Water for tea
The type of water used for brewing plays an enormously important role in the final flavor, clarity and color of the liquor. While tea brewed in one particular water may taste dull and flat, the same tea brewed in different water can be wonderfully brisk and bright. All the ingredients and impurities in water including added chemicals like chlorine play their part in the brewing process. To remove unwanted solubles in water some sort of filtration is required and the most effective type is called ‘reverse osmosis’ where the water is passed through membranes which forces unwanted chemicals and other deposits to leave the water almost 99.4% pure.
The Chinese believe that spring water is the best for tea and the poorest is water that has stood for any length of time and has therefore become flat and lifeless.
Hard water, which contains calcium, is poor for any type of tea, deadening the flavor and causing a scum to form on the surface of the tea in the cup.
If bottled water is used a pH level of 7 is ideal, but choose carefully as bottled water may contain salts and other minerals that can spoil the flavor of tea as can some tap water. Remember that even good water that has been boiled repeatedly to prepare tea is poor, as most of the oxygen has been boiled out which makes the tea taste flat and lifeless!
Brewing Tea & Methods
The method of brewing tea differs according to the type of tea and the traditional tea culture of the country in question, yet it is still the most simple of tasks as it requires just good boiling water and tea leaves. The temperature of the water is important for different teas and for all black and most oolong teas, boiling water is ideal and for green and white teas the temperature should be around 90 degrees C. (185 F.)for green and around 80 degreesC. (170 F.)for whites. To achieve a temp of 90 degrees simply bring the water to boil and let stand for 2-3 mts. and to reach 80 degrees let stand for 3-5 mts. For some rare very delicate green teas a lower temperature of around 70degrees is recommended.
The amount of tea is generally as a rule of thumb ‘ a teaspoon for every cup and one for the pot’… however this is not graven in stone and if you desire a strong cup, a heaped teaspoon or 2.5 to 3 gms of straight tea per cup ( 8ozs.)would be more apt.
The tricky part of measuring tea is remembering that volume and weight are not identical. A rounded teaspoon of small-leaf tea will weigh more than an identically piled up spoon of large leaf tea. It takes what looks like a mighty mound of white tea, for instance, to make a single cup. Experience seems to be the best teacher!
Use a timer when steeping teas. Some black and most greens can be completely unforgiving if steeped more than the ideal duration. Over steeped tea can be undrinkably astringent. For most black loose leaf teas 3- 4 mts. is the ideal although some blacks may be steeped for up to 5-6 mts. This again can be a matter of personal preference.
For green teas though the steeping time should not exceed 2 mts. otherwise the tea can get bitter and whites may need up to 3-5 mts. to draw the flavor out. The most important variable is the size of the leaf; the larger the leaf, the longer you must steep it; the smaller the leaf, the more surface it exposes to the water and the quicker the goodness is drawn out of it. Also remember the shorter the steeping time, the more aroma!
|Black||1 tsp/2.0 gms.||100 deg C||3-4 mins||1 cup/ 8 ozs.|
|Green||1 tsp/2.0 gms.||80-90 deg C||1.5-2 mins||1 cup/ 8 ozs.|
|White||1.5 tsp/3.0 gms.||80 deg C||3-5 mins||1 cup/ 8 ozs.|
|Oolong||1 tsp/2.0 gms.||90-95 deg C||3-4 mins||1 cup/ 8 ozs.|
|Yerba Mate||2 tsp||90 deg C||5-8 mins||1 cup/ 8 ozs.|
|Rooibos/Herbals||1.5 -2.0 tsp||100 deg C||6-8 mins||1 cup/ 8 ozs.|
For iced tea double the amount of tea and after brewing add to ice equivalent to another cup to make up the full quantity.
Traditional brewing method for black tea in a teapot.
1)Select a teapot of the correct size for the number of cups required.
2)Fill a kettle or pan with freshly drawn good cold water and bring to the boil.
3)When the water is almost boiling, pour a little into the teapot, swill it around and then pour the water out.
4)Measure the loose tea into the teapot and when the water is coming to a rolling boil, pour the water onto the leaves. Whenever possible, place the tea leaves inside an infuser that can then be lifted out of the liquid once the tea has brewed. Allow 2.5 -3 gms. or 1 heaped teaspoon for I cup or 8 ozs. Of water.
