Blog 35: Another Example of Bad Infusion
Updated: Oct 19, 2018
In our last blog, we talked about an infusion technique called “high infusion”. High infusion is generally used for showing and presenting, but it is not practical or beneficial for making tea. Today, I’d like to take this take this topic further and show you one more common mistake when infusing water into a Gaiwan. It’s called “targeted infusion”.
Before we begin, I’d like to talk about “Gaiwan” first, and it’ll be helpful for us to understand this blog later. Many tea lovers are familiar with Gaiwan, the traditional tool for making and brewing tea. However, not too many of them understand why it’s called “Gaiwan”. You see, the name and the spelling of “Gaiwan” is only the pronunciation of its real name in Chinese: 盖碗. If you speak Chinese, the meaning of “Gaiwan” is pretty straightforward. Gai, or 盖, means a lid/cover; wan, or 碗, means a bowl/cup. Together, Gai and Wan make up the tea-making tool that we know.
Now you fully understand the meaning of Gaiwan, and we can start discussing “targeted infusion”. A targeted infusion means that when infusing water into a gaiwan, we only pour a large sum of water into a fixed point. Targeted infusion has a major flaw: only part of all leaves can be immersed in water. If you look very closely, you’ll see that only the leaves in the bottom half can be immersed while the upper half are still dry due to the buoyancy of water.
When this “half wet-half dry” situation happens, many tea drinker would take the lid and use to to push all leaves into water. The movement almost feels like you are swipe above tea leaves. During my tea events, many of my customers told me that they thought using the lid to push leaves around is a professional technique that shows you can master the use of Gaiwan. However, this practice artificially prolongs the amount of time leaves staying in water. This practice also equals to a term in tea called “Sitting the Cup” (Chinese: 坐杯, pronounced: Zuo-Bei ), which means steeping leaves in water longer on purpose. (We will explain this further in future blog updates) While “sitting the cup” isn’t always a bad thing, it would certainly make the first couple infusions extra strong and bitter.
Of course, if we just close the lid and pour tea out, the taste of tea would be plain and unbalanced. Either way, we get good tea out of the tea leaves.
If our last blog, I briefly talked about the correct way of infusing water. Some of our readers asked me why do I suggest infuse water counter-clockwise. Here, I’d like to explain further about the cultural meaning behind this. The tea culture is more restrained and intrapersonal. There’re many practices that are less about practicality but more about cultural implication. For example, pouring counter-clockwise means that the host wants his/her guests to stay longer; pouring clockwise means that the host is losing patience or interest in the topic and wants to wrap up the conversation soon. Although this is a lesser known aspect of the tea culture, I hope this explanation can better help you understand.
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