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28th August 2007

By Edward Eisler

Essential tea-making tips


The tea pitcher is one of the things I hate to be without when I make tea. When I travel I take three tea-things with me: a small teapot no more than 250ml; a tea pitcher; and a bag of tea (usually Big Red Robe or Yi Wu Puerh).

It is possible to take the same tea, make it in two (or more) different ways and get completely different results. The water quality, the temperature of the water and perhaps most importantly how long you infuse the leaf all make a big difference. Its quite easy to make your tea bitter by steeping it too long or allowing the leaves to stew while you drink your first cup. The tea pitcher helps you to avoid doing this.

The great majority of people use a large teapot when making tea from loose tea leaves. This is shame because the large capacity of the teapot allows the subtle flavours of the tea to diffuse into the large body of water it conatins. This is why I never use a tea pot larger than 400ml (2 cups) - although 150-250ml is ideal.

Also, if you make tea in a large teapot, the leaves will continue to stew while you drink your first cup. Then when you come to drink second cup, it will be too strong. The third cup will be so strong and bitter that it will be undrinkable.

So how can you perfectly control the strength of your infusion? One tip is to use a small teapot which matches the size of the cup or cups you will be drinking from, so that when you pour out the infusion, no water is left in the teapot. The other way, which I always use and is standard practice in China and Taiwan, is to perfectly infuse your tea to the strength you find most delicious and then decant it into a pitcher. In this way, your tea will never over-infuse and become bitter. You can then pour the infusion into cups that you and your friends can enjoy. When you want more tea, re-infuse the leaves in the teapot and decant into the pitcher in the same way. Please see the photos on the right which illustrate this process.