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Sam said

Tea Questions: Drinking Alone/Multi. Steepings

Hi all,

I have been a long time two cups a day coffee drinker. I love my specialty coffee and roast beans myself. That said, I have opened my mind to enjoying tea as well and came across Laoshan green and black from Verdant. Amazing.

I like to take time to relax at work and brew up some tea, but have a question. I really like the process of getting to know a tea over multiple short steepings and use a mason jar as a gaiwan and then strain it into a small 6oz cup. I use the recommended ratios, i.e. 5g/4-6oz water for the black. The short steepings produce excellent resulting cups that I really enjoy!

I know that this method of tea brewing is truly meant for sharing and Verdant recommends at least 15 steepings for the black of about 2-3 seconds at the start… will I end up just drowning myself in tea and caffeine in order to fully experience a tea like this? I have tried western brewing and find the cups to be enjoyable, but just a touch more one dimensional. I have read a post from David at Verdant saying he simply drinks the steepings out of 1oz cups and pours the other 3-4oz of tea over his brewing vessel to keep it warm – rather than drinking all of the tea. I just feel like I am wasting tea by only getting in 6-7 steeps that can be stretched out to 15+.

Do others out there enjoy exploring a tea like this when they are by themselves? How do you go about it, so that you are getting to fully experience the tea as it develops without drowning yourself in the volume of tea.

Many thanks for any information y’all can provide.

Have a wonderful day.

8 Replies
tperez said

I’ve just started getting into gong fu brewing with a 150ml gaiwan and 50ml cups, and I love to “explore” the tea. :)

As far as only drinking about an ounce per steep and pouring the rest over the pot, that seems a little silly to me. For yixing pots, its recommended to pour a LITTLE bit over the pot both to warm and season it, but I think most people drink the majority of each brew.

For number of steeps, it really depends on the tea. I haven’t tried Verdant, but ten is the most steeps I’ve gotten out of anything with my current set up. Really tip top quality oolongs and pu’erh may yield more though.

The majority of the caffeine in tea leaves supposedly comes out in the first couple steeps. I remember reading somewhere that about 60% or more in of the caffeine is in the first steep.

I like your improv. gaiwan! I used a coffee mug and a plastic lid from a jar of nuts for a while lol

Welcome to the world of tea!

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Sam said

I have thought about a Gaiwan, small 1oz cups, but I like what I am working with now. It yields a 5oz cup of tea that I can then enjoy by myself.

I guess the biggest piece of my question, which you addressed, was about drinking in this style alone. It seems to be built around sharing a tea with a small group of people over a period of time. It’s an awful lot of tea to be consuming by myself! The Verdant Laoshan black steeps very well for a long time and continues to unravel. I could simply just steep in an 8oz mug western style, but I really like the short and frequent steepings.

For me, it is finding the best way to experience the tea when I am by myself, or at least drinking it by myself.

The bit about the caffeine coming out in the first steep is something that I have read all sorts of conflicting stories on. In general, it seems that measuring caffeine content in tea in the same way as coffee is not the best way to go about it.

How do others out there enjoy their tea when you are drinking it by yourself?

Uniquity said

The caffeine business is largely urban legend. The length of time in water, the amount of leaf and temperature of water all affect caffeine content, as well as the varietal of leaves. Most of the caffeine does NOT come out in the first thirty seconds of steeping, and in general, small amounts of caffeine are released in each steep during gong fu sessions. There are a couple other threads live on this topic at the moment, with some articles linked in by Mercuryhime as well.

http://steepster.com/discuss/257-washing-or-rinsing-the-tea-leaves?page=2

In particular, Mercuryhime’s info:
“Not even 10% of the caffeine is extracted with a 30 second rinse. Not to mention that with large leaf teas, most of the surface area has yet to be exposed to water with just a rinse.

Here’s a detailed article:
http://chadao.blogspot.com/2008/02/caffeine-and-tea-myth-and-reality.html

And here’s a more concise article:
http://teawithgary.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/tea-and-caffeine-part-ii-exploding-the-myths/"

Sam said

Interesting. That is what I had read as well but never in concise articles. Thank you.

