Tea Infusion: Basic Techniques

Putting tealeaves into a Yixing teapot

Better tea infusion practices help you get the best from your tealeaves

Whether you are using a mug (note), a specialist tool or a plain old teapot, a proper procedure can maximize the taste potential of your tea selection.

Refer to the “Measurement” chapter for tea to water ratio and water temperature. Here, we shall discuss the basic steps and some variations in making tea.

For more efficient communication, we shall refer to the piece of teaware that you make tea in as the “pot” in this chapter.

The basic steps

  1. Set aside the needed amount of tealeaves

Adding tealeaves directly from the container can easily allow moisture and heat from the pot to degrade the rest of the tealeaves inside the container. If you are a very pragmatic person on a hurry, putting the required amount on a piece of paper, or even the palm of your other hand will do. A clean small dish for tealeaves would be ideal.

  1. Pre-warm the pot

The simplest way is too put hot water into the pot. Even a swirl of hot water is better than a cool pot. The closer the pot is brought to the needed water temperature for infusion, the smoother the texture of the resultant liquor, and the more coherent its various tastes.

  1. Put the tealeaves into the pot

Try to pile it up in the centre like a small mount, if you care to take the trouble. It really takes no more time than throwing them in without control. The way the tealeaves are piled actually makes some difference. This topic, like others in this chapter, will be discussed in more detail in articles concerning more infusion techniques.

  1. Optional step: blanch the leaves

This step is more crucial to matured teas and post-fermented teas. Gently, but quickly, add water at the required temperature to the leaves, ideally at around the circumference of the mount. Make sure the water is enough to submerge the leaves (I know, some leaves will float…). Drain.

  1. Infusion

Add water at the required temperature to the pot, around the perimeter of the main ball of tealeaves. Fill to the required depth and cover the lid for the infusion duration.

  1. Remove the tealeaves

Upon finishing the needed infusion time, separate the leaves from the water by either COMPLETELY decanting the liquor to the cups or a separate decanter, or removing the leaves from the pot.

  1. Enjoy the drink

Enjoy the aroma, and then the taste by gently slurping in the liquor while it is still hot, but not scalding. A burnt tongue is a numb tongue and a pitiful one. Drinking a tea cold is like enjoying a flower when the petals are withered.

A tea may show itself differently when steeped in a different way. Here are two other common approaches that some aficionados would practice with certain selections.

Top Drop Technique

The basic concept is to let the pot at room temperature take up and even out the heat of the water before actual infusion. It’s pretty much like pre-warming the pot (note), except that the water remains in the pot.

If you have a thermometer, you can take the temperature of the water after a few seconds it is put into the pot. Stick to the use of this pot so you have a good understanding of how the water cools down in it to match your tea choice.

  1. Fill the pot with water at a higher temperature than recommended for the leaves
  2. Let stand for a couple of seconds, or more if you want it to cool down further
  3. Measure out the amount of required tealeaves meanwhile
  4. Drop the leaves, a few at a time, very gradually into the pot, covering the whole water surface
  5. Cover the pot and let steep for the required time

Sandwich Technique

This is use mostly when one wants to infuse the tea at a lower temperature for a long duration but want to bring back some higher notes in the tea and some heat in the end. It is also a technique preferred by some green tea drinkers who consider the infusion results better this way.

  1. Half fill the pot with hot water and let cool
  2. Measure out the amount of required tealeaves meanwhile
  3. Drop the leaves, a few at a time, very gradually into the pot, covering the whole water surface
  4. Cover the pot and steep for 80% of the required infusion time. Some people prefer not to cover to maintain a greener colour for green teas
  5. Fill the pot with hot water slowly, avoid hitting the leaves in the middle
  6. Cover the pot and let steep for the remaining required time
note
When you use an infuser mug as a pot, remember to have the infuser fit in the mug during these steps. Withdraw it only after the steeping is done.

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