Many tea drinkers have a limited selection of teawares in their arsenal. This is either because they have limited storage space, limited tea selections, limited funds, or limited time to go out and purchase specialized teawares and then learn how to use them properly. So, how do they prepare a special tea that might be at its best when steeped in one of these specialized teawares? Can they get along with their “normal” teawares? Sure, it just takes a little knowledge and maybe paying more careful attention to the steeping.
You’re probably wondering around now what “normal” teawares are. Well, that sort of depends on where you live. In Japan, it is most likely a kyusu. In other parts of Asia it could be a gaiwan or even a little Yixing clay teapot. Here in the U.S. it’s often a ceramic teapot or even a favorite mug. For the purposes of this article, I will be using “normal” teawares to refer to ceramic teapots and/or mugs.
Most folks who steep in a ceramic teapot usually use one that is 4 or 6 cups capacity and may or may not use an infuser (ball or basket for the most part). And those who steep in a mug are using a bagged tea or some type of infuser (ball, spoon, etc.). For many black teas, this approach is passable. Other teas are a different story. Oolongs can undergo multiple infusions and are best when steeped in small amounts (less than 4 or 6 cups of water) and using a lot of tea leaves relative to the amount of water. A smaller teapot (about 1 or 2 cups capacity) is a must or you’ll need to use less water or steep in an infuser basket that fits in a mug or cup (which I did in my review of Formosa Oolong awhile back).
A similar approach can work for pu-erhs, finer greens, top quality whites, and even Darjeelings, all of which are at their best when steeped in smaller quantities multiple times and using a generous amount of tea leaves. Some teas are sufficient by the mugful, such as genmaicha, with its wonderful toasty/grassy flavor where one infusion suffices. This can also be true of flavored teas, where one cuppa goes a long way. Lavender Butterfly Green Tea is a good example (see my review where I steeped it in a one-cup ceramic teapot).
Yes, you can get by with “normal” teawares for even the most persnickety of teas. As your tea tastes expand, though, consider adding a special teaware or two to your arsenal. Your tastebuds will thank you.
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