Yixing Guide Lines Invited


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Yixing Guide Lines Invited

Postby Herb_Master » Sep 12th, '08, 07:30

I started my love for Chinese Tea in Malaysia in May. Wandering round tea shops and being invited to sit down with the owner and friends / other customers to try the tea. Invariably the water was no sooner in the Yixing pot than it was being poured out.

Purchasing books on tea at the Kuala Lumpur bookshops suggested longish brewing times and fresh water for every brew. My enquiries from subsequent tea vendors always drew blank expressions when I asked why the same water was allowed to sit bubbling away in the glass kettle to be used for the 2nd, 3rd and subsequent brews. But there were emphatic responses from all the vendors when I asked about brewing times -"No Sir, Instant - Instant - Instant". So in my experiments with a number of Yixing Teapots that I have bought I have been happy with the brews where I put a considerable amount of leaf in the pot and do infusions of Wash, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s,70s etc.

My taste buds have yet to acquire the development that matches the expansion of my knowledge. So searching time and again for advice and inspiration from the web - I frequently come across articles such as this from teacuppa

Brewing Guide:
We recommend using purple clay or porcelain tea ware. Rinse tea cup and teapot with hot water. Fill the teapot 2 - 5 grams (1-5 teaspoons) full with tea leaves for every 225ml of water. Steep tea leaves in hot water at 95°c (203°F) for 1 minute for the first and second brewing. Gradually increase steeping time for subsequent brewing.



Now this may account for my inability to totally take on board a lot of the advice given regarding Yixing pots with my oolongs.

I have tried so far about 20 oolongs from malaysia, Teacuppa, 7 Cups, Hou de, Teance, Dragon Tea and a couple of other suppliers.

Great stress is placed on a Yixing pot retaining heat during the brewing process.

Observation 1 - My leaves never seem to expand as large as those shown in photos from posters and bloggers - ? too much leaf in pot

Observation 2 - A lot of the seemingly highly venerated posters and bloggers seem to use leaf ratios to pot size and brewing times similar to mine - so I should be OK

Observation 3 - If I used less leaf and more brewing time as in quote above the quality of the brewing process may be affect by using Yixing as against non-yixing - But for initial brews using 15s and 25 s infusions I cannot see how my Yixing can make anything other than minute differences.

Observation 4 - The seemingly venerated bloggers and posters favour small Yixing 160ml max - Drinking Yixing on my own I can see this is sensible and unless thirsty (in which case I use a fair cup / pitcher) I pour into a small glass teapot (200ml) and set over a candle warmer. But if you were sharing an oolong with a couple of friends then a 280 ml Yixing seems more sensible. quotes that small is better because it allows more control over the brewing again strike me as very minute if you are having 15s infusions. Can anyone describe how the greater control is exercised in a small yixing.

Hopefully someone can provide me with enlightenment.
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Postby Salsero » Sep 12th, '08, 09:37

Welcome!

I'm not really sure what your questions are. Sounds like you are off to a great start! Also, it makes a world of difference which kind of oolong you are brewing and a lot of bloggers are talking about puerh which is also handled a bit differently.

Leaves in a pot will not look expanded until you pull them out of the pot. This is especially the case for the rolled, green oolongs. A really high quality one will have perfect leaf sets. A low quality one will sometimes be just large chunks of leaf.

As far as I know, a small pot does not offer greater control. People prefer small when they want to limit the amount of tea ... generally for a single person or two. If a couple people sit down to try several teas, small pots avoid producing literally gallons of tea.

I'd love to hear more about your tea experiences in Maylasia! Any photos?

Stop by the TeaDay thread periodically to answer an entertaining poll, share what's in your cup, and generally chat about tea!
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Re: Yixing Guide Lines Invited

Postby tsverrir » Sep 12th, '08, 12:35

Herb_Master wrote:But if you were sharing an oolong with a couple of friends then a 280 ml Yixing seems more sensible.


Personally I like smaller teapots. I find that the smaller ones give more control because they usually have faster pour (shorter time to empty the pot) I have had problems with one of my larger pots (200 ml) when I really want short steeps.

