Multiple infusions, mug-style
Hi, I’m new here.
Lots of Americans prefer a mug to a tiny teacup, and I am one of them. However, mug brewing requires more water and longer infusions, which means that everything China has taught us about multiple infusions isn’t really applicable. Of particular note is that fact that our tea leaves can sit around and get cold for a long time while we enjoy a nice large mug.
Some people1 have some neat ideas about rebrewing, and I myself have experimented with re-rinsing leaves before subsequent infusions, or adding a pinch of fresh leaves with each brew. I make a fine mug with a basket of fresh leaves, but I have to say, I haven’t nailed down multiple infusions, so I’d love to hear what the other mug-drinkers of the world have to say on the matter of rebrewing of fine loose leaf teas in the western style. How do you rebrew?
I’m probably doing this wrong, but I just brew the leaves a little longer. (Sometimes I’ll rebrew many times. Seems to work better with rooibos.)
I have one of these for work, I just put the leaves in the infuser and use a coffee mug. Normally straight black, or straight oolong (today I was drinking Verdant’s Laoshan Chocolate Genmaicha).
I use about/sort of/ish 1.5 “perfect” teaspoons of leaf dump in hot water from the dispenser and let steep. How long? I don’t know I’m at work… 3-5 if the phone doesn’t ring. I can usually do this 3 times with the same leaf, then I would add about another 1/2 teaspoon and get two more steeps. I use pretty good quality teas – Verdant, Mandala, Tealux, Toa Tea Leaf etc. I don’t really have a problem resteeping in this manner. I find the better teas are more forgiving with my haphazard steeping parameters at work. I’ve done pu’erh but I find it needs more attention than oolong or black. I find flavored teas don’t really resteep that well.
I didn’t realize I was doing anything different than others. My normal is almost always as Alex described. My second mug is generally an hour later than the first and the third yet another hour after that.
For High Mountain Taiwanese Oolongs, I use a small Gong Fu Teapot. Flash rinse, then brew and re-brew three times to fill my mug. The tea leaves really unfurl during the 3rd steep and the complete flavor of the tea comes out. IMO, rebrewing three times brings out better flavor than doing a large long steep. The flavor of high quality Oolongs will allow 6-9 steeps. Enough for three mugs of tea. I usually brew for 25 seconds on the first steep and add 10 seconds for each subsequent steep.
I agree with everything you’ve said here, but I don’t have the space, tea ware, time, inclination, to do this at work. Your method is my “Sunday afternoon, I want to spend some quality time enjoying my tea” method. As I described above is my “I’m at work I just need some tea” method. At home, I usually do western brew more often than gong fu style, but am more careful with water temp, steep times etc. I think a sign of a good tea is one that has depth to be explored through multiple short steeps, but can also stand up to the abuse I subject it to at work.
Excelsior, I’ve heard of people doing this (or taking it even further and doing as many infusions as possible and pouring all into a thermos), and I’ll give it a try. But about your method in particular, I’ve got a question or two. Since you’re pouring the tea into a mug and not drinking straight away, do you let the leaves “rest” at all before the 2nd and 3rd, or 5th and 6th infusion? Also, have you noticed any difference in taste with the 4-5-6 mug from letting the leaves sit while you drink the first mug?
After the 3rd steep, I let the leaves rest as 3 is enough to completely fill my mug. What I do notice is the leaves further unfurl during the rest even when the teapot is empty of hot water. I believe this is due to the temperature.
For the first 3 steeps, the liquid (for High Mountain Taiwanese Oolong Teas) is a bright green color as is the taste. On the 4th, 5th, and 6th steep, the liquid is more of a green brown color. The taste has not diminished yet the taste of the tea changes to a more mellow, deeper flavor. On the 7th, 8th, and 9th steep, the taste does diminish but again, the flavor is different. I often times will drink up to 12 resteepings of the tea.
I have a Zojirushi hot water heater sitting on my desk at work. I also have a Gong Fu teapot as well as a western teapot for my Darjeeling teas. To brew a full mug takes about five minutes for 3 steeps. So whether at work or at home, I enjoy the teas I have.
for black teas i usually 3-10 sec initial steep, 5-15 secondary steep. after that i really feel the flavor is lost and the tea becomes watery.(you may get a third steep out of ctc type)
This doesn’t answer the question about multiple infusions, but is how I resolve the issue of making more than a teacup size portion and keeping it hot. I do a single infusion of 16 oz, then transfer it to a vacuum insulated Thermos travel mug (http://steepster.com/teas/thermos/37603-thermos-vacuum-insulated-travel-mug). It works as advertised and keeps liquids hot for 12 hours, though it does so much better when full. In fact, I will sometimes make an extra mug at bedtime and in the morning, the second mug is still scalding hot. There are versions of this mug than have built-in infusers, but I prefer to steep separately.
