August 3, 2009

Principle of Tea Preparation

One of my goals during the March trip to Taiwan this year was to visit "Luyu Tea Art Center" in Taipei. Although I didn't have time to take the series of tea classes, I did observe a teacher closely when she prepared tea for me to taste. With her help, I picked out several reference books and tea preparation DVDs. One book is especially helpful in explaning the importance of water temperature and steeping time:
  • Water temperature: if close to boiling point, caffine (which is bitter) readily dissolves into water.
  • Steeping duration: Both astringent and tea's essence elements (phenolic compounds and amino acids) release readily to hot water. The concentration of compounds extracted to the water is closely related to steeping time. Other influencing factors are the degree of tightness of the tea leaves and the amont of tea used.
From my experience, the above principle is quite agreeable with the resulting tea quality. Try for yourself with a light green Oolong: Use 1 flat tablespoon tea, add 8 oz. water at 195 degree F (before a rolling boil), steep for 5 minutes. The first steep is quite delicious!