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making loose tea in a pot 101 -- need a primer


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this may be second nature to all, and i've tried to scour the egullet threads via a search, but nothing that was a good match for my question surfaced readily.

basically, i've been trying to nail down how to make a great pot of loose tea in a teapot. this is what i have so far (and what's missing)...

1. cold water

2. when the water comes to a boil, warm the inside of the teapot and then drain

3. get the water back up to a "singing" boiling point

4. put loose tea in pot (1 teaspoon / cup for black teas, green teas; ? spoon for oolongs...can someone give feedback on this?)

5. pour water into pot (but how much -- literally 1 cup water, via a measuring cup, per cup of tea?)

6. let steep for 5 minutes (i'm assuming a 4-cup pot here, but variants on this, say if i was doing 3 cups, or 2?)

7. pour, and use a tea strainer to catch the loose leaves

after this i'm always unsure of what others do....if i'm making tea by myself, i've got tea left in the pot that i want to enjoy after i've finished my first cup...but the tea leaves are still in there. they shouldn't sit in there, because they're releasing tannins.

i wind up emptying the whole pot into a pitcher or something, using a tea strainer, then pouring it back in the pot. i'm not sure i've ever seen anyone else do this. what do others do with the tea left in the pot, to make sure that no further tannins are released?

thanks and cheers for your feedback. :)

hc

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Strength of the tea depends upon your individual taste ... most people use one teaspoon per cup + one for the pot as a measurement ...

Some people put the the strainer over the indivual cup .. had this done at Fortnum & Mason in London... lovely touch ... :biggrin:

My husband who is our home tea connoisseur, reads and quotes from this book frequently:

The Agony of the Leaves : The Ecstasy of My Life with Tea

by Helen Gustafson.

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Black tea, however -- which I think is the most common type of tea prepared in the West -- is best when the water comes directly off the boil. You'll definitely want to consult the temperature chart for everything else. Or, if you're not striving for exactitude, wait one minute after you take the water off the heat before you pour it over the tea.

I suggest one level teaspoon per 6 ounce cup. For an 8 ounce cup measure, make it a heaping teaspoon. Traditionally, one also adds a teaspoon "for the pot." I do it. It won't hurt.

Straining when you pour is nice, and those Fortnum & Mason individual silverplate strainers (we have four of them) are lovely, but this approach is only good if you're planning to pour all the tea into cups at once or transfer it to a whole 'nother vessel. Otherwise, use a pot with a removable insert or an infuser. This will allow you to remove all the leaves at once as soon as the correct strength is reached.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I agree with Fat Guy - black tea is better brewed with water fresh from the tap, boiled once and once only, and used directly off the boil.

The trouble with almost all restaurant/cafe tea is that the water is far from freshly boiled; it tends to come from a hot water still.

Allan Brown

"If you're a chef on a salary, there's usually a very good reason. Never, ever, work out your hourly rate."

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Otherwise, use a pot with a removable insert or an infuser. This will allow you to remove all the leaves at once as soon as the correct strength is reached.

Last week: our Ritz Carleton anniversary dinner

The tea 'service' was a glass pot with a glass infuser (you know this one) ... my husband, a tea connoisseur (see above), asked whether or not the tea leaves were being compacted, compressed by using this option ... apparently they had not considered this a concern .. :hmmm:

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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So long as the infuser is not overfilled -- in other words, so long as there is room for the leaves to expand and for water to circulate around them -- I wouldn't see that as much of a concern.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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So long as the infuser is not overfilled -- in other words, so long as there is room for the leaves to expand and for water to circulate around them -- I wouldn't see that as much of a concern.

As a matter of fact, after the tea was put into the infuser, the server did shake it vigorously to compress the leaves ... :hmmm:

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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For black and oolong teas, I prefer the 2-pot method as that way the tea does not "stew" it is the way I learned as a child in a very British household.

Your tea measurements are correct,

The best way is to fill the pot with water to within an inch or so of the top, then pour it into a measure and see how much it holds.

Most teacups are 6 oz but most mugs are larger so this way you know exactly how much the pot holds and can figure accordingly for the number of people you want to serve.

First measure the appropriate amount of tea into a dry dish or cup.

Have two pots of the same size. Boil enough water to fill one of the pots plus enough to heat the pots.

When the water is boiling, pour some into each pot.

Swirl it around in the first pot and pour out.

Add the dry tea to the pot, fill the pot with the water and stir briefly with a spoon to make sure all the leaves are moistenend.

Set your timer for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on how strong you like your tea and cover the pot with a towel or a cozy if you have one.

Meanwhile swirl the water around in the second pot and discard.

Place a strainer over the opening and as soon as the timer sounds, pour the brewed tea into the new pot.

