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Tea: To measure or not to measure....


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Over on the Tea 101 topic the issue of measuring water, leaf and timing has come up. My impression is that the tea world is roughly divided into those who are inclined to measure and those who are inclined to wing it. Much like the baseball fan world tends to be divided into those who are most concerned with the stats and those who are most concerned with the human dynamics.

Personally, I tend toward winging it, especially when it comes to weighing the amount of leaf. But I have found that I can be way off with estimating the amount of leaf needed. One teaspoon full of a CTC leaf is a lot different than one of a wiry Indian leaf or a large Oolong leaf. So I finally broke down and bought a small pocket scale that weighs to one-tenth of a gram. And it has definitely helped with the learning curve for new teas. With inexpensive teas and ones I know I can replace easily, I often still wing it, but for teas that are hard to find or expensive it is more than helpful.

I do use a timer (or count off the seconds with Puerh and Oolongs brewed gongfu style). Although I use a thermometer to check the water temp, I now know my water kettle well enough that I can tell the temp within a few degrees by sight and sound...but only about 75 - 85 % of the time.

How about everyone else? Do you tend to wing it, or measure?

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With me I go both ways. I own a timer, thermometer, and scale.

Generally I wing it on teas or genres I know well, for example puerhs. I have enough experience with these teas that even if I miss the mark the first time I quickly zero in on it in subsequent steeps. Given the four variables (the 4 Ts) of time, temp, technique, and tea(amount), I can usually adjust one or more variables and get something to my liking. The danger with this approach is that when I get it just right I seldom paid enough attention to what I did to duplicate it consistently. On the other hand, without exception the absolute very best cups of tea I have ever made were brewed by intuition rather than instruments.

Now for genres with which I am less familiar, or the first time with a "new to me" delicate tea, I will use a timer (or count my breaths as was taught to me by a friend in China), I will get precise with water temps, and I will use a scale.

During the learning curve I found it handy to maintain a log of the variables used and the results obtained. This data proved valuable in determining which variable to adjust based on what I was tasting.

Another thing that was valuable in keeping my log was to research tasting terminology. To know what is meant by terms like astringent, bitter, earthy, peach, flower, cream, muscatel, malty, mouth feel, finish, etc as this helps when you compare tea with others. Group tastings where everyone is drinking the same tea and then describing it helped to associate those terms in the context of taste memory.

Thats my two steeps worth......

__________

Mike Petro

My hobby website:

Pu-erh, A Westerner's Quest

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right now, measuring tea by volume. But I can certainly see how measuring by weight would be more ideal. The size and shape of tea leaves can vary quite a bit from type to type. But I am not sure I want to go out and get a small scale that can weigh to a 1/10th of a gram!

For water, I tend to measure the brewing vessel first, then remember what it holds. I then scale the volume of tea to that measure. Of course, this may not always be precise either because I may misremember what the vessel held, or "full" isn't always the same.

Overall though, I am basically working on a way to "wing it" with teas that will be part of my regular rotation. That doesn't mean I'll be totally sloppy and random, rather I may not always be using precise measuring devices for the various components and factors in making tea. I mean, it's tea. It shouldn't be *too* complex, right? It's not like baking. Or doing "molecular gastronomy"

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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Overall though, I am basically working on a way to "wing it" with teas that will be part of my regular rotation.  That doesn't mean I'll be totally sloppy and random, rather I may not always be using precise measuring devices for the various components and factors in making tea.  I mean, it's tea. It shouldn't be *too* complex, right?  It's not like baking. Or doing "molecular gastronomy"

I don't look at it as a matter of "shoulds". It is tea and it is a matter of whatever pleases you.

I tend to think of teas as more like a cross between wine and mixology rather than baking or molecular gastronomy.

Teas and brewing them can be as simple as a tea bag and boiling water. And it can be fairly complex, with hundreds of teas to choose from in China alone -- about 80 famous ones by some counts, multiple techniques for brewing them, the tea making equipment of many countries to choose from, and tea ceremonies that last for hours. And many points in between.

