Oversteeping and multiple steeps
This is boggling me and everyone I ask. Following proper steeping technique:
More leaves produces a stronger tea
Double, triple, and quadruple steeping produces good tea
Steeping too long produces bitter tea
Why is this? At first I figured the leaves were getting steeped too much, similar to burning food, but multiple steeps using the same temperature doesn’t result in bitterness. Perhaps it’s the water? Well, more leaves (to my limited knowledge) just produces a stronger tea, so it’s not the saturation in the water in this case. I know it’s from tannins but, what is it about that extra minute per steeping that makes the tea go bitter, whereas it doesn’t adhere to the same principals of double steeping?
It’s not exactly a perfectly even equation, but roughly, you should be able to either use less tea and a longer infusion, or more tea and a proportionally shorter infusion, and get roughly the same strength (though not exactly the same taste). I don’t know that it a longer brew will specifically make a tea especially bitter though. I am guessing that you’re just not using little enough leaf for how long an infusion you’re doing. 5 minutes with 3 grams of tea in 150 ml of water is generally not unpleasantly bitter with most teas, any more than 10 seconds with 10 grams of tea in 100 ml of water would be.
The type and the quality of a particular tea may have something to do with it – a poor quality tea may not react well to being stressed, whether it’s a long infusion or a lot of leaf.
I’m not quite sure what you mean by “double” or “triple” steeping – do you just mean doing multiple infusions of the same tea leaves? If that’s what you mean, it doesn’t get bitter because you’re draining the brewed tea before brewing more. It’s the strength of the tea that’s causing the bitterness, not the number of times you’ve brewed the same leaves.
Pedantic note; technically, I am pretty sure the polyphenols in tea are not tannins.
Thanks for this information!
We steeped for the first time in our new pot this morning.
The tea directions indicated 5 g per 1 cup, so we used 8 g for 17 oz. Used the recommended temperature and steep time and it was quite bitter.
Next time, we’ll experiment with less tea.
“It’s the strength of the tea that’s causing the bitterness, not the number of times you’ve brewed the same leaves.”
Basically summed it up. I had understood strength was not tied to bitterness. And yes I meant multiple infusions.
For the record, I don’t have issues with bitter tea unless I forgot about it while steeping.
First, there is a lot of variation. Some tea won’t get bitter even when brewed strong, some get bitter more easily. Some tea won’t get bitter however long brewed, but some will.
In some tea, the bitter contents can only be dissolved by hot water but not cooler water. I have a painfully bitter Taiwan oolong that now I only use it for cold brew. It’s bitter in hot water brewing no matter what amount of leaves are used. But now when I brew it in cold water for hours, there isn’t a hint of bitterness.
In some other tea, such as some dan cong and puerh, the bitterness and astringency are unbearable to me when concentrated. But by shorter infusion or smaller amount of leaves, the concentration is kept low. Then the slight bitterness and astringency may be enjoyable and cause of sweet aftertaste. I normally use 5g in 100ml, 15 sec. infusion for dan cong. But recently I tried brewing fewer leaves in mug for minutes, and it turned out great and not bitter at all. I have some recording comparing gongfu and mug brewing here:
Some oolong may yield bitterness when brewed long, but the fragrant contents are dissolved in hot water faster than bitter contents. So shorter infusions help, and meantime more leaves promote the strength of the fragrant flavor. Some top grade oolongs won’t get bitter no matter what, but they are expensive too and they yield the best liquor when brewed with certain time/temperature/leaf amount parameters too. So sometimes by adjusting brewing parameters, one can get an A- outcome from a B grade product.