Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Stay Entish! We are a Kind of Plant People

I had yet another moment this week in the tea shop where I peered deeper into the abyss of tea knowledge. It's times like these where I have to keep my novice cap on, and not let ego break up my good vibe. I hope this lesson can help my fellow tea steepers!

I have long been a proponent of pushing a tea as far as it can go. When brewing, I would try to put more leaf, and let the tea steep longer, pushing it just to where it's about to break into an unbearable strength. I enjoy sessions where I have to fight with the tea a little bit. And I envy the hefty tongues of Chaozhou brew-monsters.

"Do not let us be hasty"

But if you're always fighting with a tea from the get go, you might not ever see what the tea is 'trying to show you'. After manhandling the tea version of a wise old grandma, my tea friend gently brought me down a few pegs. She said that there's a reason tea buyers in Taiwan will test teas by steeping small amounts of leaf in a big bowl for 15 minutes or more. They want to let the tea completely open up. It's not going to be the most enjoyable session with that tea, but you can really get a feel for its potential that way. Following this train of thought, when trying out a new tea in a gaiwan or small pot it can be handy to be gentle, put less leaf, and let the concoction to set for more time.

Metaphorically, when you come in contact with an old grandma, you should let her relax for awhile, and resist the urge to demand all her wise stories in one sitting. She won't be sharing any good stories with a hasty dumb-dumb.


1 comment:

  1. It seems like kind of a given but different teas seem naturally inclined to different types of treatment. My take isn't gospel, kind of the opposite, people take tea as they like, but I'll say a little more about it. Sheng pu'er seems at one extreme, usually best to drink it light, to be a bit careful, to experiment with what it offers within a limited range. For that reason it was odd seeing a post about grandpa style brewing sheng recently, or maybe that's the "rules are meant to be broken" theme. People make a big deal of Dan Cong being touchy but just drinking it a bit light seems to work; it seems less sensitive, but with better versions offering more potential one could miss out on. To me light oolongs and soft black teas are at the other extreme; they handle any sort of treatment well, and it's as well to mix it up and see how they react, to drink them at what seems optimum, and also light, and also brewed quite strong. Using 15 minute brew times isn't so familiar, but I guess why not, the idea of oversteeping tea to better examine characteristics is standard enough.