Cover this pot with the cozy to maintain heat and serve.

Tea made this way will not "stew" and become too strong to drink.

I have tried many of the infusers and have yet to find one that allows the tea to infuse as it should. The leaves swell as they soak up the water and the water does not circulate well throughout the tea leaf mass.

Try both ways and see if you don't notice a difference. I certainly can.

"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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I think that's a good idea. In effect, you're using the first pot as an external infuser.

As an aside, I've been drinking tea for thirty years; I'm now thirty and a half(!)...

Tea obviously doesn't stunt one's growth.

Allan Brown

"If you're a chef on a salary, there's usually a very good reason. Never, ever, work out your hourly rate."

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I think that's a good idea.  In effect, you're using the first pot as an external infuser.

As an aside, I've been drinking tea for thirty years; I'm now thirty and a half(!)... 

Tea obviously doesn't stunt one's growth.

Or shorten one's life. My great grandmother lived to be almost 105 and drank tea every day of her life, morning, afternoon and evening.

She was also very picky about the way it was served, being a proper Victorian lady and extremely fond of good food and better tea.

"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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Melissa, is this the device you're talking about? I think it's a really nice tool for making tea. Shaking it wouldn't be a good idea at all, though.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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it does however, bugger your brain up somewhat... what I meant to say was that I'd been drinking tea for 29 years, and I'm now 29 1/2 (which is clearly not too young for dementia to have set in).

Allan Brown

"If you're a chef on a salary, there's usually a very good reason. Never, ever, work out your hourly rate."

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how long you brew black tea depends also on the kind of tea it is. most people will tell you that a delicate darjeeling should not be brewed for more than 3 minutes. blends with more ctc in them can go as high as 5.

then there are the insane people who will tell you not to let the water boil too long as it affects the oxygen content or some such. ignore also people who worry about whether the milk goes into the cup first or the tea (my own preference anyway is for black tea with sugar).

i drink darjeeling--not a particularly expensive kind (brooke bond's green label, available in any indian grocery)--i am careful to add exactly one cup of water to the pot for every tea-spoon of tea, and i am careful not to go over 3 minutes. but there are no hard and fast rules as teas differ, as do individual tastes.

but do not make masala tea with darjeeling.

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Melissa, is this the device you're talking about? I think it's a really nice tool for making tea. Shaking it wouldn't be a good idea at all, though.

She shook the infuser with the leaves fairly strenuously to get them down to the bottom .. which breaks them up, I rather imagine ..

Yes, that teapot is virtually the same .. longer spout actually on the Ritz Carleton pot ...

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Of course, if you really want the ultimate definitive answer (or a multitude of answers), you could simply visit The Cat-Tea Corner and subscribe to TeaMail, the email Tea discussion group,

and get numerous answers from people who are dedicated to "The Perfect Cup" in all its various manifestations.

Just as there are many professionals here on eG, there are also a great many who are members of TeaMail. And should you wonder, order is properly maintained. There is absolutely no name-calling, bad language or flaming allowed. Those who refuse to abide by the rules are summarily removed.

I enjoy it almost as much as I enjoy eG! I think they compliment each other.

"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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many, many and profuse thanks for all those who responded to this thread. :)

i had forgotten about separately purchaseable infusers -- i even have one -- doh! thanks for reminding me, FG. :) my SO had brought it back from some chi-chi tea place in seattle. the proprietor(s) are very into teas, estate teas included. they recently went to some tea show and bough a "gentleman farmer's" entire production. he produces tea irregularly, and in small batches. sometimes nothing is offered in a season,.

i will do a comparision between that method and andiesenji's double-pot method. my recollections of infusing large amounts is that they were not nearly as tasty or reliably produceable as a mesh tea ball -- perhaps because the greater mass of leaves?

i checked out the cat-tea site (thank you for the forward). for those of you in the nj area, you might be interested to know that sally lunn's closed its location in princeton ('tho the chester locale is still open). the site says there's a tearoom just a stone's throw away from me, in edison, so i'll have to check that out.

btw, i've come a long, long, long way from 10 years ago when i didn't know what all the fuss about tea was about -- using lipton tea bags and letting them steep for 20-30 minutes, an hour or so, whenever i remembered to take it out (honestly!).

frankly, i think i enjoy the aroma of tea more than the tea itself (which is saying something, as the achievement of a good cup of tea is something).

i tend not to like fruit teas, but confess i am mad for both mango and apricot.

we were in a sushi place in nyc last week, just across the street from lincoln center, next to an eatery called josephine's. the green tea we ordered came in one of those glass-sided presses. although it gave lukewarm tea (we even ordered a second, because we thought the temperature was a mistake), it was worth it because the tea had barley kernels in it. i've never heard of that, let alone tasted it. it was interesting and very appealing.

cheers :)

hc

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Hey, I'd love to hear about this chi-chi tea place in Seattle. I buy tea at The Perennial Tea Room in Pike Place Market, or at the TeaCup on Queen Anne. Both have a great selection. The Perennial Tea Room sells a Masa Fuji For Life Teapot that is designed not to drip after pouring. They have a very generous infuser that allows three+ teaspoons of tea to unfurl with quuite a lot of space, and the teapot is wide and low, as is the infuser, so that it meets the water levels well. The mesh infuser is so handy, and slim enough to use in large mugs for single servings of tea.

