Just like with a good brandy or fancy wine, proper tea should be served in a proper pot. The material and shape of the dish can be very important when bringing out the best of a particular tea type. A general rule is that clay pots/cups are best for Oolongs, Reds and Pu’Erhs, where glass, metal or porcelain is especially good for White and Green teas. The shape should always be wide to allow maximum room for the tea leaves to brew.
Hope you found this wee guide helpful. Next time you are feeling fancy about your cuppa or have a pal over for a chat, you can impress them with your new tea manners ;) Let us know below what you think!