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14th September 2007

By Edward Eisler

Essential Tips for Making Tea Part 2


If you are a green or white tea drinker, using the correct water temperature can make the difference between a bitter, acrid infusion and one filled with sweet scents of meadow flowers.

In the 'At a Glance Section' in the detailed information about each of our teas we suggest a water temperature to use. Some people are very open to such concerns but others dismiss it as esoteric pedantry. However, years of tea drinking have shown me that delicate green teas are ruined if you use water much hotter than 70°C.

There are a number of ways to obtain the correct water temperature.

The Modern Way

If you are drinking a black, puerh or oolong tea, boiling water can be used but we recommend that you take your kettle away from its power source before it come to a rolling boil. This prevents the water becoming deoxygenated or flat.

The really easy solution is to use a thermometer. To me this is a bit of a cheat - I like to look at the water to see whether the temperature is correct or not. This takes us onto the traditional way:

The Traditional Way

Have you noticed that as your kettle boils the sound changes and the way the steam rises becomes faster and more intense?

As the water gets hotter tiny bubbles the size of a pin head start to rise to the surface and pop – these are called 'shrimp eyes' in Chinese. Lazy, slow moving wisps of steam arise and the kettle makes its first low humming sounds. This temperature (60-70°C) is perfect for the finest green teas.

As the water gets hotter, the bubbles grow to ‘crab eyes,’ which are half the size of marbles. Wisps of steam begin to rise vertically in a steady stream and the kettle starts to make popping sounds. This temperature is perfect for white, jasmine and green oolong teas as it is around 80 degrees.

When the bubbles become the size of marbles (fish eyes), the kettle makes stronger sounds and the steam rises in thick fast-moving columns the water has reached a temperature of 90-95°C and is perfect for oolong, puerh and black teas.

The final stage, which is not considered to be suitable for tea making, the kettle makes the sound of a raging torrent and the bubbles roll and swirl. This is traditionally called 'old man water' and is stale and de-oxygenated.