When you pay a bundle for a couple of ounces of tea leaves or even a modest price for your fave breakfast blend, being able to get more than one steep from them is essential. However, sometimes the second steep is a bit weak. The solution I have found is simple and helps me get twice as much steeped liquid from the same amount of tea leaves.
WARNING: All you tea experts, close your eyes and ears so you don’t hear or see this and lapse into apoplexy.
For the rest of you, here’s the trick: adjust your steep times and water temps so you can do more infusions than usual and then combine them to even out the flavor.
Most teas have a steep time range, such as “1 to 3 minutes” or “3 to 5 minutes.” (A pu-erh I tried awhile ago had a steep time range of 2 to 10 minutes.) They also have a temperature range for heating the water, such as 165-190˚ F or 200-212˚ F.
Borengajuli Estate Assam Tea can be steeped from 3 to 5 minutes in water heated to 212˚ F. By steeping the tea for 3 minutes the first time, setting the liquid aside (in a teapot covered with a cozy to keep it warm), and doing another steeping right away for 5 minutes, you get 2 different-tasting infusions that can be combined into one very nice infusion. It’s not too strong, not too weak, just right!
Tie Kuan Yin Iron Goddess Oolong is supposed to be steeped 1 to 3 minutes in water heated to 165-190° F. Hubby and I have found that starting with the lower water temperature and briefest steep time allows for more follow-up steeps that are quite tasty. Oolongs generate multiple infusions anyway, but starting off gently and “cranking up the volume” with each successive infusion is going to stretch things out a bit. The first steep will wake up the leaves with each additional infusion giving them a chance to really sing.
Another way to get more steepings from your tea is to avoid teas that are flavored, especially if they are flavored with oils. If the vendor uses pieces of “stuff” to flavor the tea, you have a better chance of a second infusion that tastes about as good as the first. Blackcurrant Black Tea is a good example. Do a lighter first steep than recommended and you will likely get a second infusion that retains a lot of the fruit flavor.
Just a few ideas to give you the gist of my methodology for squeezing every flavorful drop out of those precious tea leaves. Enjoy!