How to Brew Chinese Tea
There are several simple key points to remember when brewing Chinese tea to ensure you get great results every time.
Keep your teas in an airtight container away from strong odours and humid conditions. These will cause your tea to deteriorate in quality and affect their taste.
Our loose leaf teas come in resealable foil pouches to help retain freshness. Stored properly, green and white tea can last for up to 18 months. Oolong and black teas for two years and more, depending on their type.
Quality puerh teas improve with age like fine wine. They actually benefit from some airflow and humidity to assist in ageing them. Most come wrapped in a type of breathable paper that helps with this process.
Quality: Water quality is very important. Spring water is ideal but not always available or practical. Use freshly drawn filtered water. A water filter jug is a worthwhile investment to help brew good tea.
Temperature: Different varieties of tea need varying levels of temperature. Delicate teas can be spoiled by using water that is too hot. As a general rule, white and green teas need cooler water (70 to 80 °C) than oolong, black and puerh tea which are more robust and can handle higher temperatures (80 to 100 °C ). Try not to overboil water as it becomes over-oxygenated and can taste 'flat' and affect the resulting brew. A very helpful system to gauge temperature is used by the Chinese by watching the size and shape of bubbles in the water as it comes to the boil.
- Shrimp eyes - 70-80 °C (155-175 °F) - the first small bubbles start rising to the top.
- Crab eyes - 80 °C (175 °F) - slightly bigger ones.
- Fish eyes - 80-90 °C (175-195 °F) - larger bubbles increasing in volume.
- Rope of pearls - 90-95 °C (195–205 °F) - a steady stream of rolling bubbles.
- Raging torrent - 95 -100°C (203-212°F) - a rolling boil of swirling water.
- Old Man Water - 'Flat' water that is over-boiled and over-oxygenated.
An array of different vessels can be used to brew teas - a simple cup or glass, an infuser like our Kamjove brewing pot, Yixing clay or glass teapot, or a Gaiwan.
Some delicate teas, such as white, need to be infused at cooler temperatures for longer and can be topped up with fresh water as needed. Some oolongs and puerhs are best infused in short, multiple infusions to bring out successive layers of flavour. Some puerh teas can be infused up to a dozen times.
Smaller size teapots are best for brewing Chinese tea. Be generous with the amount of leaf you use. As a general guide we would recommend using around 3g of tea per 200 ml of water and increase as required.
- White /Green/Jasmine: Brew in glassware, porcelain or Gaiwan. Use 70-80 °C water to avoid spoiling the delicate flavour.
- Oolong: Most brewing devices are suitable. A Gaiwan or Yixing teapot is ideal for multiple, short infusions to bring out the layers of flavour present in fine oolongs. Use 80-95 °C water to brew.
- Black: Suitable for most brewing devices. They can stand hotter temperatures so use near boiling water for these types.
- Puerh: A Gaiwan or small Yixing clay teapot are ideal for brewing puerh which need short multiple infusions to really bring out the range of flavours in these complex teas. Use near boiling water for puerh.
The greater the proportion of tea leaves to water the shorter the infusion time required.The longer the infusion time the stronger the tea. Avoid leaving the tea leaves to stew or it will make the resulting tea bitter.
Remember that fine loose leaf teas can be repeatedly infused to enjoy the full flavour profile they possess. Most can be infused 2-3 times. Many oolongs, blacks and puerhs can be repeatedly infused eight or more times. Just remember to gradually increase the steeping times with each successive infusion.
Brew To Personal Taste
There are many schools of thought on how to brew the perfect cup of tea. Ultimately the choice lies with you. Have fun experimenting and varying your technique until you find the ideal brew for you. These tips are merely a guide to get you started.
Please feel free to contact us with any questions. We are always happy to help.