Multiple Steepings?

This is probably a stupid question but I’m going to ask it anyway because the subject is something I regularly wonder about!

To start off, I have to admit that the most I ever steep a tea is twice, I’ve received samples of some finer quality teas and have gotten up to 3 steeps, but I find that no matter what the tea it ends up weak and watery and not worth bothering. Sometimes that happens at 2 steeps.

This happens for one of two reasons (I’m guessing), and this topic would probably go hand in hand with the one on ‘Refining your taste buds’… So possible reason#1: I do not have refined taste buds and I need tea to have a substantial taste (truth) and probable reason #2 is that I’m doing it wrong.

I have also never used a gaiwan or done the gongfu method.
When people type up tasting notes and talk about 3 and 4 and 5 and 6 and more steepings, are you guys always doing it gaiwan style? I just can’t even imagine!

I usually use a steeping basket thing that I just pull out of my cup after the necessary amount of time as passed. Even steep two is noticeably weaker, so on the rare occasion that I tried a third, I was always disappointed but not surprised. My cups are large. (Davdstea perfect mug) Though lately i am starting to use a more reasonable size in order to minimize caffeine intake and maximize my daily tea variety.

So does this method of tea brewing just not lend itself to multiple steeps? I would like to have a gaiwan at some point. But now, my mugs are big. Is that the problem?

I know for gongfu you use a lot more leaves and brew in shorter increments so that makes sense. I guess I am wondering when people talk about numerous steeps, is this always the method?

Drinking out of tiny cups that hold two mouthfuls of tea doesn’t really interest me, but I can see how you could have 15 tiny cups out of one serving of tea, if you only steeped for 30 seconds or whatever. Or one normal human sized cup.

Sorry if I sound ignorant. It’s because I am.

I want to be a sponge though, please throw info in my general direction!!

30 Replies
moraiwe said

When I use a gravity steeper (my preferred method unless I’m feeling particularly ambitious), the only teas I really expect more than three steepings out of are rolled oolongs (and some rolled black teas). Same if I’m preparing with a filter. But the same teas that get that many steepings in my gravity steeper, yield twice as many (maybe more) if I do them gong fu style.

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Hikari said

I think it depends on the tea and the amount of leaves you used. Teas that are stronger tends to yield more steepings, and the more leaves you have, the more steepings. At least, that has been my experience.

But then I’m the kind that’ll keep steeping until I can’t get any flavor out of it, so…

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Lazey said

I managed to get 4 steepings out of 1.5 tsps of NM Tea Co’s Casablanca today before it started to get weak. I think steeping at a lower temp helps, it’s a mix of green and black so I steep it at 160 and only 2 minutes the first steep, maybe 4 minutes the second and a little longer for each successive steep.

I use a system similar to David’s Tea mug with the infuser basket and lid though my cup is a little smaller.

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Angrboda said

Some (black) teas don’t lend themselves well to resteeping, while others do. I’ve been trying a bunch of Ceylon teas recently and found they didn’t resteep so well, while my normal Chinese fare will almost always yield two good steeps.

When people brew gongfu style, they usually use some sort of gongfu system or similar. You can improvise with what you’ve got, though. You can for example brew in a coffee cup and cover it with a saucer and either drink directly from that (taking care not to swallow any leaves) or decant it into a second cup. If you find you enjoy brewing like that you might want to purchase a gongfu set, but just for trying it out or for doing it once in a blue moon, this method is fine. The secret is to use a LOT of leaf to a small amount of water. So little water that the leaves are just exactly covered. Then you steep for a very short time each time, starting at about 10 seconds and then adding five seconds as you proceed.

How long do you steep your tea for? Do you steep it longer the second time than you did the first? Try prolonging the steeping time the second time if you don’t. I usually add a minute the second time. Since you use a filter you could even just put the leaves back in if you think the result isn’t good yet.

You could also try to use a little more leaf than you normally do when you know you want to steep it more than once. Or add some fresh leaf when you steep the second time to give it a little more boost. Not a lot, just a little bit.

