Heating water for delicate teas
I remember when I first was really getting into tea and was reading about how lighter teas were best steeped at a lower temperature and then at increasingly higher temperatures in subsequent steepings. I remember initially thinking that sounded like a pain, making a cup of tea at one temperature and then having to heat the water more for the next cup, and so on, especially in eastern-style brewing in which the steeps are short and the cups so small.
For a while I tried abusing my variable-temp kettle to make the best I could of it, but that quickly became as troubling as it initially seemed, especially since I preferred my tea when it was made with water that had been brought to a boil and cooled to the right temp, instead of just heated to a certain temp. It was such an ordeal every time I wanted tea; I had to wait for the water to boil, wait for it to cool again, and then gradually heat it again every few steeps. Eventually I just gave up the idea of reheating the water— it kind of broke the zen of the whole process anyway.
Lately I’ve acquired a larger volume water boiler that keeps the water hot, and have changed my process a little. Now I keep the water at a near-boil, and just pour enough hot water for a few steepings into a large teapot that I use as a water kettle, and let it cool (or pour between vessels if I’m impatient) until it is the desired temperature for the first steep. Then I go about my teamaking, and after a few steepings I dispense a little of the boiling water into my water-teapot to raise the temp of the water. I’ve found this is a pretty simple way to increase the water temperature to get the most out of my leaves without it being terribly disruptive. It’s not as perfectly accurate as heating the water precisely, but I honestly can’t tell a difference.
So I was just wondering how you guys deal with the puzzle of brewing teas that require an increasingly higher temperature, if you choose to tackle or disregard it, or if I’m just the only one too lazy to find reheating water multiple times to be a hassle :P
I also wouldn’t mind this being a general water-heating discussion thread; I’m a bit curious how you guys heat your water for your tea. Do you use the stove top, the microwave, an electric kettle, or one of those fancy tea-making machines? Do you use a thermometer when you need the temp to be under boiling, or do you guess/eyeball it?
Would love to hear what methods work for everyone!
Delicate teas are quite sensitive and I usually don not bother boiling water and cooling it while I stick a thermometer in the pot. If you got hot water off a water cooler/heater, the hot water is usually at 170 or at least 165 degrees that is quite hot for delicate teas. Usually they are brewed for 3 minutes or four and re steeped like two or three times. I use to make the mistake of pouring boiling water well beyond 200 degrees and some guy which I both the tea from said it will make the tea bitter, near tasteless and un-steep able. I think the only teas out there that can stand up nea boiling or at boiling is pu-erh that can be steeped for an unlimited times and still have flavor when brewed at pass boiling.
I used to eye ball it, but now I have a Breville variable temp kettle. I had a electric kettle before that I would just eye ball the bubbles for the temp. I knew that it was probably no where close to the water temp I needed it to be. So for Christmas I asked for the Breville variable temp kettle
Before I did not like to drink white or green teas, because I felt like I was ruining them. I have noticed places like Samovar that say they use boiling water with every tea and just limit the steep time. I tried this as well for delicate teas, but still felt like I was burning the tea……
I used to heat water and then cool it to what seemed appropriate but I received a variable temp kettle for Christmas and now use that. i have no problem heating the water multiple times (as I did it that way before) – Now I just don’t have to waste my time letting it boil and then cool. Actually using “correct” temps has really changed the way some of my teas taste.
I boil water in an electric kettle, and then let it cool using a rough rule-of-thumb: use immediately for black teas, allow to cool for 1-2 minutes for oolongs, allow to cool for approx. 3 minutes for green teas.
It’s hardly scientific, and if I double-checked with a thermometer I’d probably find that I’m not getting the water-temperatures I think I’m getting – but at the end of the day it works for me, and my teas taste fine.
I actually blogged about this:
Basically variable temperature kettle, see through kettle and sticking a thermometer
For water temp:
Black tea/pu-erh 100 Celsius
Oolong/White- 95 Celsius
Green tea- 70-80
Yellow tea- 70
I just stick a thermometer in my tea kettle.
Variable temp tea kettle. If I was doing multiple short steeps with increasing temps I would probably put a bunch of water and heat it to the set temperature, then use the leftover and heat it to the next temp, etc.
When I’m at home without it and I really want a non-black tea, I will sometimes boil water in a regular stovetop tea kettle and then stick a thermometer in it and wait until it cools to the correct temp. But I hate doing that so I almost always drink black tea so I don’t have to deal with it. Someday I’ll have two variable temp kettles (one for home and one for work) and then I’ll probably drink more tea at home.