About having friends over for tea I like to use smaller cups and just keep brewing until everybody has had enough. I often use a ~140 ml pot for six cups. I find it puts more emphasis on enjoying the taste of tea than quenching thirst.
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Postby Proinsias » Sep 12th, '08, 13:01

I tend to prefer lots of tea in little pots, my brain copes better with timing very short brews than trying to keep track of longer brews. If I'm drinking with friends I still tend to favour small pots as 15 or so infusions can be got through quite quickly and then we can move onto another tea, If I stuffed a larger teapot with leaf we'd be drinking the same stuff all night. I don't mind drinking the same tea over several hours when I'm alone but if there are guests I tend to want to move through a few different teas.

Regarding the size of the pot I figure the bigger the vessel the more room for error, mind you I don't use scales or thermometers or whatnot which could negate some of that error.

As always whatever works for you is the way to go.
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Postby wyardley » Sep 12th, '08, 13:53

I like smaller pots mostly because I'm usually drinking with myself or one other person, and I typically use small tasting cups. And I'm caffeine sensitive enough, that I'd rather not drink 150-200 ml or more of tea times 8 or so infusions. To me that's just crazy! Maybe once in a while I'll end up drinking that much tea, but only if I'm trying a lot of different teas. And pouring off tea seems really wasteful, unless maybe you're using it to nourish a smaller pot that brews the same kind of tea.

One other nice thing about a really small pot is that if you're just brewing for one or two people, it's very easy to pour directly into the tasting cups. Also, if you're drinking 200 ml of tea, presumably you can't finish it in 2-3 sips, which means that everything has cooled down by the time you are ready to brew another pot. If you're going to insist on using such a large pot, you should make sure to re-heat the pot and cups *before* you put water in it as well as after.

I don't really buy the argument that a smaller teapot has a faster pour, though - typically larger pots have larger spouts, and I've found that typically, a larger teapot can have a similar (or shorter) pour time to a smaller pot.

I think there is a certain size at which certain types of teas aren't practical to brew in a pot. I think in Cloud's puer book he recommends not smaller than 150 ml, because low grade leaves are so large that you might end up not being able to properly brew certain teas in the pot. And the same could be true for yan cha or dan cong to a certain extent. I find that 80-120ml is a pretty good range for most of the pots I use for daily use. If I'm drinking by the self, I'll use the extra tea to nourish the pot and my little water buffalo ornament.

As far as leaves not expanding, I think it's probably not enough leaf rather than too much, but in any event, try making sure you're using water *just* off a rolling boil for the rinse / first infusion, and hit the tea leaves with a lot of velocity (and from up high) for the rinse. For later brews, you should do the opposite (pour in a circle just inside the rim, from just a bit above the pot, with pretty low velocity, ending in the center).

Using a shallow dish to keep some hot water around the base of the pot may help a little with keeping everything hotter. And make sure you shower the pot with hot water after you put the water in.

Try taking a more organic approach to the times... don't time everything, just experiment and see what works. Just by feel, or by watching the way the water evaporates off the pot (or by smelling the gaiwan lid if you're brewing in one), you can get a good idea of whether the tea is ready. Worst case scenario, you brew a bad round... so you know to brew a little longer or shorter the next infusion.

When I was at BTH in Vancouver, Michael kindly showed me his version of gong fu tea, which he uses pretty specifically to refer to an exact style of brewing, not just as a general term. I've been trying to write down his exact steps, but they're pretty similar to the ones Toki (TIM on here) outlined in:
http://chadao.blogspot.com/2006_04_01_archive.html
With this method, the timing is basically determined by doing a very slow pour of the water, and then by showering the cups over the top of the pot (2 at a time if there are 4 cups) - then you pour the tea. If you end up making more than 4 brews (you're supposed to stop at 3 or 4, ideally), you can pour the water into the cups, then shower the pot, thus giving you extra time without having to count.

I've been experimenting with making tea this way at work (only with 2 cups instead of 4), and I find that it is really enhancing my enjoyment of making tea, mostly because it requires my full attention, unlike my usual 'lazy gong fu' approach.

w/r/t whether you should use fresh water for each brew or not, that's a religious debate, and everyone has their own opinions. Some people say you should use up all of the water in your kettle with as few reboils as possible... others say you should add a little fresh water and then reboil. If you really want to have everything absolutely perfect, the best solution is to use a very small kettle / stove, and keep adding fresh water. But for most situations, I think it's Ok to reboil the water 2-3 times, or even keep it at crab eyes if you have an alcohol burner or hot plate.
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Postby Herb_Master » Sep 12th, '08, 18:07

Salsero wrote:Welcome!



