How much room is necessary to for loose leaves to steep?
I’ve noticed that there are a variety of ways to steep tea. Sometimes, when I’m in a hurry, I’ll simply add my loose tea to a T-sac and steep it in my teapot and bring it to work in my thermos. Sometimes, I just steep the tea inside the basket.
This is my teapot
And finally, there are times I want to make more than 24 oz, so I’ll steep my tea in a large glass measuring cup, with the tea floating around, and then I’ll pour the tea over the basket and then into my thermos.
In steeping with the measuring cup, I tend to stir the tea with a spoon every minute or so and in doing so, find that most of the leaves open up, which is no the case in the infuser basket or the T-sac.
So my question is, are the glass teapots, which typically have large glass diffusing volumes, better to get the most flavor out of your tea than say, a small stainless steel infuser basket, or even worse, an even smaller T-sac?
I can’t honestly say that I can taste a difference, but that’s probably because I haven’t tried tasting them head to head.
My general rule of thumb is: the more room the tea has to do its thing during the steeping process, the better.
It really depends upon the type of tea you’re steeping. If you’re brewing an Oolong, for example, you should expect the leaves to expand up to 5 times their dry volume. Black, green, and white need a little less space usually, but, you should still expect them to expand up to 3 or 4 times their dry volume.
I’ve noticed that using the glass teapot I have, it allows for the leaves to unfurl a bit better than my stainless steep basket. Since there was a sale a while back, I have been drinking mostly Rishi Teas. Despite using both different teapots, I’d say probably 50% of my leaves actually unfurl, with the remaining 50% still tightly rolled up. This doesn’t seem right to me.
There are a few cases where you actually want some pressure on the leaves, but for the most part, the leaves should have room to fully expand, whatever that means for your style of brewing.
Personally, I’d rather use a brewing device which doesn’t have any sort of basket or container for the leaves, and just decant the tea into something else when it’s steeped long enough. That makes brewing and cleaning easier.
The secret is different pots for different teas. I use a Kyuusu (Japanese brewing pot approx 7oz) to brew my black, pu-erh, sencha, genmaicha ok most Japanese teas. I use a Gaiwan for Ooloong. A glass pot for most herbals and pearls or flowering teas.
I say let the swim their little hearts and you’ll get way more flavor. A Kyuusu ( think Q OO Sue ) is great because it brews in small batches so you can steep most high quality teas like 5 or 6 times. I use a Tesubin (iron hot water pot) or Electric Breville Kettle to keep refilling the Kyuusu.