I assume the amount of caffeine in tea leaves is fixed so there is a point where you no longer are pulling caffeine from the leaves. On that note, with the shorter Gongfu style steepings, you would technically only be pulling a small percentage of caffeine into each cup. So while I might be drinking a lot of tea liquor it’s not as if stretching out the steepings with smaller amounts of time and a higher frequency gives the drinker more caffeine than if you brewed with the same amount of leaves in more of a western style. Am I right?

It would appear as though I need to not put as much emphasis and care into the caffeine levels of tea – coming from the coffee world where I monitored my caffeine intake I just did not know where to start with tea. I still enjoy that morning cup of coffee but alternate tea in as well and especially enjoy tea in the afternoon.

Uniquity said

As I understand it, you would yield a small portion of caffeine in each steep of gongfu, ending up with something in the ballpark of a mug of western style tea. It’s really neat, actually. Since science seems to suggest that 30 seconds yields less than 10% of caffeine (again, borrowing this info from Mercuryhime! :D) you would think that each gong fu steep would also yield less than 10% of the potential caffeine. There would eventually be a point when you couldn’t get any more caffeine, but I would think the flavour would disappear before that. I don’t have any science behind that idea though. Just know that some varietals of tea have significantly more caffeine than other – that seems to be a trial by fire sort of thing. Some greens and whites have way more than black tea, but black tea is generally considered the most caffeinated. Unless you’re extremely sensitive to caffeine, you should be good to go. :)

Sam said

That’s how I understood it as well. It’s awesome how one can then stretch out 3-5g of tea into a huge amount of actual liquid. It becomes more about the enjoyment of the tea, which is really why I have turned to it. Coffee can be approached with similar passion and enjoyment, but there is obviously a limit with coffee that comes much sooner. Your way of explaining it makes perfect sense. Whether brewing western or gongfu, 5g of the same tea will have the same amount of caffeine. If anything, gongfu would yield a more gentle extraction of the caffeine, flavor, and other elements from the tea. If only I had the time to enjoy tea like that every day!

Ultimately, I’m after the flavor of the tea and obviously the goodness that resides beneath the taste for overall health. Similar to coffee, I’m not after the caffeine piece and view it as just a part of the beverage. With coffee, it’s an aspect that needs to be respected for sure.

I do not believe I am sensitive to caffeine – I’ve had a cup of coffee before and immediately wanted to fall asleep soon after. I’ve been dealing with some anxiety (reasons outside tea and coffee :-)), which is a personal reason for being just a tad more conscious about the caffeine. Because I’m not a 4 cups of coffee a day type of a person (more like one or none) it is not a concern, but I’m always curious to learn more! Overall, my body tolerates caffeine quite well and I know my limits and try to never push them.

With tea, I find it very soothing and relaxing in the afternoon where a cup of coffee may not be something I am interested in ESPECIALLY if I am feeling stressed. I just love hot beverages, so whether tea, coffee, or an herbal mix I am always interested in learning more. My office at work has a bookshelf where I keep my tea and coffee paraphernalia. The tea world is just beginning to open up to me and I am listening – all thanks to the Laoshan green and black from Verdant. I’ve never enjoyed two teas as much as I have those and I’m hardly putting a dent in the 2oz of each that I have.

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Donna A said

Interesting that you should post this, since earlier today, I posted on how much I like Laoshan black Gongfu style compared to Western. I won’t have time to do the full 15 steepings today, but I probably had eight. I think your assumption is correct about there being a fixed amount of caffeine in the leaves, and with short steeps, you’re only pulling a small percentage of caffeine into each cup. I’m sensitive to caffeine, and have not felt “over-caffeinated” drinking multiple infusions. If I drank 6 or 8 cups of coffee, that would definitely have a negative affect on me!

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Sam said

Haha. I think 6-8 cups olf coffee would impact most people negatively. Getting through 15 steepings of the black is a tall order when it comes down to time unless sharing with friends.

I guess there is a piece of me that just wants to better understand caffeine in the tea in the way that caffeine in coffee can be more easily measured. I’ll have to learn to live with the uncertainty and just pay more attention to how I feel. After all, the point is to enjoy the tea and not stress out trying to “understand” it.

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