I'd love to hear more about your tea experiences in Maylasia! Any photos?

Stop by the TeaDay thread periodically to answer an entertaining poll, share what's in your cup, and generally chat about tea!


Thank you for your welcome, my tea experiences in Malaysia were pretty basic I am not sure if I have any photos worth posting, I will have a look though.

2 Tea Shops near Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur started me off. 1 was large and impressive but the staff spoke no English (least not enough to ask any technical questions). I bought some tea there which I have not yet opened because I am not entirely sure what it is - they called it "Rock Tea" I may photo it before I open it and ask if anyone can decipher the chinese characters - it may be Da Hong Pao.
I bought a couple of Yixing pots also.

The second was called Wisdom Arts, the owner is frequently absent and the shop is managed by a lady of great charm who speaks good english, with a young female assistant who is very pleasant but speaks little. The manageress will be as helpful as possible unless a regular visitor/customer/friend is in whom she claims to be a master of tea knowledge. I was in the shop about 4 times and 3 times he was there. he controlled the tastings, usually of the shop products but on two occasions customers brought their own in to share. One of these was a portion from a 12 year old Pu-Er. Apart from Tea and Yixing Pots, I bought a Glass kettle from them and was taught about 5 times about the Crab Eye's, The Fish Eye's and the Dragon's Eyes.

There is another shop in the Bukit Bintang area of KL in 1 of the malls which has good possibilities, the owners father runs a small outpost of this firm in the Kelana Jaya area of petalling Jaya in a Giant Supermarket. This guy is about 75 years old and probably does this as a hobby to keep himself interested, there are rarely any people at his stall so when you approach you get his full attention. Again limited English but a really warm experience, sharing tea with him. When his wife is there it is a much more business like experience, but when he is on his own his generosity is unrestrained by her business sense. If you can't decide which 2 of 3 teas to buy he throws the 3rd one in for free!

I bought a nice carved tea tray with drip hole and plastic hose from him, and 2 yixing pots - so he threw in for free a Dragon Motif Infuser mug. I bought a "Feng Huang High Mont Green Tea" from him after tasting it brewed Yixing Gong Fu style by him - so I have tried it Gong Fu style and like it that way. I do have some Gaiwans bought on the web but have concentrated for 3 months on Oolongs and Yixing pots. I also bought 2 pu-Er Cakes from him so he threw in a 3rd for free, I have still not opened these.

My favourite tea shop however was on Pangkor island in the town of Pangkor - the tea trader trades tea for a hobby on the opposite corner of a side road from his main business which is a cafe - when a customer enters his tea shop he runs across from the cafe and leaves the staff to get on - he waves upstairs to his extended family watering plants on the balcony and shuffles a few boxes around to make room for you to sit down. I bought a couple of Yixing pots from him and a couple of teas, he then took a glazed look in his eyes and decided to share some of his own tea. About 300 yixing pots but only 50 for sale the rest are his own collection and hold special memories for him. The teas he shared with us were one of his own favourites plus a specimen from a 35 year old Pu-Er - Humm I did not have the nerve to tell the customer in Wisdom Arts about that! :)

Every tea shop I visited brewed water in a Glass kettle, I practised with the Glass kettle that I bought but there were no instructions and it was a little difficult to predict when the Eye's of any size would appear and / or re-appear, but on packing my suitcase to fly home I was overweight so left it behind for my hostess in Kelana Jaya to use :(
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Re: Yixing Guide Lines Invited

Postby Herb_Master » Sep 12th, '08, 18:22

tsverrir wrote:
Herb_Master wrote:But if you were sharing an oolong with a couple of friends then a 280 ml Yixing seems more sensible.


Personally I like smaller teapots. I find that the smaller ones give more control because they usually have faster pour (shorter time to empty the pot) I have had problems with one of my larger pots (200 ml) when I really want short steeps.

About having friends over for tea I like to use smaller cups and just keep brewing until everybody has had enough. I often use a ~140 ml pot for six cups. I find it puts more emphasis on enjoying the taste of tea than quenching thirst.


Thank you for your comments it is interesting to look at situations through other people's eyes. When my brain is whirring away and I am taking notes about the tea and the process then I can appreciate the smaller teapot, when I start a brew late at night and want to get several infusions from it I do appreciate a smaller teapot so that I can more quickly detect the changes from different infusions.

