Green Tea Brewing Guide

I’m shifting the focus on this blog right now to what it was always supposed to be, educating and helping beginners in the tea world with the basics. I think reviews are useful, but the important thing is learning how to approach tea, and then going with you enjoy after that, and NOT what somebody else enjoys (which is essentially what a review tells you). I think beginners tend to lean towards green tea due to its worldwide popularity so I’ll start here.

Grandpa Style

Green tea is my all-day-every-day drink of choice, even though it can be a little expensive. The reason for this is the simplicity in the first and most frequent brewing method I use. I believe the name was coined by MarshalN (marshaln.com) and reflects the fact that in China, old men (grandpa’s) just lob some tea leaves into a mug, add hot water and drink. In general this method (esp. bowl tea) is the oldest and simplest brewing method.

What You’ll Need

Heat-tempered glass (or strong glass equivalent)

Fairness cup, jug or equivalent

Boiling water from the kettle

Hot water from a thermos

Good quality green tea leaves

Method

Boil the kettle and pour the water into the fairness cup, jug or equivalent and allow it to cool. In the mean time, put some green tea leaves into the bottom of your glass (I usually cover the bottom of the glass with a few layers, max 0.5 – 1 cm high). When the water reaches about 85o C pour into the glass along the edge, and when it is about half full pour directly into the centre of the liquid until the glass is 3/4 full. The water will cool about 10o C entering the room temperature glass giving you a brew of about 75o C. Now pour water from the boiled kettle into a non-preheated thermos flask and cap. Enjoy your green tea when it is cool enjoy to drink, and continuously refill the glass with water from the thermos when it gets about 1/4 full (or cools down too much).

Comments

This method works very well with longjing (dragonwell) green tea because it ordinarily won’t get bitter. In general a good quality fresh green tea will work using this method, and can usually be enjoyed for hours with continuous refilling. Starting water temperature is crucial, and you should never allow the water level to drop below the leaves themselves. I find the tea becomes quite sweet after the third or fourth addition of hot water.

You can also enjoy this method using a teacup, mug or bowl. Using a bowl allows you to enjoy ‘bowl tea’, which can be very relaxing when you sit alone with music (or in silence) focusing on the tea.

Gongfu Style

Gongfu is a term thrown around in the tea world, and many traditionalists would dispute its use at times. When I say gongfu style, it is just that, a style, and not necessarily the traditional practice. I’ve heard others refer to it as ‘Eastern’ style, so what ever floats your boat.

I rarely brew green tea in this manner, simply because the intensity of flavour, the range of flavour and the length of the session don’t really do it for me, but it can be enjoyable.

What You’ll Need

Small (60 – 120 mL) gaiwan/teapot

Hot water from the kettle/thermos

Cups

Fairness cup, jug or equivalent (optional)

Good quality green tea leaves

Method

Boil the kettle to a light boil (if it goes rolling boil that’s ok) and pour some water into your brewing vessel. Pour from this into the cups and add the green tea leaves to the vessel (1/3 – 1/2 full). Pour the water from the cups into the vessel (you want the water to be 70o – 80o C). You can place the lid on top if you wish, but I like to admire the leaves as they open, and also prevent heat retention by leaving it off. There is no need to rinse the leaves, just allow them to infuse for about 20 – 30 secs and pour into the cups. Adjust your timing to taste from then on. Remember, if you don’t rinse the leaves, then a 20 secs second steeping will be stronger than a 20 secs first steeping. I typically use a fairness cup to cool the water for the subsequent steepings, but if you have the patience then you can just use your drinking cups and wait. Increase the water temperature as the session goes on (maybe from steep 3 onwards, until you get fed up).

Comments

Green tea won’t last long with this method, and personally I don’t think it provides the depth of flavour needed to make it worthwhile, but I always encourage trying it for yourself, everyone is different!

Summary

There are other methods to brew green tea (Western style and cold brewing for example) and I might include them in the future, but right now I don’t brew green tea like that so it would be useless advice!

