Blog 28: Which Infusion is the Best?

Updated: Oct 19, 2018

Since the inception of this tea blog, we’ve received multiple questions about the use of Gaiwan(Chinese: 盖碗, meaning lid and bowl). The most frequently asked is when using Gaiwan, which infusion is the best? Today, let’s decipher the myth.


To answer the question, we must ask ourselves how to make a perfect cup of tea when using Gaiwan. If you have read our previous blogs, you might remember that water matters the most in making a cup of tea. In addition to the quality of water, how to pour water can also make a difference. Of course, we’re only discussing authentic, good quality teas in this blog.


Pouring Oolong Tea

Let’s take Wuyi oolong(yancha) for example. Wuyi oolong should always use water at the boiling temperature(100℃/212℉). For the first two infusions, the water flow needs to be infused faster counterclockwise. Tea leaves usually do not stay in water for more than a couple seconds. The more infusions a tea has, the longer the steeping time it needs. After every infusion, all water should be poured out. If tea leaves are left with water in Gaiwan, tea would turn bitter and dry. Each infusion should aim at delivering the same color. In addition, a good tea should never be steeped for more than 10-15 seconds. I found some tea brewing guidances claim that oolong tea needs to be steeped for minutes. This type of claims is completely wrong. Tea leaves are like humans, and they need to breath. If you think you cannot hold your breath under water for that long, tea definitely cannot hold its breath under water for that long.


For Wuyi oolong, the taste of the first and the last infusion is very different. The more infusion a tea has, the lighter and more watery it becomes. Most tea lovers believe that the third or the fourth infusion is the best. Is this right?


The short answer: yes. Most teas have a “rolling process”. For example, Tie Guan Yin is rolled into a ball shape, and Wuyi oolong is rolled into a long and slim shape. In some cases, the first infusion is not enough to expand all leaves; thus, it cannot extract the full flavor. However, this is not the end of the answer. The tea experience is linear. The changes in flavor and fragrance are gradual. The experience begins with the first infusion and ends with the last drop.


Every infusion is full of expression. This is where tea is different from coffee and wine. The flavor of a cup of coffee or a bottle of wine is constant. For tea, each infusion is brand new. Tea is like a person. When you first meet someone, no matter he’s a new colleague or a future friend, you and him need a proper introduction to familiarize each other. You just don’t go all in with everyone you just meet. Tea is the same. The first infusion is an introduction. It takes time for you to know a tea. Then, with more time together, tea can also release its full potential for you. Finally, every story has an end. After spending all of its essence, a tea and its life would eventually fade away. This is represented by the gentle decrease in the intensity of the flavor.


A Tea Maker's Tea Tasting

In my personal opinion, EVERY INFUSION IS THE BEST INFUSION. As long as we feel and appreciate, we can discover that every infusion has its unique taste. Because the different taste in each infusion, we can experience the brilliance of a tea’s life. Imagine, if all infusions taste the same, what’s the fun in tea tasting?


We hope you enjoyed today’s blog. As always, if you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment, tweet us @valleybrooktea or email us at contact@valleybrooktea.com. Please also follow us on Instagram @valleybrooktea and join our mail list to get our daily tea updates and our latest promotions! Finally, don’t forget we have a white tea sale for the entire month of June! Use code: whitetea186 and get a 10% off on all white tea products!