Most tea drinkers know that brewing with care will yield the best cup. But even the most devoted tea lovers don’t always have time to slow down for an in-depth gong fu cha session. Here are our three favorite brewing methods for making tea a tasty and convenient part of every day.
1. Infuser Basket
This is probably the most common brewing method in the United States, simply because it is suitable for any type of tea leaf - chopped or whole. An infuser cup (or thermos, or teapot) uses a basket to hold the steeping leaves. This way, the leaves can be extracted from the water to avoid bitterness in chopped teas. The basket is also large enough to allow whole leaves to expand and release their fullest flavor. This is an advantage over clamping “tea balls”, which restrict leaf expansion.
The process for using an infuser is easy. Simply place the tea leaves in the basket and pour heated water over the top. Fill the vessel until the leaves within the basket are submerged, and let steep. We recommend steeping for no longer than 2 minutes to avoid extracting bitterness from the tea leaves. Pull the basket out of the water, and set it aside while you drink your tea. Controlling the steeping time in this way will also allow for multiple infusions of the same tea leaves - just put the basket back in and pour more water over the top.
2. Stacking Steeps
Many tea drinkers prefer to make a more concentrated brew in a smaller pot. With more tea leaves in less water, the steeping time is reduced to less than a minute per infusion. We think of this like brewing an espresso, instead of a big pot of coffee. Brewing this way allows for more control over the flavor of the finished cup. But a traditional tea session can be a lengthy endeavor, as each infusion of the leaves is tasted separately.
To get the same quality of flavor in a larger volume, multiple infusions can easily be combined, or “stacked”, into a big mug or thermos. Add water to the leaves in a small teapot or gaiwan, pour into the larger vessel after 30-60 seconds, and repeat until your cup is full. Four infusions from a 5oz pot will fill a 20oz travel mug in less than five minutes. As an added bonus, this is the best way to squeeze every last drop of flavor from rare tea leaves, even when you’re in a hurry.
3. “Grandpa Style”
The simplest way to brew tea is also the oldest. For the easiest brew, just throw a small amount of leaves in a tea bowl or cup, and pour water over the top. The leaves, floating freely, will sink to the bottom as they rehydrate, and the liqueur can be sipped from the top. To make “grandpa style” tea to go, we like to put our tea leaves straight into a thermos, and fill it halfway with cold water before adding hot water. This lowers the brewing temperature and slows the brewing process, so that our tea tastes good even at the end of a long commute.
Because the leaves will continue to steep while you drink, it’s important to pick a high quality tea when using this method. Chopped leaves will be more likely to float at the top and get into your mouth while you sip. Any leaves harvested in the summer for mass production are likely to get very bitter when steeped this way. But an early harvest Dragonwell or a high elevation Formosa Oolong tea will never develop bitterness, no matter how long the leaves are left in the water.
What’s your favorite brewing method for when you’re in a rush? Let us know in the comments!
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