5)Put the lid on the pot and set a timer to the correct duration for the tea being brewed. For small leafed teas allow 2- 3 mts. and for large leaf teas allow 3-4 mts. depending on personal taste. Remember the longer the steeping time the stronger the flavour.
6)After the correct duration, lift the infuser or if not using an infuser pour the tea out using a strainer into cups. If the tea is of a variety that can be infused a second or third time add more water and leave for required time again.
Brewing Puerh teas
Most puerh teas yield up to nine or ten infusions and so, although the leaf can be expensive, it does offer good value for money.
1)Bring freshly drawn cold water to boil and warm vessel in which the tea is to be brewed.
2)Measure 3- 5 gms. of tea into the pot and add 8 ozs. of boiling water. Infuse for only 10- 20 seconds then strain liquor off the leaf.
3)Add more boiling water and steep for up to 2 mts. before straining liquor into cups. For multiple infusions progressively increase the steeping time.
Tea Types & Blends
Around the globe, more than 10,000 different teas are made from different varietals of Camellia sinensis. As with the production of wine, the character, colour, and flavour of each tea when it is brewed and served are determined by a long list of variable factors- location of the tea garden, altitude, climate, seasonal changes, the soil, the minerals in the soil, cultivation methods, processing methods and the way in which the tea is eventually brewed!
Teas are classified by the process used to make them and, although the names of the different categories- white, yellow, green, oolong, black and puerh- ,often tell us about the color and appearance of the dry leaf, it is the processing method that decides the category.
White tea was originally named after the tiny white or silver hairs that cover the bud as it develops at the tip of each tea shoot. And, although some white teas are made from only the new leaf bud, other white teas are made from the new bud and one or two young open leaves. Once the new buds and baby leaves have been carefully gathered, they are dried in the sun or a warm drying room to remove moisture. They are the least processed of all types of tea and when brewed they give a very pale, champagne coloured liquor that has a very light, soft, sweet, velvety flavour. The antioxidant content are said to be higher than in other types of tea.
Green teas are generally described as ‘unoxidized’ teas and like white tea no chemical change occurs during their manufacture. Processing of green tea involves a short period of withering to allow some of the water content in the leaf to evaporate, then steaming or pan firing, to de-enzyme the leaf. Next comes a series of rollings and firings to shape and dry the leaf.
Green teas do not undergo ‘fermentation’ or oxidation as they are de-enzymed, the enzymes in tea leaves is what causes the leaf to oxidize with the oxygen in the air. Famous green teas come from China and Japan and carry esoteric names such as gunpowder, Dragon Well, precious eyebrows and Pearl Dew. The names are either attributable to classical myths surrounding the tea and the location from where it is picked or to sacred tea terminology handed down through the ages.
In China, these are defined as ‘red teas’ because of the coppery red colour of the liquor they yield. The process for making black tea always involves four basic stages- withering, rolling, oxidation, and firing (drying). The two major processing methods are ‘orthodox’ and ‘CTC’. The traditional orthodox method is still used in China, Taiwan, India and Sri Lanka and tends to treat the leaf with more respect and care than the modern CTC( cut,tear,curl) method.
The CTC method of manufacture is widely used in major tea producing countries to give a small leafed tea that brews more quickly and gives a strong liquor- characteristic that are desirable for the production of teabag blends.
The distinct black colour of the leaves and its recognizable aroma comes from the oxidation process and when brewed the liquor is reddish to golden red. The oxidation process also produces the tea chemicals known as theaflavins and thearubigins, which give black tea its beneficial properties.
Oolong teas, known as partially or semi oxidized are traditionally made in China and Taiwan. Fresh tea leaves are allowed to wither until enough moisture evaporates for the leaf to become flaccid. To make black or Oolong tea, withered leaf is rolled without firing. This turns it into a mass of bruised sticky leaves whose juices are now exposed to the air. When this green mass is spread out for the exposed juice to oxidize it turns brown. In the case of black tea the tea is oxidized completely before firing and arresting the oxidation process and in the case of oolong the tea is partially oxidized before firing. Obviously, the way to obtain the result desired is to control and stop the oxidation process at just the right moment.