Overall I think grandpa style was made for green tea, and if you go to China you will see people walking around with flasks of green tea being steeped this way. It will last a long time, it will show off a good green tea and it is very enjoyable. However, one of the most important aspects of tea preparation is experimentation, so try the different methods, compare and contrast the flavours and sensations you get drinking the tea and decide what works for you!

Another important thing to mention is that my recommended parameters aren’t going to work all the time. All tea is different, and one longjing might come out perfect the way I suggested above, but another might need an extra jolt of heat, extra time etc… So when you get a new tea, start off brewing it in a way that you find “usually” works, and adjust based on taste. Have fun experimenting with temperature, timing and volume, and most importantly, happy brewing!

Advertisements

Recommended Tea Vendors

**I am not sponsored by any of these companies. I may or may not receive free samples from individual vendors for promotion, but that does not affect my decision to include them here. These are vendors I have purchased from (and enjoyed) unless otherwise stated.

Seeing as I originally envisaged this blog as a resource for new tea drinkers to use for information and help when starting out, I feel it is very appropriate and rather necessary to include a recommended tea vendor list! As I live in Ireland, my recommendations and comments on listed vendors will be biased with regard to shipping here. This post will be forever changing as my preferences develop, new vendors show up and I just get around to trying new tea, so the format is not set in stone! Included will be vendors for specific types of tea, vendors for cheaper tea, some for premium tea, and some for ease of shipping (to Ireland).

I hope the list can benefit you in some way!

House of Tea – Ireland

If you live in Ireland and you’re new to the tea game, I would 100% recommend you visit houseoftea.ie or their actual shop (address on the website). They offer a massive range of tea that is easily accessible with generally good prices and mediocre to good quality. Great for western brewed tea choices, and an ok starting point for gongfu brews. I suggest you grab their sample packs, drink all of the tea and then move down this list!

http://www.houseoftea.ie

Tea Garden – Ireland

A nice tea-house located on the quays in Dublin city, this is a quaint spot for sipping the afternoon or evening away. They actually offer a range of excellent quality tea, which you brew yourself (you are provided with the utensils, water and instruction if you need it). They also have good shisha on the menu and a range of snacks, plus teaware/tea to buy. I suggest you wander in some day when you have nothing better to do!

http://www.teagarden.eu

Verdant Tea – USA

Moving into the realm of good quality loose-leaf tea, Verdant is excellent for beginners. All of their tea is nice and usually well priced, with long-winded OTT descriptions for each. They have a tea of the month club that you can subscribe to (I have) for about €20 incl. shipping. It comes with 3 new teas of good quantity each month, and descriptive brewing instructions/tasting notes. (Disclaimer: I’m not a fan of their tasting notes and I tend to ignore vendor instructions but as a beginner it can be extremely helpful to start there).

http://www.verdanttea.com

EcoCha – Taiwan

Taiwanese oolong tea is probably my favourite beverage. There is a large diversity in flavour profiles available depending on oxidation and roasting, and this online teashop has a good variety. Quality ranges form decent to excellent (price being related to quality), and they have great sample/gift packs to try. A great stop if you want to sample Taiwanese teas! They are also dedicated to the environment, so that’s always a good thing.

http://www.eco-cha.com

Global Tea Hut – Taiwan

This is an interesting one because it is not an online store, but rather a magazine subscription. The idea is you donate $20+ a month (you decide how much, minimum $20) to support the Global Tea Hut centre in Taiwan, and help them raise the funds for their new tea centre Light Meets Life. The centre(s) provide a free service, allowing visitors to stay with them, enjoy and learn about tea and tea ceremony, Daoism, meditation, sustainable living and much more (all you do is help with the living chores and what not). It is an excellent place that I hope to visit some day, and the magazine is worth the money! You get a great read with good, solid information on the practical, scientific and spiritual aspects of tea, along with a tea gift and a sample of tea every month. It’s a bargain, and it is for the interested tea drinker who wants to enjoy a wide range of sustainably produced organic tea, and learn a lot about this rich and wonderful subject!

