Tea Amounts and Steeping Times
I tried Fujian Baroque from Adagio this morning and found the experience less than exciting. A couple of weeks ago I tried Teavivre’s Bailin Gongfu which quickly became the most exciting tea I’d ever tried (until Fengqing Dragon Pearls). But today’s whole experience started off shaky anyway. Adagio recommends a heaped tsp per cup (not sure the size of a “cup” in this case) and steeping between 3-5minutes, no mention anywhere of multiple steeps.
So, I followed those instructions, and used 1.5tsp which worked out to be 2.6g for 200ml water. The first steep was 3 minutes, and the second 5 minutes. Very thin and short-lasting on flavor. Really I couldn’t find much in it. I know there are at least several people here who have had both Fujian Baroque and Bailin Gongfu. Did I not use enough tea? Teavivre calls for 7g but steeps of only 1, 2, and 3 minutes.
This is also to demonstrate my question: When trying a new tea where steeping recommendations are sparse, how do I know how much to use and how long (and how many times) to steep it?
I would say Fujian Baroque and Bailin Gongfu are similar teas in the very basics, but quality is most likely not the same. If I treated the FB the same I did the BG, I don’t think it would have still been as good. But it was so lackluster, it makes me wonder if I could have treated it better, though I followed the company’s instructions.
So how do we know when to listen to a steeping recommendation or when to go it our own way, using what worked for a similar tea (if we even have that experience to go by)?
It might just be the tea—Fujian Baroque has middling reviews here, whereas Bailin Gongfu is one of the highest rated (and for good reason!). They may be similar in some aspects, but I think the flavor is just going to be weaker on the Baroque. You can always try more tea if you think the flavor is weak (or less water).
To answer the actual question, I tend to go with my gut on tea steeping/temperature. Sometimes I feel like the temp should be a little higher or lower, or maybe the time a bit longer. I tend to like my tea STRONG so if I find a black with a recommended steep time of 2 minutes (Western style) I go a bit longer. If you mess up the first steep, there’s always a second (and with many teas a third and a fourth and a fifth…). I do like experimenting and finding the “sweet spot” and if you’re unsure there are usually lots of tasting notes to point you in the right direction.
After a few years of just drinking a lot of tea, I trust my instinct. When I first got into tea, I struggled to get anything right. Nowadays, I always get a sample of a tea and try it a few times before buying, to make sure it will come out right for me.
I think that in your case, like Alphakitty said, it may just be the teas.
I think your instinct to try the Fujian Baroque at 7g is a good one, because I think there may also be a teaspoon-to-gram conversion problem here, since teaspoons are volume and grams are weight. For instance, for western-style brewing Teavivre calls for 1-2tsp per 8oz (~236ml) of water, and says that should be 7g. If you just look at teaspoons, the two steeping instructions aren’t all that different, but somehow 1.5tsp of Fujian Baroque was only 2.6g. They’re both Fujian blacks, they should have similar weights, so I wouldn’t expect them to be that different. I typically don’t use weight, I use teaspoons, but this can be a problem when I tea is particularly fluffy, or has long thin leaves that don’t really fit in a round teaspoon.
Besides that, I agree with others that over time you’ll find what works for you for different types of teas. I’ve tried a lot of teas at this point, so I have default instructions in my head for nearly every type of tea in the case where there are no steeping instructions. And unless its a type of tea I’ve never had before, or a very fine quality tea from a vendor I hold in high regard, I often disregard steeping instructions. You want me to steep that black tea at boiling for 5 minutes? No thanks, I’ve never had a cup of tea prepared that way that I enjoyed. But others do, so it’s just a personal thing. Finally, when I was learning Steepster was my most used resource, and it still is when I come across a tea I’ve never had before. How do the majority of others steep it? Of course the problem is that most people don’t say their tea:water ratio in the review, but occasionally they do. And of course if someone writes a glowing review of a tea that you can’t seem to get right, I would definitely ask about their specific steeping parameters!
It took me a while to work out my preferences on tea, but once I figured out some general guidelines to make a good cuppa for ME I use just that. More often than not I think that the steeping guidelines from vendors are absurd and just do it the way I think will work. Lots of room for experimentation, but not much by way of hard and fast rules. Sorry – Practice makes perfect!
I use grams instead of teaspoons, as another said the amount if tea that fits into a teaspoon varies greatly by how how small it’s cut or rolled, etc. Depending on whether I’m making it “western style” or “eastern style” I use 2.5g to 6oz of water or 1g to each ounce of water. If I feel it need sadisticng from there, I do so; but those are my main beginning points.
I’ve been using grams for the past couple of months, and found that made a great difference in my teas. Even though I was using recommended amount (in teaspoons) from my usual tea source, I don’t think it was enough now. The 2.5g per 6oz is pretty much what I normally do (2.6-2.8 per 200ml for me actually). The 1g per ounce seems pretty close to what Teavivre recommends for at least a couple of their teas for steeping in a teapot (the Bailin Gongfu is one of those).
I go by what looks right in my press. Sometimes I get fooled, but most of the time it works for me. As for time and temperature – what ever Teavivre says I believe. They have never let me down. A lot of companies I tinker with their instructions until it works. Not much help I guess. More an encouragement to feel free to experiment.
Teavivre is a great help with their recommendations. But I do find problems with it sometimes. A few of their teas that I’ve sampled have what I find to be somewhat contradictory amounts. Dragon Well, for example, calls for 1-2tsp and then equates that to 7g when my 2tsp was pretty much exactly 3.5g and only half the sample pack. Fengqing Dragon Pearls (my absolute favourite so far) calls for 10 pieces, but on the questions tab on Teavivre’s product listing they told someone else to use 3-4 pieces, and most here seem to do that as well, so that’s what I did. These are not the only ones where I’ve had to go through others’ reviews here (and in the case of Teavivre, there are a lot). I love and trust Teavivre, but I guess I’d just like to get to a point where I can try new teas and for the most part just know how best to do it without spending 30 minutes researching first (and inevitably getting sucked in to the Steepster-world)!
I tell you all, Steepster is just amazing, but it’s the people here that make it so! I love the wealth of information everyone is willing to share, without coming off as proud or la-di-da.
I try my best in my reviews to write them not just to share what I’m tasting or feeling about a tea, but also to help others in a similar position to me. I try to always include how much I use (both in grams and teaspoons, if I can), as well as temperature and how much water for every steep. I know not everyone wants to do that or has the time to, but where others have done it before me, it sure has made my tea experience easier. I hate to think that I can’t enjoy a cup to its fullest just because I didn’t know the best way to give the tea its fullest opportunity to please!