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Does tea taste better when fresh-brewed like coffee does?

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Prepare for a long post.

I have been searching all over the internet for an answer to a question and it's starting to appear that I may have to do my own experimenting. Still, I thought to ask someone (you all) who have MUCH more experience with tea than me. I have a doctorate in chiropractic and always got an A in Lab which, like cooking, I love. I also have the equivalent of a doctorate in coffee, yet not for tea....yet.

For coffee I use a digital scale, a digital thermometer, stellar water (properly mineralized), make single variations every day over many weeks and record data on a spreadsheet, and incorporate my partner's opinion as well as occasional "outsider's" who say things like "this may be the best cup of coffee I have ever had!"

So, here's the tea question, Question #1: Does tea taste better when "fresh brewed" like coffee does?

It's well known that coffee that's more than 15 minutes old (20 tops) after brewing is not the same, and is not as good as fresh-brewed. Of course, and as you probably know, there is a LOT more going on than the post brew-time issue (water quality, grind size, type of grinder/mill, brew temp, type of roast, type of roaster, age of roast, weather patterns, dried on earth or wood, wet-dry-hot-cold processes, etc.), still I wonder if the post-brew time is similar with tea?

Having just switched to tea from coffee, and while being amazed that I'm not missing coffee, I am learning a lot. How could I have almost 5 decades under my belt and be so clueless about the worlds of tea? I shudder to think of all the tea I have wasted over the decades not having any idea that a second, third or more infusions were possible.

My current daily, all-day tea is Ti Kuan Yin. It does not take a Rocket Surgeon to taste the difference between infusion #1 and #5. I lengthen the steep time from the first to last infusions. Aside: I heard that tea gets cloudy when stored in a refrigerator - have not observed that yet. I read that it's a great growth media for micro-organisms. I am not trying to make kombucha - lol.

My #1 priority is taste.

Since the first infusion has a far fuller taste (some even recommend tossing it and using the first infusion only as a wash), and since the last infusion (#5) is quite thin in the taste department (though still good, just not as...), it occurs to me to mix the five infusions together, and heat what we want as needed over 1-2 days time.

Question #2: Is mixing five infusions a good idea? (comments invited)

I am mixing infusions now: I am make five infusions of 16 oz, or 2 cups each in an uncovered 4 cup Pyrex pitcher/measuring cup. Since I am using an oolong, my awesome water is heated to between 185 and 190. I am using close to 4 rounded teaspoons of tea, slightly more (a teaspoon) than most recommend. Steep times for each infusion in minutes are 2.5, 3, 4, 5, and 6. This yields a total of 10 cups steeped in 4 teaspoons tea for 20.5 minutes.

Question #3: What is the difference between performing five infusions as noted above, or steeping the same amount of tea in 10 cups of water kept at 185 for 20 minutes? {?more tannins released because the tea leaves didn't get a smoke break?}

Question #4: What is the effect of over-heating already brewed tea? Asked differently, what effect does taking a couple of cups of the mixed infusion up to 200, or 205, or even 212 degrees have?

I'd love to find these answers, and of course, I'd love your input.

Thanks in advance,

Dr Carl

Sir Dr. Carl, DC, OCD, ADD, PTSD, LOL

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Answer to No. 1. Is Yes, it tastes better immediately after brewing.

Even if you decant it into another teapot to keep it from "stewing" with the leaves, it begins to degrade, especially if held over heat.

I can tell the difference but many people cannot. However, true tea fanciers can easily tell the difference.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett


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Do you mean how does the taste of the brewed tea hold up, or do you mean, how long after brewing the first infusion can you continue to brew more infusions.

Tea should definitely be consumed more or less immediately after brewing. For one thing, it will start to cool down once you've brewed it. This is one reason to use a small brewing vessel and a small cup -- the small cup will cool down to a drinkable temperature very quickly, and is a small enough quantity that you can consume it while it's still hot. However, it's usually reasonable to re-brew the same leaves for at least a couple of hours (or more, depending on the type of tea).

Personally, I prefer to enjoy each separate infusion by itself (when I'm brewing for myself, this usually means using a brewing vessel in the range of 50-90ml), and a small tasting cup that's maybe 30-40ml. You will probably get somewhat different results by brewing a small amount of tea in a large pot for a long period of time, vs. brewing the same amount of tea in a smaller pot for multiple infusions and then mixing each infusion together. But you're going through a lot of work for probably not a ton of benefit.

I think you're thinking about this a little too scientifically. In tea, there are no absolutes. Experiment, and see what works for you. If you can't tell the difference between two different ways of doing something, do whichever is more convenient.

If you want to be a little more relaxed, you can drink out of the same cup that the leaves are sitting in, but top off the cup with hot water as it thins out. This method works well if you use much less tea leaf, and is more suited for so-called "cow" drinking (i.e., drinking to satisfy thirst, more than to savor each sip of tea).

Question #4: What is the effect of over-heating already brewed tea? Asked differently, what effect does taking a couple of cups of the mixed infusion up to 200, or 205, or even 212 degrees have?