http://www.globalteahut.org

White2Tea – China

This a puerh tea vendor based in China. They offer a wide range of shou and sheng puerh at excellent prices (related to quality). The monthly tea club is an absolute must for anyone interested in exploring puerh seriously, you will expose yourself to a range of teas (good quality to excellent quality) and it is a complete steal for the price ($30). Some months you get a number of excellent small sized samples, other months you get full tuochas/mini cakes. They also offer some oolong and black tea, and these are included in the monthly tea club sometimes, and they are equally excellent. This is a trustworthy vendor doing amazing things, so please check them out!

http://www.white2tea.com

Crimson Lotus Tea – USA

Another puerh vendor, this time based in America. They offer a great range of shou and sheng puerh, with amazing prices for the quality of some of their stuff. I’ve only ordered from them once and I loved everything I got (recommend their spring sheng puerh cakes). They also do some interesting teaware (I got a teapot from them), which I recommend checking out. These guys are a great educational resource if you are just getting started (they offer educational tasting sets).

http://www.crimsonlotustea.com

Teavivre – China

A great tea vendor based in China, offering a wide range of tea types (mediocre to very good quality), they are my go to vendor for green and white tea at the moment. They also do some good teaware, so I suggest you check them out if you are new to tea. They offer good product descriptions and they are a trustworthy vendor to do business with.

http://www.teavivre.com

Yunnan Sourcing – China & USA

A mostly puerh vendor based in both China and America, Yunnan Sourcing offer a wide range of puerh tea, black tea, green tea and oolong tea. I’ve actually never ordered puerh from them, which is strange, but the oolong teas I have tried have been excellent. They have a wide range of really good teaware and I seriously recommend them for gaiwans, cups etc…

http://www.yunnansourcing.com – China

http://www.yunnansourcing.us – USA

Taiwan Sourcing – Taiwan

A new vendor coming from the same people who do Yunnan Sourcing, this is an excellent source of good quality Taiwanese oolong tea. I suggest giving them a go if you’ve already dipped your toe in this area of tea.

http://www.taiwanoolongs.com

Tea Review #4: White2tea 2001 7542 Private Order Sheng Puerh

It has been quite a long time since I’ve published material on this blog. Unfortunately, fourth year undergraduate chemistry has been pretty relentless time-wise, but as summer approaches with my eminent freedom clutched firmly in its hands, I am pleased to announce the return of Robs Bits and Blogs on Tea!

Lately I’ve been gravitating towards puerh, trying to educate myself a bit more by joining white2tea’s monthly tea club. They specialise in puerh tea, offering a wide range of sheng (unripe) and shou (ripe) puerh, but also a selection of oolong and red tea. The tea club is $30 per month, typically containing three teas, two of which are puerh and one oolong/red tea. Puerh can be small 10g samples of expensive good quality stuff, or a full mini cake of a cheaper tea! As a result, the exposure to the full spectrum of puerh is guaranteed by participating, so it is the perfect educational experience.

One of the tea’s in last month’s club was a 2001 private order Menghai 7542 sheng puerh, produced in a smaller factory in the area. The tea will set you back $19 for a 25g sample, or $190 for a whole cake (a tong being in the $1000’s). According to white2tea “the tea is already fairly smooth and easy to drink. There is some humidity that still shows up in early steeps, as well as a minimal amount of sharpness early on. The fragrances of middle age are still apparent, and there is a lingering sweet aftertaste in the mouth.” I like the simple packaging, nothing fancy, money is spent on the tea alone!

2015-04-02 20.02.34

Dry leaves

2015-04-02 20.56.21

Packaging

Parameters

I used the whole 10g sample in one of white2tea’s 100 mL standard ruyao gaiwans, a flatter gaiwan with crackled glaze, allowing seasoning over time. Filtered tap water was freshly boiled, used over about three steeps, then reboiled, and this sequence continued throughout the session. No fresh water was obtained during the process. The tea was rinsed for about 5s, and the leaves were left to open up for about 1-2 mins. All infusions were poured through a metal fine mesh tea strainer into a fairness glass pitcher, then distributed evenly between two white ceramic cups.

