Infusion: what does it mean?
Different tea, Different material nature
Since each tea selection is different in its material nature, these parameters to make a best cup from each would not be the same. For example, the aromatic substances in a black tea need a higher temperature to bring out while a lower temperature would allow amino acids, which give tastefulness, from a green tea to infuse into water and at the same time holding back excessive bitter tasting phenolic compounds. Different selections in each tea category may even require yet more individual consideration. A classic style Phoenix oolong, for example, would render a rounder body, sweetness, and a thicker, silkier texture in a top-drop infusion approach, while a bouquet style one would give more intense aroma in the gaiwan with the Gongfu approach.
I would put 3 grams(note) of Longjing to each 150 ml of water, in a small porcelain pot, with water at 80°C and steep for 5 minutes. That gives me a malty, savory, silky texture liquor that is quite full-body and yet sharp enough to the palate.
With the Puer, 8 grams(note) of tea to 150 ml of water. The tealeaves would be put into a low density Yixing pot, blanched two times with 100°C water before being steeped at the same temperature for 2 minutes. I like the liquor to be dark, smooth but deep and sweet. (The same batch of leaves can be used to make tea again repeatedly. More about variations in infusion technique in later articles.)
A coarse and very bitter drink will definitely be the resulted if I use the Puer parameters for the Longjing. A chalky, weak and uneven solution will become of the Puer if I prepare it as I would with the Longjing.
The two teas are different in their material nature.
Longjing, like most fine green teas, is rich with amino acids, and flavonoids in the form of tea polyphenols. There are also aromatic materials and some forms of sugar in minute quantity. A low temperature is enough to bring out the amino acids, aroma and the sugars. Too high a temperature will release too much of the polyphenols, which makes the tea bitter, and fine tissues that make up the young leaf buds, which will make the body coarse.
Too little of the polyphenols, however, will render the liquor too soft. The various forms of catechins are important to be there for the depth of taste.
The cell structure of the green tea is very much intact. A lot more time, therefore, is required in the steeping in order that the taste character be brought out.
The Golden Tip Puer, on the other hand, has low flavonoids content but rather a collection of carbohydrates formed during post-fermentation, a stage of its production process. Heat is needed to transform and dissolve them as sugars in the tea solution. The blanching process gets rid of the impurities also formed during post-fermentation and open up the crusted leaves.
The cell structure is quite tempered through tight curling, withering and a long fermentation process. Even a short steeping time would bring out its typical taste; longer time will, however, bring out larger amount of saponin, theabrownin and dissolvable tissues that are not contributive to better tastes.
While the cited green tea and dark tea are total anti-thesis, all the varieties in between are varied in various ways. That is why improved understanding of a selection through practice is crucial to the making of the best cup from each tea.
Different Occasion, Different Approach
Other than considering the tea selection itself, tea still has to suit our consumption needs. Where, when and how we need to drink it is also a factor in determining how we are going to make that tea.
I’d use a big teapot if I am to prepare tea for a family gathering where it is to be gulped down in a non-focused environment. I’d want the drink to be readily available, pleasant, and easy to appreciate for most. I may also do it differently if I want to put other ingredients into the final drink.
If it’s a small gathering with a couple of friends over an infusion table, it’ll definitely be a good time for gongfu tea making.
When I am writing or doing other desk work, I’d want a fine, medium strength, and large cup on my side, which I’d make with a 250ml teapot.
People who need to be working in the office will find the infuser mug useful and convenient for acceptable quality.
Going on a picnic or a long drive, however, I’d have to work out what is the best I can get out of a thermo.
Another decisive element is personal preference. A same tea can infuse to different tasting effects and the choice is really limited by the tea-making capabilities of the taster and his comprehension of what is a better taste. A different infusion style of the same tea may also suit a different mood of the taster.
Here in the infusion section, a few major approaches to making tea shall be discussed. Not unlike cooking, tea-making requires certain manual skills and first hand understanding of the materials. It depends upon the reader to practice, experience and study in order to be able to make tea with the desired results. I hope my experience shared in these pages here would facilitate your mastery of the skills. Unlike, cooking, however, tea-making is overall very easy to master well — the variations with a pot, water and some leaves are really not that complicated. I hope you have a great time doing it.
The amount of tea applied is dependent also on the quality of the leaves. When a lower quality is used, or when the leaves are quite broken, it will have to be less to avoid too much bitterness and tannic-ness. This is actually the same with most other tea varieties. Click here to read more about infusion parameters.
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