So please yourself with whatever level of simplicity or complexity appeals to you.

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right now, measuring tea by volume.  But I can certainly see how measuring by weight would be more ideal.  The size and shape of tea leaves can vary quite a bit from type to type.  But I am not sure I want to go out and get a small scale that can weigh to a 1/10th of a gram!

A scale is not a necessity, but sure does help. I did not bother to get one until this year when I started ordering many tea samples at a time and so was faced with learning the brewing characteristics of new ones continuously. If you ever do want to weigh them though, a tenth of a gram sensitivity is what's needed. My one gram sensitivity My Weigh kitchen scales are great, but are not right for teas.

Here's the one I use, the My Weigh 400-ZH. The price of small, very precise digital scales have really come down in the last few years.

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right now, measuring tea by volume.  But I can certainly see how measuring by weight would be more ideal.  The size and shape of tea leaves can vary quite a bit from type to type.  But I am not sure I want to go out and get a small scale that can weigh to a 1/10th of a gram!

A scale is not a necessity, but sure does help. I did not bother to get one until this year when I started ordering many tea samples at a time and so was faced with learning the brewing characteristics of new ones continuously. If you ever do want to weigh them though, a tenth of a gram sensitivity is what's needed. My one gram sensitivity My Weigh kitchen scales are great, but are not right for teas.

Here's the one I use, the My Weigh 400-ZH. The price of small, very precise digital scales have really come down in the last few years.

I do a lot of bakeing ,and charcutrie, and bought a suitable scale from the above seller (old will knott), I added a 222g scale for an added $6 or$7 ...It makes weighing all sorts of little things possible, spices, and of course tea ...

going to go for a bike ride tomorrow and stop at the local tea store and get a couple oolongs and keep learning more about tea...I have only been drinking it for 40 + years, but this site has helped me make a quantum leap in variety, and knowledge...

Thanks!!!!!

Bud

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Hello- I am of the "wing it" school. Though, I recently started using two egg-timers to time the process. I use the second timer to add time over 3 min. :huh: . Does anyone use the fish-eyes/string of pearls method for getting the temperature right? When bubbles (fish eyes) start forming the water is right for whites and greens, when the bubbles begin to rise in a single line(string of pearls) the water is right for oolongs. And a rolling boil is used for blacks. Has anyone used this method?

Edited by Naftal (log)

"As life's pleasures go, food is second only to sex.Except for salami and eggs...Now that's better than sex, but only if the salami is thickly sliced"--Alan King (1927-2004)

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I'm a weigh everything kind of guy but I admit that I have a strong wing-it tendency with tea. Pure morning laziness, I think. (For info on this type of scale you might want to check out this topic, and in particular the scale Chris Amirault recommends here. Dirt cheap, accurate to 1/10 gram, works great.)

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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On Dec 5 2008, 11:40 AM, Chris Hennes said:

I'm a weigh everything kind of guy but I admit that I have a strong wing-it tendency with tea. Pure morning laziness, I think. (For info on this type of scale you might want to check out this topic, and in particular the scale Chris Amirault recommends here. Dirt cheap, accurate to 1/10 gram, works great.)




Wow! Even half the price of mine! If I was getting one again, I might go for that one.
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  • 9 months later...

Never did post a followup about the little scale I ended up buying

Ashtray Scale

It looked very compact, was inexpensive, and turns out to be easy to use and I love the small size and that it comes with a cover that allows it to be stacked when stored without the scale weights/spring/whatevers being damaged. It seems to weigh down to 1 gram with reasonable accuracy for tea-making purposes.

I liked it enough to get a 2nd one for the office.

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  • 1 month later...
  • 3 months later...

As I posted elsewhere, I procrastinated with other things yesterday long enough to prepare this demo of why I think as scale is so valuable--comparing 1 gram samples of various teas, weighed on my little electronic scale to about 0.1 g accuracy.

4354787548_23e4b5dda6_o.jpg

You can see it larger here if you want.

The very dense Lao Cha is less than half a teaspoon, and you'd need a tablespoon to hold the mao feng and silver needle.

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