It's not necessarily "over" heating (and, keep in mind that the water temperature will start dropping fairly quickly). Each tea is different, and using hotter or cooler water will benefit some teas more than others. In addition, some people prefer the tastes which are brought out by using hotter or cooler water, but doesn't necessarily mean that using hotter water is "wrong".

I would be wary of anyone who gives you a hard and fast rule ("oolongs should be brewed for X minutes with X grams of leaf in a pot of XX ml at 185 F"). Better quality teas will often tolerate higher temperatures or larger amounts of leaf more; likewise, if you know the limitations of a tea, you can maximize its positive qualities by backing off on some or all of the brewing parameters.

With oolong tea especially, there's such a wide variety of processing parameters (for example, the levels of both oxidation and roast) as well.

Oh... and maybe obvious, but pre-heat your teaware.

Edited by Will (log)
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AWEsome answer. Just what I am looking for, and yes, I do tent to approach it like a lab project though I appreciate the artistic levels as well...that's part of the science, too! lol.

I am loving being at the ignorance is bliss stage (like I used to be with coffee) and know that once I know something, I don't like to go back.

When I make multiple infusions one right after another, I set out a row of small, thick, pre-heated sake cups so that I can sample each of the 4 infusions separately. Today was my first experience with Republic of Tea's Acai Green tea. This is probably like saying I ate a Big Mac to a real Foodie. (I don't pay real money for pretend food, btw). Sipping the first infusion, I thought it too fruity and was disappointed, but on the second and third sip I found myself not wanting to put the cup down. I LIKED it. I bet that'd be good iced! Like black teas, Acai has good (anti-oxidant) properties to battle fallout, too! (Not sure if black tea is rich in anti-oxidants, though it IS supposedly radio-protective.)

So I made 4, 1-quart infusions and mixed them all up. Made a big cup and filled a small thermos for both me and my partner. I hope the day doesn't come TOO soon that I can taste the difference of fresh-brewed, though it's inevitable.

As to Q #4 - I was referring to reheating already brewed and (mixed infusion) tea. I know that coffee turns bad if reheated to too high a temp. I hate to waste tea to find out...though the scientist/artist part of me probably will.

Anyway, thank you for the informed answer.

I invite more!

Best regards,

Dr Carl

PS - yes, I was asking about how already brewed tea holds-up to reheating...Also, since I am using loose tea, there seem to be WAY too many leaves floating to drink without straining. (<--take it both ways if you want - lol)

Edited by Dr. Carl (log)
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I see two questions of interest here, one about combining infusions, and one about holding tea after brewing. I have even started a topic about the first question once upon a time, on "Resteeping tea -- multiple infusions"., that might be of interest.

I do a lot of "bulk brewing"--brewing up a quart thermos of tea to be carried to meetings or on trips, to be drunk over 3 to 8 or more hours. I also do a lot of gongfu cha sessions with different kinds of tea. I prefer the gongfu cha when I have a choice, but prefer my 'bulk brew' to no-brew or cheap bag brews.

So far, my impression is that the darker teas--traditional roast oolongs, black teas, houjichas--and aged or shu puerh do best. In part, I think, this is simply because they're already pretty oxidized, so their flavor is less impacted by exposure to air after brewing. I do occasional bulk brewings of white and green teas, young shengs and greener oolongs, but only if they're going to be drunk fairly soon after brewing--like preparing enough for a single round of drinks for a largish group at a meeting. And after a few really lame experiences I do NOT ever attempt to share my favorite Dan Congs this way, as most of the magic of the 'single-bush' teas seems to vanish with the mixing and holding even for an hour.

Some teas are more equal to 'bulk brewing' than others, and some even thrive under such treatment--I have a few very heavily roasted oolongs that I didn't like so well 'straight up' but that seem to mellow with the roasted flavor receding a bit and a background sweetness shining out more as they are held for a few hours.

Today's bulk brew is a relatively new favorite, an "old plantation" Qing Xin darkly roasted Taiwanese oolong from norbutea.com that is pleasing after hours in the thermos, but shines a little brighter when brewed gongfu cha.

I put together some slightly more detailed notes about what worked and what didn't on one of my tea pages here.

Edited by Wholemeal Crank (log)
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Every once in a while I read something on here that makes me smile. This really is one of them. Not because I think it's a foolish question or for any negative reason but because, not only do I not know the answer, I hadn't even thought of asking the question!

And now I may very well have to do some serious testing.

I'm English. I am also a coffee lover. But the simple fact of being English means that I was raised on tea. Blended, indian, usually assam based. Only at university did I really start to experiment with different varieties.

Now that I'm older (dear God, I actually wrote that!) I have become rather fixed in my preferences - Twinnings Earl Grey; Jacksons White Tip and Jacksons Peppermint ... yet once in a while I still like single varieties lapsang in particular.

Whichever the type of tea, though, three things my grandmother taught me always stand true:

1) warm the pot

2) always use boiling water

3) never over-brew (steep)

If you have a look online - hang on, I'll do it for you - this is my regular tea pot:


Fill with boiling water, allowing the pot and infuser to come to temperature: empty the pot; add your tea and refill with boiling water. No tea that I've ever used needs more than 3 or 4 minutes to infuse .. I know that some are supposed to sit for 15 minutes but I just find they become bitter. I prefer to use more tea and infuse for less time.

