How to Brew A Good Pot of Floating Leaves’ Tea
- Boil Water
- Pre-heat teaware and cups
- Place appropriate amount of dry leaves in the heated vessel to steam them awake
- Pour hot water into the vessel, wait until it’s ready, then decant
- Repeat & enjoy!
1. Boil Water
We find that boiling-hot water is a prerequisite for getting a full extraction from our teas.
There is a generally accepted view that lower temperatures are preferred especially for light oolongs (like Baozhong or High Mountain) but we find that even these teas are not fully awake without boiling temps. In our experiments the aroma, development and aftertaste are all more dynamic with boiling water.
2.Pre-heat teaware and cups
Warm all the teaware with hot water, first into the vessel and then from the vessel into the cups. This is first off a way to get high temps inside the vessel.
We prefer the gongfu brewing method, with small teaware/cups and a large volume of tea leaves. For gongfu teaware, the best way to start with a new tea is glazed white porcelain gaiwan. Clay pots are very good, but are also difficult to choose correctly. They will affect the resulting brew, so with a new tea we prefer white porcelain to get to know it.
3. Place appropriate amount of dry leaves in the heated vessel to steam them awake
This is what we call ‘opening the tea’. Some choose to rinse leaves with hot water. Most of the time we prefer to steam them a bit in lieu of the rinse. We feel our teas are clean enough not to require rinsing, and prefer to retain the delicate aromas in the first infusion.
The appropriate amount of tea can vary depending on the tea, the person drinking it and the teaware used. In the video above Shiuwen introduces how to engage with the dry leaf to determine a good starting amount. We usually start by barely covering the bottom of the gaiwan with dry leaves. Often times we will increase the amount to two or three full layers of leaves once we’re familiar with the tea.
4. Pour hot water into the vessel, wait until it’s done, then decant
The timing. This fluctuates a lot. We use color as a gauge to tell us when the tea is ready. This way you will make mistakes. That’s a good thing, because the only way to know what you like is to make mistakes. And that’s just what ‘until it’s done’ means. Brew until it tastes good TO YOU. If it’s too light, you can even pour the broth back into the vessel and keep brewing. If it’s too strong, remember the color and don’t go that far next time. There's no correct recipe for tea, but if you're stuck with a certain tea please feel free to reach out to us.
I had a customer ask me how long I brewed 5 grams of aged Beipu in a 120 ml gaiwan. Shiuwen secretly timed me, and I had let it steep for over two minutes. The customer was using about 20 seconds. Obviously a huge variation. I was just watching the color until I felt it was dark enough.
The nice thing about a gaiwan is you can see the color changing as it brews, you can watch the leaves unfurl, and really get to know that tea in an enjoyable way.
5. Repeat and enjoy!
Most important, enjoy!
Note : Timing changes over infusions. With rolled oolongs, we find the first infusion is longer than the second. The first infusion you’re waiting for the leaves to unfurl. The second infusion, they’re already mostly open, so it will not take as long to get the juices out of the leaf. With open leaf teas like Baozhong, the first infusion may be shorter than the second.
As you get on in infusions, longer times will be necessary to coax out the flavor deeper and deeper inside of the leaf. If you’ve already brewed 7 or 8 times and feel like it’s done, you could even soak it overnight for a refreshing tea juice with breakfast!
An additional 6th step would be to make lots of mistakes. Find the limits of your tea. Sometimes the best tea we’ve tasted was when we made a mistake when brewing. We like to push our teas to the limit to see what they can do. We’ve found Dong Ding can be brewed incredibly strong and present a whole new side to itself, with a pleasantly contained bitterness like that of good espresso. Oriental Beauty can be delicious with only a couple of leaves to a gaiwan, just the essence of beautiful tea in pure clean water.
Often times tea is much more capable than we thought, but we keep it in a box of ‘5 grams, 20 seconds, 190 degree water’ and it never gets a chance to show us more. There are times when we step over the line and the outcome is nasty. The nice thing about it is that we now know the limits of that tea.
Tea is alive, it's a part of life, and we find that we're happier when we feel comfortable being human around it.