Steeping white teas
Dear white tea aficionados,
What are the correct steeping parameters for white teas? I have become confused by contradictory information I’ve been reading in books, on the web, on tea labels. Some seem to be in the “treat it like a green tea” camp; lower steeping temperature, cooler water. Others seem to say it should be somewhere between green and oolong in terms of temperature. I’ve also seen suggestions that whites should be steeped very long, longer than blacks (somewhere I read that they should go up to 15 minutes).
This is what I tweeted a few weeks ago:
Please try hottest boiling water for white tea, 3-5min or longer. May or may not work for you, but give boiling water at least one chance:-D
But as many other things, there are different opinions. Chinese tea books and websites are quite consistent about the boiling water, 5-10min. infusion for white tea.
A source of discrepancy is, some tea with “white tea” (such as An Ji white tea, which is a green tea) or “silver needle” (such as Jun Shan silver needle, which is a yellow tea) in their names are not necessarily white tea by genre, and therefore don’t share the same brewing method with typical white tea. Teas were born with confusing names and we can’t do anything about them :-p
I agree with the longer steeping times. I have a white tea sample that I’ve been playing around with and the longer I steep it, the better it seems to get.
That’s really good to know! I’ve been afraid to steep my few whites too hot or long, but the flavor’s so weak I figured I was doing something wrong. Thanks for asking, Morgana!
I like lower temps at shorter times. Adagio, the only company from which I’ve had white tea, suggests 7 min in 180 degree water, but I prefer my teas at 160 for 3. What I think is the most important parameter to be aware of is the leaf amount. Whites are so light that it is not un heard of for 2.25g of leaf (my prefered amount of leaf per 6oz water) to be the equivelant of over 1TB. Not to mention the fact that measuring white tea leaves is just a major pain in the butt cuz they don’t fit into a measuring spoon.
I know it’s gonna sound odd, but I think (Adagio’s at least) whites have more flavor w/ a shorter steeping time (especially flavored whites)- barring you use enough leaf of course. I think that’s because whites can get stewed easily- and the fact that they’re so hard to measure probably results in using not enough. My suggestion, if you want to get into whites especially (and they’re worth it!)- invest in a tea scale, they aren’t that expensive and it beats crushing the leaves to cram them into a teaspoon.
I will experiment and see how it turns out. I had been using 195 or 175 and steeping at least 3 minutes, sometimes longer.
I vary them depending on the tea. Some whites and greens come with recommendations on amount to use but I’ve had better luck on steep time & temp when going with my own habits:
Usually close to boiling for the whites and a little bit lower for the greens. Steeping times for both of them depend on both personal preference and indications from the tea(s) themselves.
In terms of time required for a steep: Many times, once a tea “looks” ready in my steeping pot, I can bet it is good to go. Except for the odd tea that needs me to take a sniff to make sure the scent is what I want it to be.
I know that isn’t a very specific answer and that the tea masters have a very specific way to prepare tea. But they aren’t dealing with my kitchen and equipment limitations (hey, probably user error as well).
After all, this is your drink of tea. You should make it the way you like it. Try it the way the manufacturer recommends on your first cup/pot and vary from there!
Reviving an old thread – I want to ask some very similar questions.
If a white tea comes out bitter, is it more likely to be from water temp (too high, I presume) or steeping time? Using too much tea shouldn’t make it bitter, right? Just the flavor stronger. Now if he tea itself is just bitter…! Is that possible with whites? I’ve been sticking to the “leafy” varieties for now – mostly peony (or similar – at least appearance-wise) before really giving white needles or other more delicate varieties. Thanks!
Having just destroyed some very beautiful and expensive Silver Needle leaf myself this morning, I’ll give you my $0.02. You are almost certainly using too hot of water. Go cool and if you want steep long. The above answers all used near boiling. That produced a burnt caramel/cigarette flavor this morning. Ick. I am going back to Teavivre’s recommended 176F 80C. That produces all kinds of wonderful subtle notes. From the Teavivre site:
Organic Silver Needle White Tea (Bai Hao Yin Zhen) 80ºC / 176ºF
Gaiwan 3oz Tea:5g
Teapot 8oz 2-3tsp(10g)
3 steeps: rinse,1m,2m,3m
Thank you, KS. I’ve been playing around with the temp. I’ve never gone hotter than 185 (the setting on the variable temp kettle). That was the temp of the bitter white in question.
I think it may simply be bad tea, lol. I’ve just started playing around with white (and started drinking loose tea a couple years ago). Steep times on the packaging also vary wildly for peony. I’ve got one that says 2 mins and others that say up to 5 (and everything in between). Is it possible to over steep white? I may have also used too many leaves. Fortunately this isn’t a pricey one!