Tasting Notes

  1. 5 – 10s; Liquor is a clear red-amber colour looking to have medium viscosity; Flavour has a slow onset, medium plus mouthfeel, tastes very sweet like a light simple syrup, the finish has a hint of spice but nothing discernible; Huigan is present, it is very sweet, the tea coats the mouth and throat nicely.
  2. 10 – 15s; Liquor is a clear ruby red-amer colour with medium viscosity; Flavour has a slow onset, leading to edgy spice, camphor, pinewood, and leather notes with a sweetening finish; Huigan is spicy and sweet, throat action as before.
  3. 5 – 10s; Liquor as above; Flavour has a much quicker onset, this is now opening up as a full bodied, spicy tea with thick mouthfeel, a bit of pinewood and leather, quite smooth and clean with a sweetening finish; Huigan as before.
  4. 5 – 10s; Liquor as before; Initially, flavour as before although not as smooth and a bit astringent, but evening out as the tea cools leading to an aromatic body with hints of pinewood, (less) spice, and leather; Huigan as before.
  5. 10 – 15s; Liquor as before; Flavour has a medium onset, leading to an aromatic body with hints of spice, pinewood and molasses, finishing with charred meat or tobacco; Huigan as before.
  6. 10 – 15s; Liquor as before; Flavour has a slower onset leading to very sweet molasses and honey with less pinewood and spice, thinner mouthfeel, getting astringent as it cooled; Huigan as before.
  7. 20 – 30s; Liquor as before; Flavour quicker onset again leading to a full bodied tea with hints of molasses, a little sharp in the back of the mouth with decreased pinewood and spice, but increased tobacco; Huigan isn’t so apparent, actually a little sour in the aftertaste.
  8. 20 – 30s; Liquor as before; Flavour as similar onset, leads to molasses and honey, leather, pinewood, and a little bit of spice; Huigan not as apparent again but no sourness this time, and the throat action is almost savoury.
2015-04-02 20.26.35

Steeping leaves

Early liquor

Early liquor

I ended this session here but the tea will certainly last a lot longer! I will revisit it tomorrow morning for sure. The aroma throughout was aromatic, spicy and woodsy, with the wet leaves smelling spicy, leathery and old. Qi provides a calm alertness, with none of the ill effects I find in a a lot of long puerh tea sessions. A good late afternoon tea I think, perfect if doing some light work or recreational reading etc…

2015-04-02 20.13.03

Wet leaves

Rating

  1. Price: This is not a cheap tea, but the quality is certainly there. I’m editing this section from the original published version. This tea isn’t actually that expensive per gram in reality. Still gets the same mark. 7/10
  2. Leaf quality: Leaves seem fine, white2tea broke off a large chunk with intact leaves, not too stemmy. 8/10.
  3. Overall taste/aroma profile and clarity: This is a nice tea. It’s got a little sharpness, but overall it’s smooth enough to drink and enjoy. Huigan is present, and pretty enjoyable. Perhaps it’s best described as full bodied, but rough around the edges, lacking complete clarity. 23/30

The overall Robs Bits and Blogs on Tea score is 76/100. A tasty brew in between something special and something daily, but a bit out of the average price range for its quality I think. If you can afford it, I recommend picking up a sample at http://www.white2tea.com/tea-shop/2001-7542-private-order. You might notice I’ve changed the review system here, so let me know what you think! I feel it’s fairer.

I welcome and encourage feedback about the blog’s format and content, and the products discussed in reviews. Please comment below, email me at robsbitsoftea@gmail.com, follow me on twitter @robsbitsoftea or instagram @mcrdotcom. Please let me know if there is a tea you think should absolutely be reviewed!

I’m not sure when the next post will go up as I have exams approaching and a thesis defence next week, but regular service will resume in June (I hope). Instagram is updated regularly enough, so do follow me there if you want to see the teas I’m drinking.

