Sunday, December 13, 2009
Some people who have tried Chinese or other green teas have expressed to me that they found green tea bitter, rough and astringent. Well, green tea is not supposed to taste like that. The right taste should be fresh, clean and delicate with a sweet aftertaste.
Green tea needs more care and cautiousness to prepare than other teas. Why? A good quality loose green tea must be picked by hand in early spring. The tea leaves are very young, tender and consist of either one baby bud or one bud and one or two baby leaves. This means that green tea is a delicate, fresh product, and that proper preparation is essential to savor the tea.
Here are the details regarding preparation:
1. Tea implements:
Glassware (glass cup, glass pot) for high-quality, young, tiny and tender loose tea. The transparency of glass also invites you to enjoy the graceful tea dancing. A porcelain cup with a lid (gaiwan) is also suitable.
TIP: After filling the cup, pot or gaiwan with hot water, do not cover it - let the tea breathe. Otherwise, too much heat will overcook the tea.
2. Water temperature:
175-185°F for loose green tea (even cooler [140-150°F] for a powdered tea like matcha).
If the water temperature is too high, the tea will be overcooked, which means it will be bitter, heavy and astringent. This will also affect any subsequent brews, so the flavor of the tea has been effectively ruined. Conversely, if the water temperature is too low, the taste will be too thin and light.
3. Quantity of tea leaves:
A generous amount would be 2 full teaspoons per cup. However, this is also based on individual taste. If too much tea is added, the taste is likely to be bitter, heavy and a waste of tea leaves. If too little tea is added, the flavor will be too light and thin. Either way, the full taste of natural green tea has been lost. As you can imagine, a little practice is necessary before you can brew a perfect cup of any given variety of green tea - or any other tea, for that matter.
4. Steeping time:
In general, a single cup of tea should be brewed for about one minute; the time for a gaiwan is about 30 seconds for the first brew, extended by 5 to 10 seconds for each subsequent infusion.
TIP: if you brew green tea in a drinking glass, do not let the tea sit in the water too long, otherwise it will become bitter. This problem can be easily addressed through the use of a strainer or filter to remove the tea leaves. However, the taste of metal or plastic can leach into the tea, so be careful!
5. How to add water for multiple steepings:
As green tea is typically composed of young leaves, they can be steeped only 3-4 times. The second infusion generally has the best taste.
When brewing tea in a glass, some water should be left in the bottom so the tea is never left entirely dry; this water is allowed to cool down, and helps protect the tea from the heat of subsequent infusions. However, when brewing with a gaiwan, the tea water should be poured off completely with each infusion.
One more TIP: spring water is the best for infusion, don't boil the same water over and over.
In summary, the key to prepare a tasty green tea is to control the water temperature and not to steep the tea too long.
Hope that was helpful. Next I'll write something about oolong tea.
- Cha Qu (茶趣)
- Seattle, WA, United States
- I grew up with tea, and it continues to fill my life with so much beauty and discovery, pleasure, peace and friends. It is always leading me toward a greater understanding of culture, nature, myself and others. It is my hope to use this space to share the joy of tea and tea culture with you.