Difference between over-steeping and re-steeping?

I run a tea blog at http://alwaysdrinktea.tumblr.com, and I recently got a question asking about the difference between re-steeping tea and over-steeping.

It’s not something I’ve ever thought about before, but it’s true – steep a green for five minutes, and it’s bitter. But steep it for one, two and three minutes, and it gets sweeter each time.

Why? Is it because the tannins are released in different proportions for different intervals? i.e. first steep, lots of tannins, short time. Second steep, less tannins, therefore longer steep time possible? That’s the only thing I can think of. Anyone know?

13 Replies
JC said

I think this depends a LOT on the tea you are using and HOW you like it to be. But the way I got to better ‘understanding’ (by far not an expert), experimenting. I tried the same tea several times and usually I follow the general guidelines of temperature and time/tea type. Some people say a tea may be re-steeped if it can hold its characteristics on a second/several steeping or offer new ones.

The difference is on what you might enjoy because people who enjoy smooth tea usually avoid any traits of astringency and/or bitterness. But the truth is that some teas offer those characteristics when steeped correctly like Sheng Puerh for a random example. Or, you might enjoy astringency in tea, and consider bitterness as ‘over-steeped’. These examples could go on and on on specifics.

But as a summary guide, the difference between the two is : re-steeping enjoying the characteristics of a tea through several steepings and over-steeping is where undesired traits begin to appear (plain old bad tasting tea if you over-steep on the first try; example I was brewing white tea a work, and had the timer going on my head… boss walks in for a quick ‘hi’ and ‘good morning’ that lasts 10 minutes, and end up with a disgusting tea.)

Hope this helps :)

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Missy said

It seems with re-steeping the tannin is not released all into one cup. You are basically diluting them with each steep. That may be why re-steeping works so well. I’m no scientist, so I’ve got no clue really.

That was my inclination as well.

ChaMei select said

Tea needs to be steeped at a certain temperature over a determined time for the bitter-tasting tannins to be released, like an engine that needs a warming up period to start. We interrupt that process when we remove the leaves and begin over because the temperature has cooled. Now this begs the question, if you were inclined to steep for a fifth or sixth time (really weak tea by now if it’s black) and steeped for a really long time while maintaining the temperature, would you get really bitter but otherwise relatively tasteless water? Do the tannins persist throughout the life of the cup? I have resteeped black tea more than three times but I never extend the steep time past recommended.

@ChaMei – I extend the steep time by a minute or two on each subsequent infusuion, but I’ve never noticed it getting profoundly bitter, which is why I’m inclined to think that you’re able to steep longer on subsequent infusions because there are fewer tannins present in the tea. But I don’t know if you steeped for a long time on, say, infusion 5, if you would get bitter but flavorless tea.

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Zeks said

To me it makes perfect sense. Imagine leaf’s pores being filled with salt. For the first few times salt rushes out at great speeds so the difference in taste between yummy and disgusting is just a matter of seconds. Then, as concentraion of it fades somewhat you will be able to get good results with more steeping time. Of course there is no salt but you get the idea – whatever it is that is in the leaf is good in moderation:)

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Ian said


Someone asked a similar question here and there’s a lot of great answers


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teawade said

Wow I never really thought about it that way. Very interesting and informative thread. It makes sense now that I think about it and your theory seems logical. I love steepster! I learn something new everyday :)

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cteresa said

First let´s imagine we are talking about steeping for 7 minutes, rather than steeping twice for 3.5 minutes.

1 – when resteeping you do not have the chemicals (all of them, everything is a chemical compound) you had for the first 3.5. So it will be much `less strong*.

2 – there are other factors, which is the rate something is being transmitted from tea leaves to water solution will depend from how much of that compoundo (or others) are already on the solution – using fresh water rather than tea solution might make some of the desirable compounds transmit differently.

3- water temperature. when overbrewing the temperature is decreasing all along, according to a certain curve. when resteeping you can use the temperature you want for the original water.

4 – tea leaves standing waiting, drying a bit. I have no clue how that affects the brewing, but I am sure it will be an effect.

I think there is no right formula for this is always better, always use this temperature or whatever. Just pointing out what, IMO, are a few factors why resteeping can lead to very different results than merely brewing long.

cteresa said

ah, to add a 5th factor, the agony of the leaf will have happened in the first minutes likely, though I think the damp leaves might have expanded some more while waiting to be rebrewed. When i resteep I always notice that, that the wet leaves seem to expand while waiting – it would make sense, they would absorb some water from the surface to the interior of the leaf in the minutes or hours between multiple steeps.

That is amazing detailing. Thanks for the post. Definitely an exhaustive detailing.

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Does re-steeping a steeped leaves after a time interval, say 12hours /24 hours,have any effect on the quality of the tea?

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