But when I have had a long day and i want to relax and not spend my time round the kettle, I find a 250ml pot, poured into a 200ml Glass teapot and taken to the bottom of the garden (with a candle warmer) where I sit watching the Sun go down and the birds flitting about and the bat's coming out to play I am glad I don't have to go back into the Kitchen for 30 minutes. And If I had a Couple of friends at the bottom of the garden even 250 would not be big enough :lol:
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Postby Herb_Master » Sep 12th, '08, 18:32

Proinsias wrote:I tend to prefer lots of tea in little pots, my brain copes better with timing very short brews than trying to keep track of longer brews. If I'm drinking with friends I still tend to favour small pots as 15 or so infusions can be got through quite quickly and then we can move onto another tea, If I stuffed a larger teapot with leaf we'd be drinking the same stuff all night. I don't mind drinking the same tea over several hours when I'm alone but if there are guests I tend to want to move through a few different teas.

Regarding the size of the pot I figure the bigger the vessel the more room for error, mind you I don't use scales or thermometers or whatnot which could negate some of that error.

As always whatever works for you is the way to go.


Thank you for your response, it generally makes good sense and still allows me the freedom of expression for my "own inclinations". I do have scales - find them invaluable as a starting point for each new oolong, and even more so when adjusting on reading my notes. I do have a thermometer, but have not used it since my Kamjove kettle arrived (except to check on day 1 that the Oolong Quadrant was producing water at a temperature in keeping with recommendations). As to moving through as many teas as possible when there are guests present that is a well made point - I am currently totally totally over the top in matching teas to teapots so when I plan to initiate some friends i should make sure that I have plenty of tea that i have set aside for smaller pots! :P :wink:
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Postby Herb_Master » Sep 12th, '08, 18:57

wyardley wrote:- - - And pouring off tea seems really wasteful, unless maybe you're using it to nourish a smaller pot that brews the same kind of tea.

- - - - - it's very easy to pour directly into the tasting cups. Also, if you're drinking 200 ml of tea, presumably you can't finish it in 2-3 sips, which means that everything has cooled down by the time you are ready to brew another pot. If you're going to insist on using such a large pot, you should make sure to re-heat the pot and cups *before* you put water in it as well as after.

I don't really buy the argument that a smaller teapot has a faster pour, though - typically larger pots have larger spouts, and I've found that typically, a larger teapot can have a similar (or shorter) pour time to a smaller pot.

-----------.


Thank you full of information and pointers - so much I shall thank you on a few points and save some more for a second reply.

First I had not thought of nourishing pots that way - a little remiss of me maybe - If I give up on a brew before I have got all the infusions out of it that it deserves [Purely because I am tired and i was overambitious starting a full leaf brew so late at night] would it be good practice to top it up with water at the correct temperature and leave it overnight ?

Second I do not have the steadiest of hands i think I will leave pouring into cups until I have a dainty assistant [The Phrase 'Tea Princess' springs to my mind] Also I only pour out steadily so if there is a difference to the tea at the top of the pot and the tea at the bottom of the pot 3 seconds later it is of little import because I always use a fair cup/ picther/Glass teapot before distributing in the cups.

Third re reheating and rewarming my jury is still out on this - I often forget - If I come in and make a brew and then start drinking and 2 minutes later it has all gone, and i put a second brew on - I usually forget :) But occasionally when I come back for a new brew after 30 minutes I forget :evil: I need to awaken my senses more to the correct temperature of drinking them before that will become of paramount importance to me I suppose. Though I must confess that I think I prefer it a couple of degrees lower than most to appreciate the flavour best!


Fourth - Like you I have noticed that some of the larger pots pour incredibly smoothly and to some extent I love the pots for themselves as much as for the liquor they produce. As my appreciation skills develop I may change my mind on this but at the moment I am happy with all my yixing pots that I have so far used.

Thank you for your comments
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Postby Herb_Master » Sep 12th, '08, 19:18

wyardley wrote:- - -I think there is a certain size at which certain types of teas aren't practical to brew in a pot. I think in Cloud's puer book he recommends not smaller than 150 ml, because low grade leaves are so large that you might end up not being able to properly brew certain teas in the pot. And the same could be true for yan cha or dan cong to a certain extent. I find that 80-120ml is a pretty good range for most of the pots I use for daily use. If I'm drinking by the self, I'll use the extra tea to nourish the pot and my little water buffalo ornament.

