Tea Lessons — Practice Makes Perfect

Steeping tea is not exact science, even though there is a lot of science to it. There are so many different ways that tea leaves are processed, resulting in so many different kinds of teas, that it’s easy to do something wrong.

Of course, I’m talking about “true tea” from the tea plant (Camellia Sinensis and its varietals), not things like Rooibos (red bush), Honeybush, Chamomile, herbal infusions/tisanes, Guayusa, etc. There is enough variety out there without all of this foreign matter added in.

I’ve had the pleasure of trying a number of these “true teas” (along with some of those “foreign matter” brews) and learned that steep times from 30 seconds to 10 minutes are possible to get the right flavor. Of course, what that “right” flavor is can be largely a very personal determination. That’s where the tea vendor’s instructions come in as a valuable aid. The trend seems to be toward putting these instructions on a Website instead of the package. If it keeps the price of tea down, I am more than willing to endure.

Recently, I neglected to do the research and really messed up trying a tea sample by oversteeping it. It was a bright, grassy Sencha that deserved better treatment than I gave it.

Just as I think of the hundreds, maybe even thousands of hard-working people who make the simplest things in my life possible (like a cotton shirt), I think of all the people who tend the tea bushes and trees, and those who get it from the gardens into my teacup. (This includes those “middle men” despite claims by the “Fair Trade” crowd.) The cotton shirt involves not only those who grow the cotton crop but such far-flung things as the people who build the machines on which the cotton is turned into thread and then woven into cloth, not to mention pattern makers, sewers, and a host of others.

This Sencha didn’t involve quite so many people, but there were still a fair number, and the fruits of their labor deserved better treatment than I had given it. Thank goodness the tea was good for a second steeping, even after being severely oversteeped.

So, how bad was it? Well, instead of a 30-second steep that would have produced a delicate tasting cup, hubby and I steeped it for — are you sitting down? — three minutes! Yeah, I know, that’s really bad. Sigh.

If at first you don’t succeed… Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough left to try again. Other tea samples have come in larger amounts, giving me a chance not only to toss my mistakes and do it right but to try different things. Hubby and I had lots of fun, for example, with the Young Pu-erh we tried recently. Some chai mixes we’ve tried deserve a little further experimentation. Then, there are various greens that take on different flavors depending on how they are steeped.

Hubby and I will keep practicing until we get it right, taking notes along the way of what worked and what didn’t. After all, practice makes perfect!

Make sure to stop by A.C.’s blog, Tea Time with A.C. Cargill!

2 thoughts on “Tea Lessons — Practice Makes Perfect

  1. Pingback: Ian Bersten Proposes Tea, the 21st Century, and Beyond — Part 3 « Tea Blog

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