How To Get More Flavour Than You Ever Thought Possible Out Of Your Tea!
At the moment, you might find that you have more time to focus on enjoying a cup of tea, so we thought you might want to experiment with a way to get an amazing amount of flavour through a slightly more involved approach that is as delicious as it is relaxing. First up we explore how if you use a small teapot, a high proportion of leaf to water and make many short infusions, it can give you the most incredible depth of flavour.
The Chinese have been doing it for centuries and calling it gong fu tea making – of course you can call it this if you want to (the gong fu way of drinking is rich in history, culture and ritual), but to get the flavour results there is no need to make it complicated. We can take the essential knowhow and start from there.
What do you need?
- A small (125ml or less) teapot or a gaiwan (which is a traditional lidded tea bowl, in which the leaves and water infuse and the lid is used to hold the leaves back when the tea is poured in to cups)
- Tea: oolongs are ideal for making in this way, as a category they are complex, rich and with lots of depth of flavour to explore. Chinese blacks, Japanese and Chinese greens are good too – all teas can really be prepared using a gaiwan.
- Hot water
- Small tea cups
Making your tea
High proportion of leaf to water:
A good place to start experimenting is to use the same amount of leaf that you would for your usual 1 cup/ mug serve but half the amount of water. For example, if our one cup infusion guide calls for 4g of tea leaves in 250ml of hot water, in your small teapot try 4g of leaf, in just 125ml water.
Multiple and short infusions:
We are looking to catch depth of flavour and flavour progression with this preparation style. If we just use a lot of leaf and leave it for our usual three minutes, too much of the structure or tannin will be extracted and this will hide most of top notes/ aromas. So, we want to do short infusions and many of them. The first infusion will be relatively light (especially if you are using a rolled oolong while the tea leaves unfurl,) it will capture and give space to the more delicate aromas and the initial top notes. The infusions will get progressively darker and the flavour and structure will develop.
Experiment with 45 seconds to 1 minute for the first infusion and 1-1min 30secs for the subsequent infusions.
What does it taste like?
Making tea in this way results in a more highly concentrated flavour, texture and aroma that evolves as the infusions continue.
The best way for us to explain how you get depth, is to use an example!
We are using Wuyi Oolong. It is a medium oxidised baked tea from the mineral rich soils of the Wuyi mountains in Fujian. We describe it as “characterful with textural notes of cacao and rich, dark fruits”.
We are using our Tea Master, 4g of tea, 90 degree water; 45 seconds for the first infusion and 1 minute for the second and third.
First infusion: The bake comes off in the first infusion – it’s immediately clear that this is a baked oolong and it is easy to pick out the floral aromas, even the specific rose notes (these florals are one of the reasons that we selected this particular batch – so it’s a good start!).
Second infusion: shows the sweetness, lots of cooked sugar and we picked up cooked stone fruit – we also love the balance of the sweetness and structure in this tea, so really enjoy this infusion and the ease in which you can find the flavours.
Third infusion: the structure is showing and sharing the mineral rock earthy flavours, the colour is much darker and the drink is moreish – the mineral structure underpinned with lingering ripe fruit sweetness and depth of bitter chocolate.
With practice you can respond to the flavour of each infusion and find the flavours and balance that most satisfies you. The more you drink tea in this way, the more that you learn to use intuition to tweak the necessary parameters, such as adding more or less leaf, changing the water temperature or lengthening or shortening the infusion time.
Tea preparation never needs to be complicated, but with a little care and time it can be so rewarding and it can open up a whole new appreciation for a humble leaf.