Tea Steeping Guide:
is no "right" way to make a cup of tea. The most important thing is
that it tastes good to you. If you like your tea with cream and sugar,
butter and salt, or on its own, then that's the "right" way for you to
are a few guidelines that people sort of agree on when it comes to
steeping the different types or categories of tea. If you've never tried
a particular tea, you might try steeping it according to the following
general guidelines. If it is too strong, use less tea, use a lower
temperature, and/or steep the leaves for less time. If it is too weak,
use more tea, raise the temperature, etc. Some teas, particularly
Oolongs and Pu-erhs, can be steeped several times with dramatic
differences in flavor between steepings. Each tea is unique, so
experimentation is the key until you get comfortable with the process.
White teas tend to be quite delicate and subtle in flavor. The consensus seems to be to steep white teas at a low temperature (160-180
deg F) for a longer period of time. Start out with a big tablespoon per
cup, and steep for 6 to 10 minutes.
These tend to be fairly delicate as well, and some green teas tend to
get bitter if steeped for too long or at too high a temperature. The
consensus is to steep green teas at about 175 deg F. Try one big
teaspoon per cup and steep for 2-3 minutes. Don't forget that most
green teas can be re-steeped at least twice if not more.
This stylistically diverse category of tea can be treated in the
western manner by steeping 1-2 teaspoons per cup with water just under
the boil (195 deg f or so). Steeped anywhere from 2-6 minutes, this is a
very nice way to enjoy an oolong tea. See Gong Fu Tea Preparation
section below for additional and encouraged serving suggestion.
Black (Red) Tea:
To steep black tea, use about 1.5 teaspoons per cup and boiling (212
deg. F) water. Let it steep for about 5 minutes and enjoy. Most commercial grade black
teas are not steeped a second time, but high quality, whole leaf black teas can be steeped 3 or more times.
Note: Most standard Darjeeling teas, which are usually considered to be black teas, are said to be best
steeped in 195 F water (under a boil).
Pu-Erh Tea: To
steep Pu-Erh in the Western style, pry a small amount of leaves off of
the compressed tea cake, brick, etc. It is difficult to give a volume of
tea leaves when dealing with Pu-Erh because there isn't a standard of
compression from factory to factory. Two teaspoons from one brick might
weigh twice as much as two teaspoons from another. I would say try 2
teaspoons or about 5 or 6 grams the first time you make a particular
Pu-Erh and adjust the amount used to your taste in future Pu-Erh
drinking sessions. Use water that is as close to boiling as possible for
both Sheng and Shu Pu-Erh teas. Steeping times will vary greatly from
tea to tea. Start by steeping the tea leaves for 3 minutes and adjust
according to your taste. See Gong Fu Tea Preparation section below for
additional and highly encouraged serving suggestion.
"Western-Style" Tea Preparation: Weight/Volume, Temp & Time Recommendations Based on a Standard 6 Oz Cup*
|TEA TYPE||WEAKER BREW ||STRONGER BREW||TEMP(F)||STEEPING TIME|
|White||3g/1 Tbs||5g/1.5 Tbs||160-180||6-10 min|
|Green ||2g/1.5-2 tsp||5g/1-1.5 Tbs||175||2-3 min|
|Oolong||2g/1-2 tsp||5g/1-1.5 Tbs||195-212||2-6 min|
|Black||2g/1-2 tsp||5g/1-1.5 Tbs||195-212||5 min|
|Pu-Erh**||2g/1 tsp||5g/2-3 tsp||212||3 min|
*Each tea is different, so adjust amount of tea, temperature and steeping time to your personal preference.
Gong Fu Cha
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Gong Fu Tea Preparation for Oolong and Pu-erh Teas
Mainland China and Taiwan, high quality Oolong and Pu-Erh teas are
almost always enjoyed "Gong Fu" style. Gong Fu (sometimes spelled Kung
Fu) literally means "with skill" and contrary to popular belief, it is
not a term reserved solely for martial arts. Over the past several
hundred years, this method of preparing tea has evolved into a very
precise and elaborate ceremony in parts of China, but it is also a very
practical and economical way to enjoy higher quality teas which tend to
be quite costly. It is my opinion that this is an easy and intuitive
process that allows the consumer to enjoy the entire experience that
drinking tea has to offer, as well as every layer of flavor present in
the leaves. Strangely enough, it has been my experience that steeping
and consuming tea in the western manner can seem a bit "foreign" once
you get a feel for Gong Fu tea preparation.
get started, you are going to need a vessel to steep the tea leaves in.
A small, usually less than ½ Cup (as in baking) volume "Yixing" style
teapot or Gaiwan (lidded bowl) are the vessels traditionally used.
Really, any small teapot or just a mug with a removable infuser insert
will work just fine. Other items needed are cups and an optional serving
pitcher. The cups are typically very small and hold approximately two
Tablespoons (30 ml), and the pitcher should have the same or greater
volume as your brewing vessel.
amount of tea used varies greatly by type and personal taste, but the
general rule of thumb is that you want about 1/4 to 1/3 of the steeping
vessel full of dry tea leaves. Many people prefer to measure their tea
leaves by weight vs. the volume of their brewing vessel, and the usual
recommendation is about 6-7.5 grams (1/5 oz) of tea per 100 ml (about ½
Bring the water to just
under a boil for oolong tea, and to a full boil for Pu-Erh tea. The
first step is to rinse the tea leaves and pour the liquid into the
serving pitcher and cups to rinse them out and warm them. This rinse is
to wash away any dust or foreign matter from the tea leaves and to prime
them for steeping.
Now you are ready
to enjoy your tea. Start with a short infusion of 10-20 seconds. Pour
the infused liquor away from the tea leaves either into the serving
pitcher (for portion control) or directly into the teacups. Enjoy! The
tea leaves in your steeping vessel will slowly open and release their
flavors during subsequent steepings. As they open up, increase the
steeping time used to get the deepest layers of flavor out of the tea.
Oolong teas usually can be infused 3 to 5 times, while Pu-Erh teas can
usually be steeped 10-15 times.
A note on water:Since
over 99% of the steeped tea's liquor is water, it is essential to have a
good water supply. If your tap water tastes bad, is overly hard, or is
overly soft, bottled or filtered water will be your best option.
Distilled water is not good candidate for tea because of its lack of
dissolved minerals, etc that give the water a perceptible taste.
Distilled water is often described as flat or stale tasting, and as such
should not be used for tea. The same goes for overly hard water. It has
too many dissolved minerals (calcium and magnesium predominantly) which
will negatively affect the tea liquor. The best bet for consistently
good tea is to use bottled spring water, which is usually balanced in
terms of mineral content and taste. Faucet-mounted or pitcher-type water
filters are usually a good option, too.