I hope it’s okay to post two replies (I’m still new to both loose tea AND Steepster!), but wanted to keep them separate.
Being new to loose tea, I, too, would like some advice about multiple infusions. Is it preferable to keep the leaves moist or let them dry out? What about “rinsing” them – is that a good idea or a bad one?
The couple of times I’ve tried second infusions (black and herbal), I find it to be much weaker – and I don’t care for it too strong to begin with. Perhaps it’s because I mostly sip flavored tea, though I also haven’t had good results with a good quality English Breakfast. I know some teas are less suitable for multiple infusions than others… maybe English Breakfast is one of them?
I recently acquired a taste for white tea (a peony – my wallet is hoping I don’t like the silver needle I haven’t tried yet!), and am now especially motivated to perfect the art of multiple infusions!
Often you can find brewing instructions on the merchant’s website. Some they’ll suggest a rinse (most often from what I’ve seen) sometimes they’ll specifically say not to rinse.
Black teas are known to not re-steep very well. Low quality black teas will yield one cup. Good-high quality black teas will yield two really great tasting cups, and if you have one that does three or more that still tastes more than just flavored water, then you have one that’s quite special.
As for herbals, I’ve yet to find one that still has a flavorful second steep, which makes sense as herbals aren’t technically tea. It makes sense that different plants will do different things. (especially if it’s an herbal that’s pretty much all dried fruit. Those won’t re-steep)
Your white teas will definitely like being re-steeped. In my experience, the next infusions for white tea almost always taste better than the first cup. Oolongs and greens are also great for resteeps. (especially oolongs. Oolongs are the ones where you’ll hear people getting 9-15 steeps)
Rooibos rebrews well. Just follow one simple rule: If you start with two scoops, add an extra scoop each time you rebrew. This will continue to work until you run out of room for more leaves. My theory for why this works is that each steeping extracts about half the flavor from the leaves, so if you remember geometric series from calculus class:
1/2 + 1/2 = 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/4 = 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + 1/8 = …
Talking about camellia sinensis, I find that re-rinsing your leaves before subsequent infusions reveals more subtlety and eliminates the “stale” taste, at the expense of being “waterier”. I’ve been trying to find the right balance of using less water, rinsing/notrinsing, hot/cold rinsing, adding extra leaves, rebrewing immediately (rather than waiting until you finish the first mug), etc. With whites in particular, adding an extra pinch of leaves brings out a lot more flavor, but it hides most of the aforementioned subtlety.
I haven’t had a scented tea that kept it’s scent with multiple infusions, though. I don’t really drink blended teas or herbals other than rooibos, so I can’t comment about those.
Thank you for all the information and suggestions! I figured blacks were probably not the most suitable, but very happy to hear that whites may be!
I am just now trying a second infusion of the aforementioned white peony from last night. Unrinsed, prepared exactly the same way, no “fresh” leaves added. It’s definitely not watery. I would have to be a side-by-side comparison, but it may have lost a touch of the subtle sweet nectar flavor it had last night. But it’s still very good!
Thanks again for all for the multiple infusion tips. I’m currently enjoying what I believe is the fourth infusion of the lovely aforementioned white peony. I was afraid of getting too attached to white teas because of the steep (pun intended) prices, but given how nicely they take to multiple infusions, the cost per cup becomes more than reasonable!
For me, Oolong teas opened my eyes to multiple infusions. These teas are processed to be spectacularly perfect for this style of tea brewing. Long curled leaves, rolled and crumpled, begin to unfurl with short infusion times and subsequently release more flavor with continued exposure to hot water.
As an introduction to the discovery of the flavors of whole or full leaf teas, I like to encourage my Teahouse guests to experiment with re-brewing on any type of whole leaf tea. They have so much more flavor to give.
As your perceptions of the nuances and subtleties of tea flavor increases, you may perceive the 2nd and third cup, not as ‘weak’ but just differently flavored.
The evolution of blends is a result of perfecting a taste to satisfy a cultural standard. ie; English Breakfast. It was never really intended for rebrewing. In fact, I have found that most of my British guests just want the leaves to stay in the pot for a nice strong cuppa. Full stop.
Brewing multiple cups from one teaspoon of tea is only limited by your tastes. The beauty of tea is that there is so much to choose from, there is something for every taste.
Once you study the different ways White, Green, Oolong and Black tea are processed, it becomes clearer why each will react differently to multiple infusions.
The voyage in sailing the sea of tea is all about the discovery of new taste adventures.