Proper tea steeping is generally regarded as a must for enjoying teas at their best. It’s also the way to make sure that the money you spend on these teas is stretched to their utmost value.
There is a trend these days for tea vendors to put directions for steeping their teas to get best flavor on their Websites and/or on the tea packaging. This helps you, the tea drinker, get a fair idea of how to start out trying the tea. However, there’s “optimum flavor” per the tea vendor and “optimum flavor” per your tastebuds. You may have to do some playing around with the steeping directions to find what is right for you and therefore get the best taste from the teas you buy.
A great way to stretch your tea dollars is to select teas that can undergo multiple steepings. Full leaf loose teas are my personal preference. Broken leaf loose teas are my second choice. However, I’ve gotten a couple of steepings out of fannings and even bagged dust. (Avoid the really “cheap teas” that aren’t worth the effort to heat water to steep them one time, let alone two or three.) I also recommend that you think twice before buying teas with some kind of flavoring that is applied to the tea leaves as opposed to teas that have fruits and flowers added. The “applied” flavors seem to disappear in the second steeping. Exceptions are Earl Grey and Jasmines.
Some teas to try multiple steepings with:
* Borengajuli Estate — try steeping the first time for only 3 minutes to get a stronger second infusion.
* Chai Green — the second infusion tends to have stronger spice overtones.
* Japanese Sencha — the second infusion I did was a bit lighter in flavor but still drinkable and tasty.
* Golden Moon’s Imperial Formosa Oolong — several infusions each tasted about the same, that is, delicious!
* Young Pu-erh — you can either steep it several times for 2 minutes each or a couple of times at 5 minutes or once for 10 minutes (I tried it each way recently).
* Holiday Spice Black — actually improves in the second infusion since it loses its edginess and has a smoother taste yet retains the spicy flavors.
* Lapsang Souchong — the strong, smoky flavor is tempered in the second infusion, and you could even do a third and a fourth, depending on the adventurousness of your nature.
Some personal records: I actually got five flavorful steepings from a Houjicha and six great steepings from a Kyoto Sencha. I got seven drinkable infusions from a small pu-erh cake and eight infusions from a Golden Bi Luo full leaf tea I tried awhile ago. Generally, I’ve found that reducing steep times slightly on the first infusion will give you a more flavorful second infusion and maybe even a third.
I hope these tips will help you make the most of the teas you buy. The more steepings you can get, the more affordable your tea indulgence becomes. Happy steeping!
Make sure to stop by A.C.’s blog, Tea Time with A.C. Cargill!