Technically classified not as black but dark black tea, Pu-erh is China’s mystery tea. Pu-erh tea is thought to have various positive health benefits and is consequently becoming more and more popular throughout the world. Named from the market town where the teas have been traded for hundreds of years, puerh teas have an earthy, moldy, mature character and are said to be excellent for the digestion, to ease stomach upsets, to help reduce cholesterol and help lose weight.
The hallmark of puerh tea is fermentation for long periods up to even 50 years! After the tea is withered and pan fired to kill the enzymes, it is rolled and kneaded and dried. The tea is then immediately steamed and compressed into round cakes or it may be kept loose and allowed to mature for a year or more. The maturation period allows a slow natural fermentation in naturally humid, well-ventilated conditions. (This fermentation is different to the oxidation process that takes place in the manufacture of black and oolong teas)
The water content in the tea and the oxygen in the air slowly ferments the tea and turns the leaf from green to red and then to dark brown. The loose or compressed teas are then aged up to 50 years in controlled conditions to develop its mellow, smooth, sweet flavour.
Any type of tea- white, green, oolong, black or puerh- may be scented or flavoured with flowers, fruits, spices or herbs. The additional flavourings, in the form of flower petals, pollen heads, dried herbs, dried fruit or spice are blended with the leaf at the end of the manufacturing process. Blenders also usually add flavouring oils, essences or granules to the mixture in order to ensure an even, enduring flavour and aroma.
One of the best-known flavoured teas is Earl Grey, which is made by blending black, green or white tea with the essential oil of begamot. Jasmine and mint are other popular and universally loved flavours. The possibilities are endless and today’s flavoured teas range from simple lemon tea to complex blends that include several different flowers and exotic spices. The ingredients that are added to the straight teas are commonly referred to as inclusions.
Flavoured teas should not be confused with herbal infusions that are made from plants other than Camellia sinensis. Many herbs and flowers, for example chamomile, mint, rosehip and hibiscus are used to give soothing, beneficial brews but if the leaves of the tea plant are not included, neither the dried product nor liquor should be referred to as a “tea”. The correct name is herbal or tisane. These tisanes or herbal infusions do not have caffeine and are ideal for those allergic or sensitive to the substance.
Rooibos is a caffeine free tisane or herbal infusion that grows in South Africa as a red bush and has numerous beneficial properties similar to tea.
Some tea aficionados prefer to know that each time they buy a particular tea, for example, English Breakfast or Earl Grey, Ceylon Blend or Darjeeling, it will always taste the same and give the same strength and flavor. It is for this reason that tea blendes and packers create blends to suit their customers. To do this they taste hundreds of teas every day in order to find the mix of up to 35 different teas that will give that standard flavor. The blenders taste teas from different estates, regions and seasons and then creat a recipe using the selected teas. Once the right recipe for a particular blend has been decided the necessary teas are loaded into large funnel-shaped containers which feed a blending drum whee the teas are mixed thoroughly together.
Blends can easily be created to suit different tastes, different times of the day and different foods. Successful blending is usually the result of experimentation and tasting, trial and error. ?
Blend Your Own Tea
To create a sensory-rich and interactive experience we have created the custom blending station at t-buds. You can now under guided supervision ‘mix and match’ and come up with your own unique blend or a copy of your favourite blend to suit your own palate.
Creating a custom blend will give you a fun way to “get your hands dirty” and get familiar with tea. You can look ,smell, add ingredients and flavors ,smell and adjust and even taste your sample. What better way to figure out what you really fancy and come up with your own concoction! You can select from a range of popular flavors like almond, apple, apricot, banana, blackberry, blueberry, caramel, cherry, chocolate, cinnamon, coconut, cream and currants and create simple single flavors or even custom blends. Care for a caramel apple?
It’s easy and fun!
To blend your own tea simply follow the steps below:
1) Select your base tea from a single tea such as a black, green, white, Rooibos or Oolong from different regions of the world and then,
2) Select your flavor preference from the flavorings and add the different inclusions like vanilla bits, safflower petals, candied fruit pieces etc. to create visual interest and texture.
3) Mix the ingredients and smell and look and then try out a sample brew if needed.
4) Pack your blend in a tin or zip lock resealable foil tea pouch.
5) Take it home and enjoy the brew!