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I've already paraded my baking dumbness over in the Baking 101 topic, and as I try to learn a bit about tea I'm going to do the same. I mean, really, just a few weeks ago I learned that most tea was fermented. Who knew?!?

So let's use this topic to ask really stupid questions about tea. My first comes from reading this post by Richard Kilgore:

You're doing this in a cup with an infuser, right? My suggestion would be to first try it off-boil (about 195 F) with 2.5 g (about a teaspoon, I'll have to verify that later) per six ounces for 3 minutes. Then 4 minutes for a second steep, and 5 for a third. But use this as a starting point and experiment with the leaf:water ratio (in the direction of more leaf) and the steep time (1.5, 2, 3; 3, 3.5, 4) and see how it changes and how you like it best. (If you can do it in your office, try doing a quick (5 - 10 sec) rinse of the leaves before the first infusion and see what that does.)

After reading this, I felt like an American listing to a UK sports report on cricket.

So here are a few introductory questions:

1. I see that most teas have recommended steeping temperatures, with some being "boiling water." Of course, by the time water hits the leaves, it's likely to be below 212F/100C immediately if not before. So when do I take the temperature of the water? Or is it a feel thing?

2. What's up with these second and third steepings? Are these for another cup later in the day, using the reserved leaves? And you increase the steeping time with the older leaves for pretty obvious reasons, yes?

3. Why rinse the leaves? I read that it's to reduce caffeine, which I don't need to do. Is it also to rinse off oxidation? Why would that be a good thing? Is it comparable to cheese rinds?

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I've already paraded my baking dumbness over in the Baking 101 topic, and as I try to learn a bit about tea I'm going to do the same. I mean, really, just a few weeks ago I learned that most tea was fermented. Who knew?!?

So let's use this topic to ask really stupid questions about tea. My first comes from reading this post by Richard Kilgore:

You're doing this in a cup with an infuser, right? My suggestion would be to first try it off-boil (about 195 F) with 2.5 g (about a teaspoon, I'll have to verify that later) per six ounces for 3 minutes. Then 4 minutes for a second steep, and 5 for a third. But use this as a starting point and experiment with the leaf:water ratio (in the direction of more leaf) and the steep time (1.5, 2, 3; 3, 3.5, 4) and see how it changes and how you like it best. (If you can do it in your office, try doing a quick (5 - 10 sec) rinse of the leaves before the first infusion and see what that does.)

After reading this, I felt like an American listing to a UK sports report on cricket.

So here are a few introductory questions:

1. I see that most teas have recommended steeping temperatures, with some being "boiling water." Of course, by the time water hits the leaves, it's likely to be below 212F/100C immediately if not before. So when do I take the temperature of the water? Or is it a feel thing?

2. What's up with these second and third steepings? Are these for another cup later in the day, using the reserved leaves? And you increase the steeping time with the older leaves for pretty obvious reasons, yes?

3. Why rinse the leaves? I read that it's to reduce caffeine, which I don't need to do. Is it also to rinse off oxidation? Why would that be a good thing? Is it comparable to cheese rinds?

Great questions, Chris!

1. You're right - the water will cool a little when it hits the brewing pot or cup. That's why it's helpful to pre-heat it, and the cup(s) you are drinking out of as well. If possible. I don't always do it if I am in a hurry, but I do it 85 - 90 % of the time. And yes, measure the water temp in whatever you are heating the water in. (Also remember that the recommended brewing temps that come with a tea or that are recommended on a tea purveyors website are frequently wrong...or at least not optimal.

2. Absolutely. If you are brewing Western style you can make another pot steeping the same leaves immediately or later in the day. Usually you may get three or four steepings out of them. (But gongfu style you may get anywhere from 7 or 8 to 20 steepings.)

Yes. Because you have steeped some of the aroma and flavor out of them on each steeping. You can play with increasing the steeping time or with reducing the amount of water. Or both.

