TeaMeow wrote:Hello Folks!
I have been brewing tea(gong fu cha of many varieties etc.) for more than 15 years but am brand new to TeaChat.
But I have tried everything thing I can think of(changed water, gaiwans, pots, temperature, leaf quantity, brew time) with the 4 different old bush DCs and the 1 commercial Da Wu Ye I got from TeaHabitat with no success. The fragrance had some similarities yet in everyway the Taiwanese was more concentrated, consitent, and dynamic in aroma, body, and especially in texture, flavour and aftertaste. Most of all, my technique and water quality was sufficient to get comparable(although not quite as elegant) results to the importer who has been brewing for over 50 years.
Is there a learning curve or are these higher quality Dan Congs from China that much different from the more available commercial grades? Maybe my expectations are off. I am supposing that they would be more potent and flavorful and aromatic etc(as I experienced with the supposed Taiwanese varietal). Instead they are weaker all around. What am I doing wrong? Well that's the whole story...any help would be greatly appreciated.
Well Herb_Master must have his technique down well enough to get what he wants out of TH's DC. As I mentioned b4, it will also come down to the particular tea you get from TH, as Imen has a wide variety of tea 'profiles' in her line up. Speaking of the more subtle teas, in the orchid fragrance lines, the expensive crowd favorite, '08 Song Zhong #5. This is one of the, if not most flavorful, of her orchid lines of DC's.
This is what I noticed that is different between Imen's steeping procedure and mine. Now if you go to her blog, she says that on her recent trip to China, her tea master has shown her the proper way to brew tea, and that before that, she did not know how to brew tea
. So what was she doing before her tea master showed her the way
I'm planning to take her tea class, maybe the one on Jan. 16th of this month, so maybe I'll learn something different.
Anyway, what I notice from watching her brew @TH. She has a stainless steel kettle, with tabletop heating element with 2 temperature settings, and I believe she only uses the hotter setting. She has a commercial coffee hot water dispenser which is feed reverse osmosis water. She takes the hot water from that dispenser, pours it into her steel kettle, then waits for the base heater to get the water up to 'proper' temperature. This is likely very close to boiling, it's HOT. Next thing I notice, is that she is pre-heating either gaiwan or Chou Zhou tea pots so they are already hot when she pours in the water from the SS kettle. The tea tasting cups are also rinsed with hot water.
So there seems to be a continuum of everything being fairly hot. The 1st few infusions will always come out a little lighter as the tea leaves need lots of hot water to soften them up enough to extract flavor from them.
It could be the way her teas (some of them anyway) are processed they end up with a lower moisture content than say the Taiwanese sample (and other teas you have) have been processed...just a guess.
I cannot match Imen's brewing process without getting more brewing supplies like hers. For me at least, what I"m doing is completely in opposite to what in theory I should be practicing. Maybe I'll get a scolding from Imen when I take her class :p. I tried microwaving, Glacier vending machine RO water, so that's a neutral, very clean, low mineral source. Got it to boing point, but my tea pot was not pre-heated. I tried a pre-wash with hot water on the SZ#5, and when I poured near boiling water into the tea pot, after a minute of steeping...I poured out a ounce or so to sample. Was very light, little flavor (you expect less on initial steep). Waited even longer, minutes actually, before pouring out into two cups. It has the noticeable sweet honey orchid fragrance that others and I have experiences with her brewing. Yet it still had a fairly light color and not nearly as much flavor as when Imen brewed it
I keep experimenting, longer steeping times, pre-wash cups with hot water (not near boiling though). My tea pot got progressively hotter with 2nd and 3rd infusions, and I let the tea steep even longer> 4+ minutes (no it did not get bitter or seem to extract more tannins which surprised me...you notice the bitterness more from letting a very hot cup of tea cool down to luke warm temperature), after pouring in near boiling water. I also used a spoon to stir the tea a fair amount to get more extraction as I notice when Imen uses a gaiwan she uses the lid to mix the leaves through the hot water--- for more extraction I presume. She tells me she observes the tea for thickening texture in the gaiwan, but I"m using a teapot so I can't see any of that.
I'm getting say maybe 75% of what Imen gets with her method.
Only thing I can figure is her routine maintains more uniform *high* heat through out the process, which gets you greater extraction per infusion. I'm also thinking I need to use more tea leaves, which will be more expensive; but consider you can get 10 or more infusions, why not use more tea leaves to get a more flavorful brew?
Yeah I'm scratching my head in disbelief as when I coaxed Imen to try doing her gaiwan infusions for 30+sec. instead of her usual 10-15sec.
The only thing I noticed besides ever so slightly, vaguely more flavor; was more tannin extracted--- no significant improvement from my POV.
I just have to figure my technique/equipment is not worthy---I'm too inexperienced and simplistic.
I should note that at the same time I was brewing the '08 SZ#5, I was brewing up the "Imperial Darjeeling Blend" from imperialtea.com in another pot; which was not whole leaf tea, but broken pieces of whole leaf tea, with same procedure I was getting more extract & color from that tea as well as some bitterness, but this also required steeping with near boiling water and 3-5min range. Following the instructions on the label for the Imp. Darj, "3-5g/10oz 180F water, infuse 1-2min "...I got pale infusions also. Improved for me by doubling the time + using hotter water.
I'm *not* looking for significantly stronger brew, I can get that from other TH DC's, what I am trying to do is coax out nearly the same level of flavor Imen was getting in her store. I will keep experimenting and researching the matter.
So while I may take Imen's 'new & improved' method tea class, I'm not sure however I end up brewing at her store, that I will be able to directly transfer it to my home brewing technique...we shall see.
I should ask her 'tea boy'/employee if he is now able to make the tea at home, as he has learned to do in her store? Or are his results the same or lesser, requiring modification, etc? Because he was a complete novice when he started working there, had never brewed tea before IIRC.
I will follow up with a post after I take Imen's 'new' class.