Once it has brewed, you can remove the infuser and replace the lid (not a great fit on this tea pot, I admit .. but then my second cup has usually been finished within 15 minutes).

As for keeping tea: if I had to, I'd use a small thermos with the type of cap that partially unscrews to pour, yet keeps the heat within the flask. In addition, I would certainly only keep 'tea' in there - by which I mean don't add sweetners, lemon, milk or anything else. I would also never use a flask that had been used to store anything else. (I don't know about the rest of you, but I can always taste residuals from flasks so I keep one for whatever liquid I'm storing).

However, if my grandmother heard that you were trying to 'store' tea you would get a look that only Medusa could have a chance of replicating.

And here's the rub that I fear my tests might well bear out: for her taste (and probably mine) tea should be brewed fresh everytime (?)

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  • 3 weeks later...

WC, or Dear Ms. Crank, woo! Nice reply. Shame on me for not reading it sooner! It appears that you are about 7 years ahead of my real tea-tasting experience. (We've a lot in common: quick-read thermometer, digital scale, love of capturing photographs, clinics?, coffee and now tea)

First I had to look up what gongfu cha is and learned [Wikipedia] that tea masters in China and other Asian tea cultures study for years to perfect this method. YEARS!?! I'm in my 5th decade and don't have the patience or the time! What is a man to do?

Imagine this: I have never tasted a puh-er! (Though you can bet I will)

When I look into something (some call it research) I tend to get good at it and wonder why it took me so damn long to make the discovery. For example, buffalo, beefalo and grass-fed beef is SO much remarkably better tasting, and have health-supporting instead of health-robbing fat structures. Since it costs twice as much, I now prefer a half-portion of quality rather than a larger portion of tasteless grease and chemical tissue.

The other day I was wondering what I'll discover in a couple of years. What will I achieve a new level of appreciation for? Maybe I could get to it now instead of later. I bet it won't be rap music. Maybe cheese appreciation, or yogurt making, or, well, something in the kitchen...

Spent a few hours reading, searching, bookmarking, learning.

It seems your multiple infusion experiment was (I assume) 1 min each infusion, then a 4 minute infusion...what I have been doing with a Ti Quan Yin are infusions with successively increased steep times lasting 3, 4, 5, 6, and sometimes a 5th infusion for 6 or 7 minutes. I usually combine two infusions at a time. Sometimes for the 3rd and 4th I add a half teaspoon (or a little more) of "fresh," so it's technically a big 3rd and 4th infusion with a small amount of 1st and 2nd - lol. I steep in a 4 cup pyrex pitcher and strain either into individual cups and individual thermoses, or into a stainless pan to mix 2 infusions before serving and thermos-filling.

I learned a great deal reading your posts and following links. Thank you

Initially I got the idea to find some Yixing pots at garage sales, but now I remember that each pot should be dedicated to one kind of tea. Just might be forced to buy new.

Andiesenji - thanks for your reflections.

JimmyD - according to what I have read all over the internet (I read the whole thing), you are probably experiencing joys with your black teas (and herbals) steeped in boiling water...yet, for other teas I suggest that you might find interesting tastes revealed steeping with water that is far below the boiling point. Of course tastes vary, and some people even like beef well-done.

Someone else said they enjoy the aromas as much or better than the drink. I heard that of the distance receptors (sight, sound and olfactory) that smelling is "taste at a distance." I also heard that there are something like 400 tastes in coffee, and that ALL of them need the olfactory sense to appreciate them. Amazing and it might even be true!?!

Thank you (to all here) for giving my understanding such a quick boost! Internet: gotta love it.

I know good booze-drinking toasts; whats a good one for tea?


"Noroc" (Good luck) (Romania, Moldova

"Prost," "Prosit" (Germany and Austria) from Latin prosit – "may it be good, i.e., for you"

"Skål" (Scandinavia) means "bowl," referring to older drinking vessels

"Salute" (Health) (Italy)

"Salud" (Health) (Spain and Mexico)

"L'Chayim" (to life) (a Jewish toast)

"Kanpai" (a toast) (Japanese)

"Ganbei" (a toast) (Mandarin Chinese)

Edited by Dr. Carl (log)
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Glad to have been of some help.

Your reply prompted me to go back and reread the 'resteeping' topic, and to notice, in retrospect, that I had quite possibly chosen the worst possible tea for such a comparison. One common feature to a lot of nice shu (cooked) puerh, as those Rishi tuo cha surely were, is that the tea tends to not change that much first from first steep to last, at least as compared to sheng (raw) puerh. So the same experiment run with a more interesting tea would likely yield a lot more difference--and without having done lots of head-to-head trials since, I've done plenty of bulk brewings with a tea that shone in gongfu cha, but was was flat, insipid, or downright horrid in the bulk session. Hence, my preferences as noted in my previous post, and caution about taking the results of the pu tuo experiment too seriously.

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