3. I am not sure that it reduces the caffeine significantly. It is primarily to wash away any tea dust and debris left from the manufacturing process. It often also softens any astringency the leaves may have, making for a smoother cup. I think it's also a good idea to do a rinse if you have allowed wet leaves to remain in the pot for more than 30 minutes or an hour. To discourage any bacteria and help with the astringency again.

Someone else may have a different take on all this. Pick any tea issue and there are usually 5 - 10,000 opinions.

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what about equipment if I want to brew loose tea? For now, lets assume "western" tea. Is it OK to brew it in my 1 qt. Pyrex measuring cup and pour it through a small strainer into a coffee cup when no one else is looking?

What about something more "proper"? A pot with a built in strainer? Use a tea ball? I would prefer to brew and serve from the same pot/container and not transfer from a brewing vessel to a serving one. Looking for something pretty simple. And not too expensive.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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what about equipment if I want to brew loose tea?  For now, lets assume "western" tea.  Is it OK to brew it in my 1 qt. Pyrex measuring cup and pour it through a small strainer into a coffee cup when no one else is looking?

What about something more "proper"?  A pot with a built in strainer? Use a tea ball?  I would prefer to brew and serve from the same pot/container and not transfer from a brewing vessel to a serving one.  Looking for something pretty simple.  And not too expensive.

The Bodum teapots work well here's one model, but are a little annoying to clean.

Another workhorse in my house is the Japanese BeeHouse brand here's a bevy of teapots!

Do NOT use tea balls; even the largest ones constrain the leaves from unfurling.

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I don't own my own teapot at home, but I've been meaning to get one. The one I use at work has a strainer that fits in the top. I like this design, because if I'm using tea leaves, it works, but if I want to use a bag, it also works - I just leave the strainer out.

After I make my first infusion, I leave the strainer to the side on a saucer, then pop it back in later for a second or third infusion. My office has a thermal pot that boils the water and then holds it at that temperature. I can't help thinking the water must get stale, staying like that all day. Is this a rational fear?

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what about equipment if I want to brew loose tea?  For now, lets assume "western" tea.  Is it OK to brew it in my 1 qt. Pyrex measuring cup and pour it through a small strainer into a coffee cup when no one else is looking?

Sounds like in this case you are brewing just for yourself. In that case a quart measuring cup would be too big and would lose heat too rapidly due to having a wide mouth with no lid. So for cheap and furtive western style brewing, my suggestion would be to brew in one cup (place a small saucer or some such on top for a lid) and strain into your drinking cup. You can pre-heat both with hot water.

The next inexpensive step up, and easier though not necessarily better, is using an infuser in a cup, which we discussed in a topic on Tea bags vs loose leaf tea and tea filters.

What about something more "proper"?  A pot with a built in strainer? Use a tea ball?  I would prefer to brew and serve from the same pot/container and not transfer from a brewing vessel to a serving one.  Looking for something pretty simple.  And not too expensive.

Tea balls restrict tea leaves from unfolding and from fully infusing, which means less aroma and less flavor. So too, to a leeser degree, pots with most built in infusers, compared to simply letting the leaves unfold and infuse in the pot. Many pots have built in filters at the point where the spout joins the body - that's a better option. If a pot has an open spout with no filter, you can always pour though a strainer.

You can find basic 2 cup ceramic pots on the web and in many grocery stores for about $15 - $20.

Does that answer your question? If not, ask away.

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Thanks, everybody. That does help.

I did think about the heat loss from a quart measuring cup. The idea of brewing one cup at a time was not too appealing because I would probably want more than one cup. :) I think it would be more convenient to brew what I would drink once, then just pour.

So, it sounds like a small-ish pot with a built in strainer (as a opposed to one with a infuser basket) would be ideal. Now, I just need to find one I like.

Any suggestion on local places to get something like this, Richard? I poked around the Cultured Cup website, but what they had seemed pricey. I've seen those Teavana places in the local malls, too.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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I did think about the heat loss from a quart measuring cup.  The idea of brewing one cup at a time was not too appealing because I would probably want more than one cup. :)  I think it would be more convenient to brew what I would drink once, then just pour.

