Multiple steepings of Pu-erh?
I must admit I usually steep my Pu-erhs for a good 6 minutes in a fairly large mug and rarely re-steep. I understand I should probably be starting with short infusions and continuing with progressively longer ones, but I rarely have the time to devote to such ceremony. Am I a philistine? What are your Pu-erh rituals, practices, etc?
I am just beginning to experiment with Pu-erh. So right now I have noticed that my first infusion is pretty astringent (tannic) so I have taken to discarding it after a brief period of steeping. I am beginning to do short steeps at first, followed by increasing the length of the steeping for each subsequent pot (up to the fifth or sixth pot) at which time I discard the leaves into my compost bucket. Again, I am just experimenting and finding out what works for me. Thanks for the question, Triumph.
I do multiple infusions of pu. I like the progression of flavor, and I do not like it to be super strong. I guess I multiple steep out of a preference for a more mellow flavor.
This is the steeping guide I prefer:
I tend to do really short infusions, like 30 seconds on the first go and then gradually raising the time from there. I don’t usually do as many resteeps as it can likely take, though, mostly because I get ‘full’ after a couple of cups and either doesn’t want any more tea or want something else (and generally something lighter, pu-erh being a bit of a heavy cup for me).
I think you could probably get a great cup out of half your current steeping time, depending on how much leaf you like to use. I tend to use a large amount of leaf so I can generally get away with pretty short steeping times. (In my usual small one-mug pot I very rarely do more than 1 minute on the first go of a black, but can more often than not get a good second steep as well)
Some people also make a super short flash steeping and discard that in order to rinse the leaves, so that the first drinking infusion is technically the second infusion. I’ve tried it with and without this rinsing step and can’t tell a difference. Some can though, so you might want to give that a go as well.
I usually rinse my leaves first for about 20 seconds, then steep about 3, maybe 4 times. In general my steepings are 2-3 minutes long. I heard that Oolongs and Pu’erh are the only teas you ‘rinse’ before consuming. Anyone else heard of this?
Number of possible steepings are directly related, not only to the tea itself, but to the steeping temp, steeping time, and tea/water ratio you use, so yes it is quite possible that you would receive less infusions per portion of tea. I do a more traditional preparation of my pu erh: 1g/1oz of water (just below boiling), a 10-20 sec rinse of just below boiling water and then 10-30 second steeps w/ nearly boiling water increasing the time by 10 sec only when I find the flavor too weak for my personal palate preference (I get many steeps before increasing the time). I can get upwards of 12 infusions per batch.
Interesting that so many adhere to the orthodox method. I’ve been enjoying Pu-erh for a few years, mostly in cake form so I can see how it changes over time. Maybe because I like stronger tea I get a little bored with later steepings even when I keep the infusions short. Do you follow the same procedure for raw (green) pu-erh? Any favorite pots?
I only like shengs, but the few shu’s I’ve tried have been done the same way. When I tried my first pu erh (a shu) I treated it like a black (how was I supposed to know it was not a black? Adagio told me it was and I never expected a company to be so dumb/naive as to incorrectly label a tea)- 1tsp in boiling water for 5 min. I HATED it. I couldn’t even finish my first sip and spit it back in my cup. The only exceptions to this method I have are flavored pu erhs (I’ve only had one so far, Numi’s Chocolate Pu Erh which is oddly a sheng I love.- I really want to try the Chocolate Pu Erh in my traditional method though once I get some loose leaf as I’ve only had it bagged). I suspect that I might, if I ever find one, treat a flavored sheng like a green tea just for kicks. I would suggest, when trying a new pu erh, to steep in in glass, then devoting a yi xing to those you love.
I usually don’t want more than 2 cups of the same tea in one day but the puerh I use is certainly capable of it. The chocolate mint I add will only go 2 steeps, which is another reason I stop at 2. I generally go around 3 minutes per steep. You all have my curiousity up though about much shorter steeps. I will have to give it a try.
If it’s just pu’er as comfort tea, I’ll make it in a large pot and them re-steep one or two times as needed.
Generally though, I prefer doing multiple steepings in my gaiwan or yixing pots for any pu’er I really care about and want to enjoy. I tend to think of drinking tea as a relaxing activity to do with a friend or two, rather than a beverage, which is probably why I enjoy steeping a tea for an hour or two. I also feel like I’m being unfair to some of my really excellent pu’ers if I just make them in a big pot. They have so much to give! Why not let them be everything they can be?
The gaiwan is nice, especially if I’m evaluating a tea sample or brewing something tasting-style to let people know what the tea really tastes like, because it’s glaze makes sure I’m tasting the tea itself. Doing many quick steepings also lets me taste all of the tea’s flavor over time, instead of just all mixed together in one go. It gives me more to think about, basically.
When I make pu’er in my yixing, I actually have two pots for shu and two pots for sheng. I’ll use one pot for steeping the leaves in, and then use the other pot as the pitcher. This keeps the tea hot in the pot, and also lets me season two pots at once. Again, I love tea as an activity, so the act of taking care of my little “pet rocks” is fun. I prefer to use yixing with my husband and close friends, since they seem more intimate to me. Each steeping contains a little bit of all the previous steepings before, and it makes me prone to sharing stories and memories.
Like others have noted in this topic, I throw out my first steeping. It gives the leaves time to open, heats the leaves and the pot/gaiwan so that they don’t act like ice cubes, and makes room for the more mellow later steepings.
I’ve also got two really tiny yixing tasting pots, one for sheng and shu each. (seriously small.. they’re about as tall as my thumb, and I’ve got little hands) They make enough tea for two little tasting cups with each steeping. This way, I can break off just a little bit of my bricks once or twice a year to see how they’re aging. I can also try more of a tea’s flavor arc, because I don’t get tired when I only taste one little cup each time. I keep a little journal with all of my notes over the years to help me compare. It’s a fun thing to do, and it also helps me learn about what flavors change into over time.. which ones fade and which ones grow.. which in turn helps me when I’m looking at buying younger bricks.
it’s nice to see that you treat your teas with such consideration. So far, I’ve treated my Pu-erhs as comfort tea. With two small children, I rarely get the chance to spend an hour re-steeping. But your experience will definitely inform my attempts as I begin to carve out some time to devote to this amazing tea. It’s been fun scoping out yixing pots online.
I usually use 4-7g (depending on tea) in 120ml vessel. After 15 sec. rinsing, I run 10-15sec. infusions for several times and then extend infusion time afterwards. I am the kind of person who would beat myself up if not making as many infusions as possible.
But most Yunnan locals do large volume infusions for puerh, if they drink puerh at all. Some people use large vessels because they prefer the bitterness and astringency.
Here is a blog I wrote recently about shu:
Just a reference, not golden standards though :-D
lol I feel the same way about using my tea to the fullest. That’s why I make very small cups.
Exactly! Especially for some puerh that’s so “annoying” that lasts forever :-p
Haha “annoying” is exactly the word I have used! Also the phrase, “DIE, TEA, DIE!”