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yyz said

It depends. Using a standard steeping basket in a mug I have got up to 4 decent steepings out of some black teas but most of the time I get 2. Most of my flavoured blacks last about 2 decent re-steeps but I have gotten 4 out of zen teas earl grey cream with the cream lasting 2-3 steeps and the bergamot the rest. Many of my unflavoured greens and whites can last 3-5 steepings brewed in the western style.

I have Gaiwans ranging from 120ml to 200ml I tend to use the smaller ones for oolongs which I know I can take to past 7 steepings generally it makes about the equivalent of 1/3-1/2 of a standard dinner set teacup. For whites and Greens I tend to use the larger. I don’t necessarily use the amount of leaves recommended for a Gongfu session but it works for me. With some oolongs I find the thickest or densest up is the third or fourth.

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Excelsior said

It depends on the type of Tea. For my Spring Darjeelings, I can get one good steep and the second steep will be noticeably weaker in taste and flavor.

However, with the High Mountain Taiwanese Oolongs, the leaves really open up on the second, third, and fourth steeps, the flavor is better on these later steeps. I can get up to ten good steeps. 30 seconds for the first steep, adding 5 seconds for each subesequent steep.

I never use a basket and allow the leaves to fully open in my small gaiwan pot.

cteresa said

yep, free for the agony of the leaf (love that expression, try to use it as much as possible) really does help.

My trick to fix second steeps being weaker is to use less water, decreasing it. It sort of works! sort of.

Excelsior said

To fix the second steep for the FF Darjeelings, I use waater at 212F (100C), and steep for a long long time. 20-25 minutes. Kind of works, but still not as good as that full flavored first steep.

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Thanks for all the helpful replies!

Normally when I make tea I just use enough leaves for one cup, so a “perfect teaspoon” (which I think is closer to a tablespoon really)

So with my tea basket, i leave it in as recommended, usually 2-4 min depending on the tea. Then if I want to do a second steep once in awhile I add more leaves (which is the only way i get flavor out of most things, maybe except the tightly rolled leaves and such) and leave it in a bit longer.

I imagine i probably can’t expect a ton of steeps out of a tbsp of tea, that must be the main issue, right?

Dinosara said

Those “perfect” teaspoons are typically 1.5tsp, that is, half a tablespoon.

I filled my perfect teaspoon and dumped it in a regular tablespoon that you’d eat with. (not a measuring spoon, I know those are bigger) and it filled it pretty much level!

Dinosara said

Haha, ok. I think in measuring spoons, so that was the “translation” issue. The size of a “table” spoon is so variable!

Zeks said

2-4 minutes is the answer why you get weak second steeping. I steep most of my teas for 4-15 seconds for the first time and usually increase the consequent times by only 2-6 seconds. Good quality tea should almost immediately be drained because it is VERY fast at producing good results.

For example I get 6-10 tasty cups from most of chinese blacks and 6 – 12 from oolongs. Thing of note though – I usually order higher quality tea(25-40$ for 4oz).

P.S. I am speaking of standard sized cups btw. Not tiny gaiwan style cups.

Human sized cups or doll sized? And how much tea? I’m not using tons, whatever is recommended for a western style cup is what I use…(1-2 tsp)

Most directions tell you to steep 2-4 min, I think it’s pretty standard for this part of the world (and not using tiny cups)

Zeks said

Human sized cups of course. I can’t really say exactly how much tea I use ‘cause I don’t bother measuring but should be aroud 5-10gr per cup.

Where did you read about 4 minutes btw? 2-4 minutes imply western brewing style and this is, imo, only acceptable for low quality teas that are sold in packages at local shops. Brewing chinese tea western style is a waste, imo. This way you pack all of tea’s flavor into one cup which is almost always a horrible idea (in fact – an otherwise wonderful tea may taste horrible this way)
Zeks said

P.S. Also, if your country is anyhing like mine you may be adding water to the tea after it is brewed(and think it is a proper way).
It is not. Gongfu style tea should be consumed as is. No additional water, no sugar, no nothing :)

Dinosara said

Zeks, it is very uncommon for people in North America to add hot water to tea after it is brewed to dilute it, so that’s definitely not an issue.