I am not sure I am visualizing what you mean, but I think these are the main issues:

You could brew once and then pour, if you pour into another pre-heated serving teapot which you keep warm with a tea cozy (or do like I do and wrap it in a dish towel).

If you brew and pour one cup, let the pot sit and pour another cup later,

1) the pot and tea cool off, and

2) the tea leaves overbrew from sitting in the tea water.

However, if you are brewing good tea leaves, you will always be able to get a second infusion and usually be able to get at least three infusions from one set of tea leaves. So you can brew in a cup (or a pot) and get multiple cups of tea. If you only do one infusion, you are wasting a lot of great tea. And often the second infusion is better than the first.

So, it sounds like a small-ish pot with a built in strainer (as a opposed to one with a infuser basket) would be ideal.  Now, I just need to find one I like.  

Any suggestion on local places to get something like this, Richard?  I poked around the Cultured Cup website, but what they had seemed pricey.  I've seen those Teavana places in the local malls, too.

For inexpensive 2 cup ceramic tea pots check out Central Market, World Market stores and Pier One stores. The Cultured Cup has much more in the store than shows on the web site. While they have some very nice, more expensive tea-things, they also have many that are lower-priced. I remember seeing tea pots as low as $25, but there may be some even less expensive. Go by and take a look or call them and ask what they have in your price range. Most web tea dealers also offer teapots, but I like to see them in person whenever possible.

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Ah.. OK.. I see what you are saying. The over brewing of the subsequent cups. As mentioned before, I don't really want to transfer to a second pot. So, my plan wouldn't be a good idea. I guess I got the impression that brewing without any sort of infuser or whatever was vastly superior.

So, maybe an infuser IS the best way to go for me. I can simply lift it out (I assume they all lift out?) and place it on a towel or saucer or whatever for a second infusion later on. Does that have to happen within a certain period of time?

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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Ah.. OK.. I see what you are saying. The over brewing of the subsequent cups.  As mentioned before, I don't really want to transfer to a second pot. So, my plan wouldn't be a good idea.  I guess I got the impression that brewing without any sort of infuser or whatever was vastly superior.

So, maybe an infuser IS the best way to go for me. I can simply lift it out (I assume they all lift out?) and place it on a towel or saucer or whatever for a second infusion later on.  Does that have to happen within a certain period of time?

Yes, you got it right - brewing without an infuser is superior - for aroma and flavor. But using an infuser may serve your needs for now. And if you want to make a comparison, you can always brew in the pot without using the infuser.

You can re-brew sooner, but I often let an hour or more go by. If it has been sitting for a long while, just give the leaves a quick rinse in hot water - pour the hot water through the infuser into the sink for 2 - 3 secs, or pour into the pot just enough hot water to cover the leaves and dump the water fast - then re-brew.

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Thanks Richard. I think I have a better grasp on it now.

To make things convenient (i.e. to allow me to brew multiple cups all at once) for a solo drinker, I could go with a pot that used a infuser basket. If I were to serve tea to guest(s), I could brew a full pot without an infuser and pour it all out to all guest(s) in one serving. And of course, I suppose I could always brew a partial pot if I wanted to see the difference between using the infuser and not using it.

Now that I have the equipment to make the tea, I have to figure out what tea to get! :wacko::smile:

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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If I were to serve tea to guest(s), I could brew a full pot without an infuser and pour it all out to all guest(s) in one serving.

You can, and many people do. But there is something to be aware of here. Tea is likely to be at different concentrations in different parts of a brewing pot. That's why a brewing pot and a serving pot - each person gets the same concentration.

Now that I have the equipment to make the tea, I have to figure out what tea to get!    :wacko:    :smile:

What types of tea have you enjoyed in the past?