Have an excellent weekend and of course, happy brewing!

Oolong vs Red Tea: How Do They Differ?

I received my June copy of Global Tea Hut at the end of May, and it saddens me that I am only getting around to this post now. I had planned to review each month of GTH, but unfortunately my blogging expectations were unrealistic because this is the most hectic summer of my life. However, the blog still lives, I still drink a lot of tea, and eventually I will reach my blogging goals!

This post isn’t truly a review of GTH, but more of a discussion sparked into life by their June issue and the amazing tea gift they supplied. Instead of the usual one tin of tea and one small gift, there was a tin, with a rice paper divider in the middle, containing TWO teas, an oolong (partially oxidised tea) and a red tea (totally oxidised tea). This is intriguing.

As I opened the magazine and glanced at the first few pages, which always relate to the tea of the month, I realise a wonderful experiment is in the works, because these sets of tea leaves are all from the same harvest, but they have been processed differently. So today, I want to discuss the main differences between oolong tea and red tea production and the effects it has on a teas tasting notes.

 

GTH June 2014

 

These teas are called ‘Honey Fragrance (Mi Xiang) Spring 2014 Oolong and Red tea.’ It comes from a farmer by the name of Mr. Xie, Nantou Taiwan. It is organically grown plantation tea, that has been bug bitten producing the wonderful honey fragrance it is named after. (NOTE: As stated in previous posts, ‘red’ tea in China/Taiwan is what we call ‘black’ tea in Europe).

 

GTH Tea June 2014

 

The oolong tea was produced by plucking the leaves, withering in the sun and indoors, shaking to bruise the leaves and release the compounds for oxidation, mixing in piles for oxidation and withering some more, wok frying to kill the green enzymes responsible for oxidising the leaves, rolling and twice roasting.

Comparatively, the red tea was plucked, withered indoors, piled on bamboo mats for 12-24 hours, then rolled for up to 90 minutes and roasted. As you can see, and as mentioned in the magazine, the red tea processing is simpler, and it produces a darker, bolder tea that is less refined than the oolong. This shines through in the tasting of these teas.

The oolong tea was brewed in a 60mL hong ni shui ping Yixing pot, with a double later of dry tea leaves on the bottom with boiling water. The leaves were rinsed, allowed to open for about a minute, then steeped 5-15 seconds, increasing slightly for each subsequent steep. The dry leaves smell sweet and creamy, very inviting. The tea brews a sweet fruity liquor, slightly astringent with a light mouthfeel that has a somewhat creamy base. The subsequent brews produced excellent hui gan, with a succulent candy sweetness lingering forever in the throat.

The red tea was brewed in a 50mL heini shui ping Yixing pot, about 1/5-1/4 full with boiling water. The leaves were rinsed, allowed to open for about a minute, then steeped for about 30 seconds, then 20 seconds, back to 30 seconds, up to 60 seconds then 3 minutes. 5 steeps in total. The dry leaves in the preheated pot smell of hot cross buns, very inviting. The leaves brew a jam like sweet and spicy liquor, almost like a cinnamon and raisin apple strudel. The subsequent steepings brew a thick mouthfeel with a creamy base unlike any red tea I’ve ever encountered, with a lasting spicy sweetness in the back of the throat.

I think we can see some similarities in these two teas, as well as some glaring differences. As they were brewed in separate brewing vessels, I cannot say for certainty that the differences are totally down to processing (this was an oversight on my part, embarrassing for a future scientist), but I doubt the pots contributed a whole lot to the flavour profiles. One significant difference that is common in red teas, but not in oolongs, is the jammy, spicy notes. I find red teas produce a jam or dried fruit like sweetness, and they usually have a spicy note somewhere, and we can see this in the tasting notes for the red tea above. The oolong tea had a candy like sweetness, much different to the red tea, and no spice at all so far as I could tell. Both teas had a creamy base, and the red tea’s mouth feel was probably helped on by the tea pot. So, although both teas were creamy, sweet and fruity, they labels you would assign these notes differed, and we can assume this is based on the contrasting treatment of the leaves during processing.

