Sunday, 3 June 2012

How to enjoy a tea

Things are starting to calm down, and here is finally a weekend which is not about the writing of my thesis. This time I would like to share a couple of thoughts about the way I enjoy a tea. 

The first important question is when.
I used to drink tea at the evenings after the work, however it had a really bad influence on my sleep and digestion. Moreover, it is not so easy to focus on something after a hectic and tiring day. So, I switched to the mornings. I wake up earlier, have a proper breakfast then sit down with a good tea. I think this is the best time to enjoy the energies of certain teas. Some of them wakes me up after the first couple of infusions, whereas others have a calming or tranquilising effect after which I would like to crawl back to the bed :).

But in general, after a morning session I am fully awake and ready to go to work. It is much better than pumping caffeine to my brain at the evenings. 

How much
In my usual setup I use 5-6 g of tea for ca 90 ml of water. This works well for young shengs and wu yi yancha. For black teas, i use 6-7 g of leaves for 140ml of water. For old teas the ratio is higher: 5g for 50 ml.  I almost always weight the tea I am going to drink, especially if I would like compare different teas. Some people eyeball the amount of leaves, but frankly, it requires years of experience to be able to say that weight of a compressed chunk of tea, in my opinion. 

In what
Yixing pots seems to be very popular these days and I also like them, but it is so difficult to pick the right pot for a certain tea. To avoid this I go with gaivan for everything what is fragrant or "green". In this category belong green tea, young sheng (<10 years), Anxi oolong and Wu Yi yancha with lower oxidation/roasting. For things such as aged sheng/oolong, shu, black tea and stronger yancha I have zisha pots. I  almost always use pitcher which helps to cool down the tea a bit and also give a chance to observe the colour and the fragrance of the liquor.  The tea from the pitcher goes to a sniffing cup or directly to small white sipping cups.

Steeping time
There is usually a rinse at the beginning which is discarded. The first steep is a bit longer with 10s, while the following infusions are just water in - water out. At the point when the tea starts to loose its depth, the infusions are becoming longer; 10s, 20s, 30s, 45s up to the point when there is no flavor or the tea starts to be harsh. With the teas which are infused in yixing pots, the last infusions are left for longer time (overnight, overday)

How long
I like to take my time, especially with strong teas it can take 1-2 hours until I finish. It is also necessary  to give space for the aftertaste which can appear minutes after swallowing. I don't like my tea to hot and I prefer to wait until the soup cools down quite a bit, especially with the early infusions. If I drink my tea to fast my taste buds gets saturated and it becomes difficult to pick up the tastes. Moreover, a gongfu is mostly about relaxation, so no reason to hurry. 

Activities during
I must confess that in most of the cases I am browsing on the web during the sessions. I like to answer emails at the mornings or just read the news or tea blogs. If I am at home I enjoy the tea with my family so we are just simply chatting. 

Some teas can fairly mess up my stomach, usually there is no problem during the session, the signs starts to appear after. To prevent this, I found that if I drink pure water after the session I can prevent the problems. Probably it just dilutes the gastric fluid. After an hour of so, I have to eat something more solid. 

So this is the general setup, and I am aware that different people enjoy tea in different ways, so feel free to share. 
All the best