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ummm... iced tea?

really, that's pretty much the only tea I ever drink, save for a very, very rare cup of Lipton. :hmmm:

I suppose that my answer here should be "black tea"?? I dunno. Sampling is always good. :)

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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ummm... iced tea?

really, that's pretty much the only tea I ever drink, save for a very, very rare cup of Lipton.  :hmmm:

I suppose that my answer here should be "black tea"??  I dunno.  Sampling is always good. :)

Here's my best suggestions for a start. Go over to The Cultured Cup. They carry a bazillion teas and they will help you pick out one or two or more to get you started. You can see and smell the loose teas and get some sense of what you may like. Tell them you are new to tea and want to consider inexpensive Black, Oolong and green teas. You may also want to ask for a rec for making iced tea (which is usually based on a black tea). They will sell you as little as an ounce in the shop (though on their website the least is 2 ounces for most teas).

If you go, let us know what you get and we may be able to provide some additional ideas for brewing them well.

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thanks Richard. I'll try to pick up a tea pot of some sort this weekend. And hopefully, I can make it down to Cultured Cup, too, to get some tea. is that where you get all of your tea? How well does Central Market do when it comes to tea?

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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thanks Richard.  I'll try to pick up a tea pot of some sort this weekend.  And hopefully, I can make it down to Cultured Cup, too, to get some tea.    is that where you get all of your tea?  How well does Central Market do when it comes to tea?

I have gotten many, many teas from TCC over the years and still do. I also get my teas from several other sources in the US and directly from Asia.

CM has lots of teas, bags and several brands of loose leaf. I think of the loose leaf ones as "doorway teas" - teas that introduce many people to the world beyond Lipton tea bags. I have tried a few of the better loose leaf teas from CM and found them to be so, so. They tend to be over-priced for what they are. Many people drink them, of course, but you can do better for the same amount of money. (I am talking about real tea, rather than herbal blends, which I have had little experience with there. But others here drink those brands, like them and have discussed them in this forum on a few topics.)

You also may find several other topics here in the Coffee and Tea forum helpful:

What tea are you drinking today?

Unflavored Black Teas - India, China, Ceylon....

Oolong Teas - Favorite teas and vendors? The complex world between greens and blacks.

Japanese Green Teas - Sencha, Gyokuro...and more

Pu-Ehr, Puehr, Puer...Pu to you....

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My office has a thermal pot that boils the water and then holds it at that temperature. I can't help thinking the water must get stale, staying like that all day. Is this a rational fear?

These devices are great! Is it a Zori? The ones I have seen come in 3, 4 and 5 qt. and you can set them to hold the temp at 175, 195 or 205 F - for green tea, Oolong and black tea respectively. I have had tea many times made from these and I have not found any problem with the tea tasting stale. One of these is on my wish list.

You do need to purge a small amount of water when you draw from it, because the water between the tank and the spout will not, of course be held at temp.

Anyone else have experience with these water heaters?

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My office has a thermal pot that boils the water and then holds it at that temperature. I can't help thinking the water must get stale, staying like that all day. Is this a rational fear?

These devices are great! Is it a Zori? The ones I have seen come in 3, 4 and 5 qt. and you can set them to hold the temp at 175, 195 or 205 F - for green tea, Oolong and black tea respectively. I have had tea many times made from these and I have not found any problem with the tea tasting stale. One of these is on my wish list.

You do need to purge a small amount of water when you draw from it, because the water between the tank and the spout will not, of course be held at temp.

Anyone else have experience with these water heaters?

I own a Zojirushi water pot and it is the best thing since slice bread. Water does not go stale or flat in it, have no fears.

Edited by mikepetro (log)

__________

Mike Petro

My hobby website:

Pu-erh, A Westerner's Quest

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Ah.. OK.. I see what you are saying. The over brewing of the subsequent cups.  As mentioned before, I don't really want to transfer to a second pot. So, my plan wouldn't be a good idea.  I guess I got the impression that brewing without any sort of infuser or whatever was vastly superior.