Again, I would like to recommend Global Tea Hut to you, because without them I would have had the opportunity to try such an interesting tea experiment! The teas are wonderful, and it was certainly the best red tea I’ve ever tasted. Their magazine is full of tea knowledge, and some interesting pieces on the world, spirituality and culture. They do great things for tea, and I hope you can all visit their website to learn more.

As for me, I am heading off on a trip around Europe in just over one weeks time, so you may or may not hear from me before then. I will hopefully enjoy some casual tea on the road, and I feel like a little ‘brewing on the go’ blog post will be appropriate when I return. Plenty to look forward to, and plenty of tea to drink!

I hope you all have a wonderful end to summer, and as always, happy brewing!

China Trip 1 – Suzhou and Shanghai

Hey there guys!

It’s been while, but I’ve been away to China as I told you last month and I’ve been working on some new content.

This is the first video from my trip to china, it is day 4 of the trip (the other days weren’t filmed due to camera issues so I had to begin 4 days in, sorry!) and it is mainly based in Suzhou, a city about 1 hour from Shanghai.

In the video you see The Lingering Garden, a silk embroidery (those portraits are silk embroided not painted), a canal trip, a rickshaw ride, some tea buying/drinking, a Chinese opera house and at the end that final clip is the Shanghai skyline by night from the first night of the trip as captured on my iPhone.

I do hope you enjoy, this Saturday will be the return of tea related content, but I’m hoping to expand this to general Asian culture (but not too much) as I experience it!

Now, watch this along side a nice cuppa tea, or with a nice tea session! 😀

Thanks, and happy brewing!

P.S. If you are using a mobile device then don’t try to watch the video directly on youtube, as it will not play (copyright material, working on fixing this), however if you press play here on the blog it should work just fine!

 

Update and China Trip

So, I’ve been off the radar for a while now, and I can only apologise for that. I had a lot of stuff to do with college, then exams, and now I’m off to China! This trip will not be a tea specific trip, but of course I’m going to try my best to take advantage of my time there to get some nice tea and visit some local markets and tea houses.

I am hoping to do a vlog of the whole trip, either as daily vlogs along the way or one large vlog when I get home, that has yet to be decided and will depend on whether my laptop comes with me. Also, I need a new camera, so it will depend on my acquiring one that I want in the airport or in China. I would be interested to hear what you guys think about this idea, formatting etc…

Please pass on any tea advice you have relating to the places in the following list:

  1. Shanghai
  2. Suzhou
  3. Wuhan to Yichang (unsure how long I will spend in these places, possibly a few hours)
  4. Yangtze River Cruise
  5. Chongqing
  6. Chengdu
  7. Xian
  8. Beijing

If there is anything you’d like me to try and see, or some general tea advice you can provide (tea houses/markets/shops) just let me know! It will be very much appreciated.

So with that done, we move onto my lack of writing recently. I had hoped to get a post up this week to stop the drought, but unfortunately I haven’t had the time with planning for China. I have plenty of tea notes to work from, and plenty of recently acquired tea to review but I don’t really see much use in throwing up a random review. I don’t have any research stock piled for any other topical issues I plan to discuss, so I’m going to leave it for now. If I bring my laptop on my travels I will try to periodically post about some of the things I encounter, and of course if the daily vlogs become a thing then I will post the link to the yet to be created Rob’s Bits and Vlogs on Tea YouTube channel!

On a side note to the vlogs, I would also be highly appreciative if you could let me know of any interest you have in seeing instructional youtube videos on brewing methods, teaware, types of tea, general points of tea trivia etc… This is a project I hope to work on over the next two months if there is some sort of a demand, so please let me know via the following poll!

You can reply by commenting here, on facebook, twitter or teachat.com with your suggestions, advice and interest in the vlogs. Subscribe and share the blog with all your friends, because tea is wonderful, and so am I. *cough*

Hope you are all having a wonderful start to summer, and I hope to chat to you all next week at the latest.

Happy brewing!