As for brewing unflavored high quality Chinese tea only gongfu style, well, that’s where we can differ in opinion. I enjoy drinking my Chinese teas both western and gongfu style (yes, even my super high quality teas, and I have quite a few of them now); each yields a different experience, and I don’t think either one is better than the other. I sometimes enjoy packing all the flavor into one cup, and people in China do sometimes as well.

Zeks said

In Russia it is “common sense” to brew tea strong, then pour 1/3 cup of the result and add 2/3 cup of hot water, then add sugar. :)

I don’t do gongfu brewing which is why I’m curious. Not sure what you mean about adding water after you brew… I also don’t own any crazy expensive teas as I don’t feel I’m in the position to fully appreciate them yet, regardless of brewing style. I see people doing multiple steeps of lots of teas though. Everything I do is done western style, for now. I use a big mug, put about 1.5 tsp of tea in my basket, let it sit based on the directions and remove the basket and drink. I have a teavivre sample in front of me and it says 1-2 min just FYI, Silver Needle White Tea. I’d go for the 2 min because I like flavour. I also like drinking one lg mug at a time instead of a bunch of 1/4-1/8 of a cup servings (traditional tea sets that seem to go along with gongfu style)

That’s just not practical for me. Haven’t done a ton of research at this point so it’s very likely there’s a way to do a more traditional Chinese style of brewing with my normal sized mug and shorter infusions but I’m happy for now. I’m still enjoying flavoured teas and only starting to branch out into quality straight stuff so I’ve got a good way to go. I’m just curious about what people are actually doing as far as methods when they make tea notes with 3-6 (and more) steeps! Someday maybe that will be me.

I don’t drink crap tea from the grocery store though :p

Zeks said

>>> there’s a way to do a more traditional Chinese style of brewing with my normal sized mug and shorter infusions
This is exactly what I do half of the time.

P.S. I don’t like teavivre instructions btw. It is just my opinion, but I think they are totally misleading. But then again – I don’t particularly like most of teavivre’s teas also…

Zeks said

Also, I should mention that I am not into silver needles at all. In fact – I am not into white/green tea as a whole. I mostly drink strong chinese blacks/oolongs/puers.

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Lala said

I agree with what everyone has said above. The all encompassing answer is “it depends”. Play around with your teas to determine which ones you like steeped multiple times. I personally rarely resteep, becuase I just don’t like the taste.

Using more tea may give you more steeps but it may make the first steep way too strong. Also the length of brewing time matters. If your first steep is 4 minutes, there may not be much left for further steepings, but if you do a short 30 sec first steep, there may be many more steeps to come.

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cteresa said

It always depends on tea (though just forget about even trying to resteep ctc).

Use a smidgeon more tea than normal, and then for the second steep use water a tiny bit hotter than you did, and a bit less water (say 20% less). That helps, though some teas will always be better the first time. On the other hand you might find out some unlikely teas are better, or different in a good way on second or multiple resteeps.

And very few teas will handle more than 2-3 steeps, usually just whole leaves mega special ones.

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sandra said

despends on steeping method & tea.
my ff darjeerling 2013 came in this week and I tend to resteep it (costed me a fortune, so moneywise I try to get the most out of it, though the 2nd steep is less pronounced).
resteep oolongs up to 5-6 times in a gaiwan, but when I brew a pot (1tr./8 gr) i don’t do a 2nd steeping.
same goes for greens, in a gaiwan or small teaglass I can, at times, steep a 2nd or even a 3rd time, but when i make a pot of high grade sencha, another steep rarely works.
rooibos doesn’t take a 2nd steep well, no matter how good/bio/eco the tisane is.

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