Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Importance of Heat

Tea and temperature go hand in hand. I try and aim for about 120-140 degrees Fahrenheit for green tea and a little cooler for white tea, a little more for rooibos and wulong, and boiling or close to it for black (or Chinese "red" tea) and pu'er teas. I'm really not that choosy when it comes to tea steeped at approximate temperatures, because I can only tell 3 things about tea and temperature: if the tea has been brewed in tepid water, hot water, and boiling water. And honestly, the taste gives the water temperature away. Tepid water yields weak and watery tea, hot water yields a better tasting, thin tea, and boiling water produces good tea.
But, the next thoughts in this next paragraph don't hold any water (har har) for green and white teas. Today I brewed up some sheng pu'er, the Xiaguan 2007 Tibetan BaoYan, in a porcelain mug. The taste was a little different than what I was used to, much cleaner in a sense, but I attributed my taste familiarity with this tea to my yixing teapot and unlined yixing cup which I use for this sheng. Maybe I was getting flavors from other teas previously brewed in the teapot and the cup, and that this brew of Baoyan with "tea masala" is what I'm used to. But as the body of the porcelain mug got unbearably hot to hold and forced me to grip its handle, I realized that the water was not staying quite as hot as it would in my yixing.
I noticed this in later infusions where the tea tasted very good, but somewhat dulled. I tried warming up the mug with hot water and then infusing my tea, but I still got the dulled taste. I guess porcelain doesn't insulate quite as well as clay. It's interesting because I've never noticed this before with green and white teas, but they only require semi-hot water for good tea. Pu'er just seems to like very hot water to brew properly.

And I'm still wondering if perhaps I should dedicate my yixing cup to one type of pu'er, or if it too will season along with the pot and enhance teas in one way or another.
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