Infusing Techniques for a Great Cup
You’ll notice while checking out the details of each tea, we’ve added a Preparation Method tab with our personal recommendations of what we feel is best for preparing each and every tea so you can see it at a glance. You will notice that although we have attempted to get as close as possible, you might feel you like more or less depending on your preference.
To get a better ‘feel’ of each tea, we recommend weighing a small amount on a digital scale to see what the gram weight looks like as a visual reference.
Each tea is different, so 1 teaspoon isn’t always the same for each tea.
Several of our teas are quite difficult to measure using a teaspoon as the leaf is just too large to get the full leaves to sit in the teaspoon (we think that is a good thing)!
We believe brewing a good cup is more than just simply following an exact set of instructions. As with most things in life, some rules are meant to be broken because everyone (including us) has a different palate.
Having said that, there are definitely a few things to make sure you keep in mind when preparing any of our teas to bring out the best of each and every leaf. So we have added some extra information and specific infusion techniques below.
Tea cupping is the term used for the industry standard for measuring tea quality. You will find different tea sites and tea experts will have different cupping instructions – some like to use more or less tea than others, while some like to use a higher or lower water temperature to match the type of tea used. In all cases the important thing is that you keep your method consistent for each tea being sampled.
Usually several tasting sets are used at the same time and the type of tea is kept in the same family to assist the palate in distinguishing differences between closely related teas. Often we do a tasting based around the same tea from a grower and simply cup the different harvests, allowing us to select the best possible tea to offer to our customers.
Our cupping method
We like to keep it simple and ensure we are able to repeat the same cupping results over and over. The intent is not to make the best cup of tea; rather it is to brew it in such a way that any flaws in its character are revealed if they exist. To do this, we prepare our teas using the steps below:
1. Select the tea(s), keeping in mind they should normally be in the same tea family.
2. Before beginning the tea cupping, make note of the qualities of the dry leaf for each tea by placing some dry leaves on a small white plate. Things to note are the leaf size, dryness, texture, shape, uniformity and colour, as well as any aromas when dry.
Infusing the tea
3. Use a small scale to measure the exact same weight for each – we use 4 grams per tasting cup. We weigh our teas as many of the teas we select cannot be easily measured with a teaspoon.
4. Use distilled or spring water brought to temperature. We use 100oC regardless of the tea type as it provides uniformity to our palates and ensures any impurities in the tea are highly pronounced.
5. Fill the cup with the boiling water and cover with the lid, steeping for exactly 4 minutes.
6. After the time has elapsed, ensure the hole on the lid is facing closest to the handle to ensure good air flow and then hold the lid onto the cup and place the lidded cup horizontally across the top of the bowl.
It should rest securely on the bowl and allow the tea liquor to freely pour out without spilling.
Evaluating the tea
Start with your sense of smell.
Lift the lid and smell the infused leaves in the cup remembering it is always best to replace the lid when you are done to allow repeated tries.
What do you smell?
Do the infused (wet) leaves smell sweet? Bitter? Vegetable? Smoky? Floral? Marine? If you need to, refer to a tasting wheel to assist with helping to visualise what you experience. Better yet, pull out spices and other items and compare their smell to the tea. We find this exercise is very helpful to increase our tea glossary.
Next, taste the liquor itself.
Use your favourite tasting spoon and sample the liquor in the bowl. Roll the tea around in your mouth to ensure you experience the full range of flavour, as taste buds are located in different areas of your mouth.
What do you taste?
Does it taste the same as it smelled? What makes it the same or different? Does it feel like it coats your mouth or is it thin? Does the flavour linger? Does the flavour change as it lingers? Is it astringent or smooth?
What about the colour of the liquor?
Is the colour lighter or darker than you expected? Does the colour seem to match the amount of flavour?
Continue to refer to your tasting wheel to assist you as you try to determine what you taste.
Go back to the wet leaves in the cup and examine them more closely now that they’ve cooled. With the lid on, flip the cup over and remove the lid with the leaves resting on it to see them better.
Smell the leaves again. Has anything changed?
Pull on a leaf and see how tough it is. You will find oolongs have strong leaves and are not easily pulled apart, while a first flush Darjeeling is quite delicate.
Are the leaves small or large? Are they full or broken? Are they mostly uniform in size? The more uniform they are the more even they infuse for a better cup. Do they have uniform colour and oxidation? Large variations in colour normally signifies uneven processing and a lower quality leaf.
As you go through the process, rate each tea based on its aromas, liquor and wet leaf and make notes so you can reference your favourite teas.
Although it can be testing trying to describe many of the things you smell and taste in the beginning, the important thing is to have fun and we promise you’ll become quite proficient over time!