So, maybe an infuser IS the best way to go for me. I can simply lift it out (I assume they all lift out?) and place it on a towel or saucer or whatever for a second infusion later on.  Does that have to happen within a certain period of time?

While not exactly elegant in any sort of Asian way, the "Ingenuitea" is extremely functional. I use the an older model of these quite a bit for brewing Earl greys and such. It allows plenty of room for the leaves to breath, it is clear so you can observe "the agony of the leaf", and when the steeping time is up you simply set it over the top of your mug and the tea automaticly drains into the mug. Perfect for the office...

Check out http://www.adagio.com/teaware/ingenuiTEA_teapot.html

__________

Mike Petro

My hobby website:

Pu-erh, A Westerner's Quest

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2. What's up with these second and third steepings? Are these for another cup later in the day, using the reserved leaves? And you increase the steeping time with the older leaves for pretty obvious reasons, yes?

The Chinese method of brewing tea is a series of steeps until the tea is depleted. They typically use a much higher leaf to water ratio than western methods, as well as much smaller pots and cups. The typical Chinese tea cup is not much larger than a shot glass. When brewer in this style you can often get as many 10 steeps out of a single pot of tea, albeit much smaller amounts of liquid. With most teas there will be a progression of flavor profiles throughout the steeps, that is the flavor will change with each steeping, often the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th being the best one. With each tea the timings of these steeps is a little different, and they tend to be much shorter than western steeping times. All of this usually occurs within a single sitting rather than throughout the day.

3. Why rinse the leaves? I read that it's to reduce caffeine, which I don't need to do. Is it also to rinse off oxidation? Why would that be a good thing? Is it comparable to cheese rinds?

pu-erh, and other aged teas, can sit around for years in storage. Dust, insect excrement, etc can accumulate, but more importantly there will be a variety of molds that will (and should) develop, seldom visible to the naked eye unless poorly stored but there nonetheless. The rinse is to flush away all of this nondesirable gunk. It is only usually used for aged teas.

__________

Mike Petro

My hobby website:

Pu-erh, A Westerner's Quest

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I own a Zojirushi water pot and it is the best thing since slice bread. Water does not go stale or flat in it, have no fears.

Great. I know the water gets turned over every day, but it's nice to know it stays fresh during the day.

These devices are great! Is it a Zori? The ones I have seen come in 3, 4 and 5 qt. and you can set them to hold the temp at 175, 195 or 205 F - for green tea, Oolong and black tea respectively. I have had tea many times made from these and I have not found any problem with the tea tasting stale. One of these is on my wish list.

I don't know what brand the maker is, I've never looked that closely at it. It's usually kept at 90 degrees Celsius in my office, and I usually brew loose leaf green tea with it. I use the first pulse of water to heat the pot - a Japaneses pot which is much smaller than a Western pot.

I used to think I hated tea, until I moved to Asia. Then I realized I disliked most bagged "orange pekoe" teas - the kind my parents drank.

What's Russian tea?

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While not exactly elegant in any sort of Asian way, the "Ingenuitea" is extremely functional. I use the an older model of these quite a bit for brewing Earl greys and such. It allows plenty of room for the leaves to breath, it is clear so you can observe "the agony of the leaf", and when the steeping time is up you simply set it over the top of your mug and the tea automaticly drains into the mug. Perfect for the office...

Check out http://www.adagio.com/teaware/ingenuiTEA_teapot.html

Thanks for the all responses, mikepetro. One question about the IngenuiTea teapot: how well does it hold the water temperature? I'm definitely close to getting one for the office....

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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One question about the IngenuiTea teapot: how well does it hold the water temperature? I'm definitely close to getting one for the office....

Good enough for the short time you are steeping, it is fairly thick. But if temp is a major issue then I would go with a clay pot. This is simply one of the better compromises I have found between convenience and still getting a proper brew.

__________

Mike Petro

My hobby website:

Pu-erh, A Westerner's Quest

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