Brewing Green Tea
Brewing Green Tea is quite simple, but most people place so much emphasis on the brewing times and water temperatures and tea utensils that they forget to enjoy the tea. I'm not saying those factors are not important, but remember that it’s all about the tea. The brewing times and water temperatures are for reference. You might find that you like prefer the tea a little stronger, or a little weaker, so remember, if it tastes right to you, then it is right. Everyone’s tastes are different, so brew the tea the way you like. Feel free to experiment with time and temperature. At first, you will worry about the technicalities of brewing tea, this is normal. After you have been brewing Green Tea for a while, you will find that you can do it by feel and no longer need to worry about measuring water temperature.
Often overlooked, water is crucial to bringing out the complex flavors and aromas of your Green Tea. It is recommended that you do not use tap or mineral water when brewing Green Tea, the minerals and additives will alter the taste of the tea. The best water for brewing Green Tea is spring or filtered water. In the China's ancient past, people would travel for days to get water from a particular spring or well and many teas had water sources that were well known as being the best for a particular type of tea. If you are using an electric tea pot to heat your water it is important that you do not just let it run on automatic. The constant reheating of the water will also alter the taste of the tea you are drinking.
There are many different utensils used when brewing Green Tea and which one you use is totally up to you. Originally leaves were taken fresh from the tea and then thrown into a pot of boiling water. Over the centuries, the process has been refined and today's tea ceremonies and brewing techniques are much more complex.
In the Qing Dynasty, the Gaiwan was invented for brewing and drinking Green Tea. A Gaiwan is a large lidded cup which sits on a saucer. The leaves are put directly into the cup and hot water is added. The drinker then drinks from the cup without removing the leaves, so the leaves continue to brew. This type of brewing uses far less leaves than a cup with a filter or tea ball to stop the brewing process. Using a Gaiwan is quite elegant and the lid keeps the water hot. The drawback to the Gaiwan is that you cannot watch the leaves open and dance.
Many Chinese now prefer to use a clear glass cup for brewing Green Tea. The advantage to using a clear glass cup is that you can watch the tea leaves slowly unfurl and rise and sink in the water. It is quite mesmerizing to watch the tea. Like the Gaiwan, the leaves are not removed from the water, so less leaves are used than you would use in a teapot. Now many beautiful glass cups are designed just for drinking Green Tea. They have an insulating layer of air to keep the cup from getting too hot to handle. In parks and tea houses throughout China you can see people sitting around with their clear glasses of tea. Most people do not finish the tea in their cup. They leave the tea surrounding the leaves on the bottom of the cup because it can get quite strong.
Another option is to use a porcelain cup. They resemble coffee cups, except that they come with a matching lid to keep the heat in. Many of the modern porcelain tea cups come with filters so you can remove the tea leaves. This keeps the tea from getting bitter and more leaves can be used than in the glass cups, or Gaiwans.
Many people prefer to use a teapot to brew their Green Tea. This way is very traditional and normally a porcelain teapot is used. This way of brewing tea is ideal because you can simply pour the tea out to stop the brewing process. Normally the teapots are smaller than English teapots because the leaves are left in the pot and if filled with water, the tea can become bitter. Some modern teapots have filters in them so that you can remove the leaves to stop the brewing process.
Brewing the Tea
For a 12 ounce pot, it is recommended to use 1 to 1.5 Tablespoons (3 grams) of Green Tea with a water temperature of 180-200 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 to 3 minutes.
Many people prefer to first pour enough cool water in the pot or cup to just cover the leaves and then add boiling water. That way you do not have use a thermometer to ensure the water temperature is correct. Of course using a thermometer will give you a much more accurate reading, but will take away from the freedom and enjoyment one should feel when enjoying tea.
Why is the water temperature so important when brewing Green Tea?
Using a water temperature of 140 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit will bring out the complex flavors of Green Tea. If you use water that is too hot, the tea will become bitter and much of the teas aroma will be lost. The leaves will essentially be cooked and you will not be able to get the full flavor out of the tea.
Each tea is slightly different when it comes to brewing time. Small leaf Green Tea infuses much quicker than a larger or tightly curled leaf, so experiment until you find what works best for you.
The Steps for Brewing Green Tea
1) First you must select the type of vessel in which you wish to brew your tea.
2) Rinse the vessel with hot water to remove dust and heat the glass.
3) Pour the water over the tea leaves. It is best to pour the hot water in from a higher elevation than the cup so that the leaves can swirl in the water, which ensures that the leaves are equally brewed, and it also makes a beautiful effect.
4) Wait for the leaves to brew for 1 to 3 minutes. Adjust to meet your own tastes.
5) Enjoy the tea.
How to drink from a Gaiwan
The Gaiwan is the traditional way to brew and drink Green Tea and has a bit of ceremony and technique to it. It is fairly simple to use and after you have been using it for a while, it will feel natural in your hand you can add a bit of elegance and florish while using it. You place a small amount of dried tea leaves into it and then add hot water. Do not fill the bowl to the top because it will inevitably spill. Fill it to below where the lid sits in the bowl. Let it sit for a minute or two and you can then drink it. Pick up the Gaiwan by the saucer with your index finger and thumb. Pick up the lid and use it to stir the tea by putting the edge of the lid into the tea and moving it from front to back. You can then use the lid to push the floating tea leaves out of the way for you to sip the tea. Some old timers can hold the Gaiwan and manipulate the cup by using just one hand. That is an art that takes many years of practise.
If you are brewing Green Tea without a tea ball or filter, stir the tea to ensure that the flavor is evenly mixed. To keep the leaves from going into your mouth, gently blow them out of the way before sipping.
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