Updated: Oct 19, 2018
In our previous tea blogs, we talked extensively about some advanced Gaiwan techniques. After discussing “sitting the cup” and “suffocative steeping”, we finally come to the closing topic of this series: “root saving”.
Root saving (Chinese: 留根, pronounced: Liú Gēn) is to keep some water in the tea pot/glass when you serve tea. The purpose of root saving is to maintain the continuity of a tea so that its flavor does not fade away soon. The usual root saving has a very simple and straightforward purpose: to make a tea taste better.
“Wait a minute!” you might ask, “didn’t you say do not leave a single drop in Gaiwan when pouring out tea?” Yes, I say that a lot. That’s why we need to first explain why root saving isn’t a Gaiwan technique. When using a Gaiwan, the last couple drops in Gaiwan are the essence of a tea. If you don’t pour it out, your tea would often taste numb and light. Also, keep leaves steeped in a Gaiwan would make your next infusion taste bitter and dry. Root saving is only used for teas that are characterized as “steeped tea” (Chinese: 浸泡茶, pronounced: Jìn Pào Chá) such as green tea and white tea. Green tea and white tea can be steeped in larger cups or pots; thus, all rules applied to Gaiwan use don’t necessarily apply to green tea and white tea.
Root saving is often employed in two situation: brewing aged white tea and steeping white/green tea in a tall glass.
Brewing aged white tea is different from making the same tea with a Gaiwan. A typical Gaiwan holds about 100ml to 300ml of water, and a brewing pot can easily hold more than 500ml of water. When brewing aged white tea, a heat source is applied to the brewing pot. The temperature in the brewing pot is always constant while the temperature in the Gaiwan drops down gradually.
When brewing aged white tea, we always suggest our customers to not pour everything out of the pot and keep the bottom 1/5 tea soup for the next round. By saving the “root”, we can assure the constant mellow and thick flavor of an aged white tea without any dramatic changes in the taste. If we pour all tea soup out of the brewing pot, there would be a significant decline in the thickness of the taste for the next few rounds.
When steeping green tea with a tall glass, you usually drink directly from the glass. Root saving here means that when you drink from your glass, don’t finish everything in one go. Keep some water in the bottom part of the glass with tea leaves before you add more water. This is a common practice for most unfermented or lightly fermented tea such as all green tea and most white tea (silver needle, white peony and so on).
At the end of this blog, we’d like to address that all these “techniques” (sitting the cup, suffocative steeping, root saving) are only useful for certain purposes introduced in our blogs. There’s no guarantee that your tea will taste better by using these techniques without plenty practices and experiments.
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