Updated: Oct 18, 2018
In the past few weeks, we’ve introduced some advanced Gaiwan/brewing skills such as “sitting the cup/坐杯”, “suffocative steeping/闷泡” and “root saving/留根”. Lately, we’ve been getting more and more questions from our tea event guests on why a tea tastes differently when they make it. After observing how some of the guests use Gaiwan, we realize that it is usually the first infusion that makes the difference. Today, let’s talk about more basic infusion techniques and what to avoid during the first infusion.
An infusion is actually a two-step process. In Chinese, an infusion is called Chong Pao/冲泡. Chong(冲) and Pao(泡) are in fact two actions in an infusion. “Chong” means pouring water into a cup, and “Pao” means steeping tea leaves in the water. This seemingly simple mechanical process can make a huge difference on the taste of your tea. An infusion is not a standardized action. Even a seasoned tea drinker has to practice one infusion after another. Here are three things you need to avoid when infusing a Wu-Yi oolong(Yancha) to make your tea taste better.
First, DO NOT “sitting the cup/坐杯” on the first infusion. Sitting the cup means forcing tea leaves steeped longer than they should. Good quality Wu-Yi oolong produce a strong and instant flavor. The first four infusions should be done fast, typically under 5 seconds from pouring water into and out of the cup. In reality, most tea lovers already knew this basic rule, but the fact that many of them struggle with Gaiwan use leads to an unintentional prolonged steeping time for the first infusion. First infusion of a Wu-Yi oolong is like a rocket fitted with solid-fuel boosters. Once infused, it’d release all of its energy, flavors and aromas immediately. If the first infusion is over-steeped, a tea would taste bitter and dry for the rest of its life. Even if you want to correct a tea with a second infusion, it’d be too late. “Sitting” the first infusion equals to taking the Titanic to its top speed. Once the momentum kicks in, it’s hard to arrest the acceleration. “Sitting” the first infusion also consumes a tea at a much higher rate. With correct infusions, a normal Wu-Yi oolong can endure at least 8 to 10 infusions; however, if over-steeped in the first infusion, it can only last up to about 5 infusions.
Secondly, DO NOT use low temperature water. One of the most common misunderstandings of oolong is that oolong requires a lower infusion temperature. We’d like to point out that since all oolong tea use bigger, older and stronger leaves, they always require water at its boiling temperature. If we use water at any temperature lower than 100℃/212℉, we cannot get a oolong to release its fragrances and substances. Low temperature water cannot help leaves stretch. Unextended tea leaves doesn’t produce enough flavor; thus, a tea would taste plain and numb.
Thirdly, DO NOT fill the whole cup with water when using an oversized Gaiwan. Gaiwan have all kinds of sizes and designs. The volume of a standard 8-gram Gaiwan (Chinese: 八克杯) is about 150ml. Since most Chinese tea are already packaged in smaller “per serving” bags that are designed to fit a typical Gaiwan, if we use an oversized Gaiwan, there wouldn’t be enough tea leaves for it. For tea lovers who use oversized Gaiwan, we suggest you still just infuse 150ml of water each time, or your tea might taste lighter than it should be.
In this blog, we’ve talked quite a lot about how tea, water and tea-making skills affect the quality of your tea. In the future, we’ll also introduce more Gaiwan/brewing skills in the blog to help you unleash the full potential of your tea.
I hope you enjoyed today’s blog. As always, if you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment, tweet us @valleybrooktea or email the author directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please also follow us on Instagram @valleybrooktea and join our mail list to get our daily tea updates and our latest promotions! Finally, we have a semi-annual SALE on black tea products! Use code: semiannual and save 20% on all black tea products!