I use cold tap water, measure out two-cups exactly, pour into my kettle, and then I pull the water right before it fully boils. There's a sound the water makes that cues me to do so. I've heard many times that this prevents cooking the leaves, which adds bitterness.

It's true that types of teas, even within variations of black, have different steeping times. I usually do 45 seconds for most greens, unless they are an oolong, for which I do 3 minutes. Darjeeling black I also do 3 minutes, but earl grey I do five. Rooibos and herbals I do 6. Greens I often re-steep for increasingly longer periods of time, but black and rooibos I throw out after the initial steeping. And I do milk after sugar or honey - to give some heat for the sugars to melt.

When I don't want to bother with cleaning my teapot, which often happens, I steep my tea in a pyrex measuring cup. I know it sounds funny, but I love how easy it is to clean.

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Several years ago, not long after Food TV became available here(probably early 1997), Marion Cunningham had a 1/2 hour segment where she hosted visiting chefs, cookbook authors and such.

On one show, she hosted Helen Gustafson, who had just published The Agony of the Leaves.

They discussed how best to brew tea and she described the way her mother had made tea, pouring in the water all at once with the leaves loose in the pot so they could fully uncurl and the most flavor could be achieved.

They brewed tea in one of the glass teapots only without the infuser. They both agreed that for anything more than a small amount of tea, one of the infusers did not allow sufficient exposure of the leaves to the water, when using FULL LEAF tea.

If using broken or crushed and broken tea that is in small particles, then an infuser is okay.

I find tea balls unsatisfactory for full leaf teas unless one has one of the giant mesh balls that are actually intended for herbs.

Of course if you want to be able to get multiple infusions from one batch of tea leaves, then an infuser can be used.

I have a TeaMate electric tea brewer and the steeping chamber is half the size of the full vessel and allows full expansion of the tea leaves. It is too bad this appliance did not sell well when introduced here in the U.S., because it brews a fine cup of tea, not quite as good as the two-pot method, but better than any other method and the spent leaves are completely separate from the brewed tea so there is no "stewing".

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"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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I've made tea for 30-plus years precisely as andiesenji describes it, straining it off into the second pot after steeping. The only difference is that I warm the second pot with whatever water is left in the kettle & let it sit till just before the timer rings, so it's pretty warm to start with.

There is such a thing as over-boiling & deoxygenating the water. It dulls the flavor of the tea. If you don't get the "hiss & float" when you pour the water over the tea leaves, you've overboiled. (Hiss: you'll hear a quick hiss when the water first hits the dry leaves. Float: when the pot's full, approx. 2/3 of the leaves should be floating near the top of the pot. If they all sink, you've overboiled.)

When measuring tea, it's best to do it by weight. In the real world, most of us can't be bothered with that & instead develop a sense of how much of a particular tea is required for a pot. A teaspoon of a BOP is going to brew up considerably stronger than a teaspoon of a long-leaf OP, so you need to adjust the quantity; you get a feel for that after a while.

I looked at that cat-tea site the other day. It seemed to contain a # of links to some rather politically charged stuff. I don't quite get the relationship between cats & tea & politics. Am I missing some basic concept here?

Does TeaMail have anything to do with whoever runs cat-tea or is that just a place to find the link?

OK answered my own question. Apparently it's run by the same folks but they keep TeaMail non-political. Fine.

Edited by ghostrider (log)

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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You have not discussed the vexed question of milk in first or last. Of course I assume you drink tea with milk, not lemon. Milk first is considered lower class, but makes a better cup of tea. Perversely it makes the sugar harder to dissolve.

Tea can be divided by social class:

Lower class: Strong enough to "stand a spoon in", very sweet, in eathernware or tin mugs. Must be black Indian tea. Milk in first.

Upper class: Fine Oolong or Earl Grey, quite weak (a pot of hot water is served with the pot of tea), in fine china cups, milk in last, no sugar.

Ethnic (and hence beyond the social pale): Chinese green, Chai, anything with condensed milk or drunk from a glass. Drunk only as a curiosity.

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There's no vexed question at all. Tea with milk or sugar is simply an abomination & not to be discussed further. :raz:

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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