As far as leaves not expanding, I think it's probably not enough leaf rather than too much, but in any event, try making sure you're using water *just* off a rolling boil for the rinse / first infusion, and hit the tea leaves with a lot of velocity (and from up high) for the rinse. For later brews, you should do the opposite (pour in a circle just inside the rim, from just a bit above the pot, with pretty low velocity, ending in the center).

Using a shallow dish to keep some hot water around the base of the pot may help a little with keeping everything hotter. And make sure you shower the pot with hot water after you put the water in.

. . . . . . . .


I have not started on Pu Er yet I have been too enamoured with all the different oolongs, but worth keeping in mind. Though the mention of dan cong strikes a chord with me some of the leaves are so thin and long that to get them in a small pot you need to break them - which cannot be good ? I have not had that problem with my Wuyis yet.

The pouring techniques interest me, though usually I am just thankful that I get the water in the pot in a timely manner, lid on, and pot watered as well before I start timing. For consistency in all my brewing / tasting notes I have decided to always to take my times as "LIFO" last water in (after pouring over the pot) and replacing kettle - - to First water out into the fair Cup or whatever. But when I come to the second infusion I notice something that I never remember when I complete the first brew - the leaves are always piled up against the spout outlet - so I pour over that area to get them all to sink lower again. I want to try your High followed by circling suggestions - so presumably I need to remember to adjust the leaves ready for the second brew. Whether ior not tapping the pot down sharply would suffice or whether I should use the tea pick to move them down I shall look at later today.

The hot water bath is worth looking at when I feel i am more organised. I have a couple of Tea Dishes (large flat bowls) with raised centre for teapot and depressed outer for tea bowls/cups - but only the smallest of tea bowls will fit and I am not very dextrous with tweezers - another Job for my Tea princess when she arrives.
The Teapot on the raised centre would need a lot of water to warm it - so probably not suitable for that purpose.
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Postby Salsero » Sep 12th, '08, 19:36

Herb_Master wrote: they called it "Rock Tea"
"Rock Tea" or "Cliff Tea" is "Yan Cha", one of the teas (including Da Hong Pao) grown in the Wuyi mountains in northern Fujian Province.

Thanks a million for sharing the story of your tea adventures in Malayasia. It was great reading the wonderful detail. A real delight!
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Postby Herb_Master » Sep 12th, '08, 19:57

wyardley wrote:- - - - -Try taking a more organic approach to the times... don't time everything, just experiment and see what works. Just by feel, or by watching the way the water evaporates off the pot (or by smelling the gaiwan lid if you're brewing in one), you can get a good idea of whether the tea is ready. Worst case scenario, you brew a bad round... so you know to brew a little longer or shorter the next infusion.

- - - the timing is basically determined by doing a very slow pour of the water, and then by showering the cups over the top of the pot (2 at a time if there are 4 cups) - then you pour the tea. If you end up making more than 4 brews (you're supposed to stop at 3 or 4, ideally), you can pour the water into the cups, then shower the pot, thus giving you extra time without having to count.

- - - - I've been experimenting with making tea this way at work (only with 2 cups instead of 4), and I find that it is really enhancing my enjoyment of making tea, mostly because it requires my full attention, unlike my usual 'lazy gong fu' approach.

w/r/t whether you should use fresh water for each brew or not, that's a religious debate, and everyone has their own opinions. Some people say you should use up all of the water in your kettle with as few reboils as possible... others say you should add a little fresh water and then reboil. If you really want to have everything absolutely perfect, the best solution is to use a very small kettle / stove, and keep adding fresh water. But for most situations, I think it's Ok to reboil the water 2-3 times, or even keep it at crab eyes if you have an alcohol burner or hot plate.


The organic approach will come - one day - when I am concentrating on a few teas and a few teapots - for the moment I need the assurance of my notes and measurements for so many different pots and so many different teas.

The timing may be more difficult especially if the time needs to expand for successive brews - you quote 4 brews as a potential maximum yet so many bloggers boast of 3 times that number I sometimes get 5 but feel the waiting time for weakening brews after that is not worth the wait - so wonder how thay get so much out of so many brews - your suggestion makes more sense to me [other than for educational purposes - to see how much extract one can get from the leaves] perhaps then the organic way will work if I can introduce a little time delay to the second brew ritual and a longer time delay in the 3rd brew ritual [not being totally serious there but many a good word is spoken in jest]

I have to confess that a lot of the fun for me is also in the ritualised / ceremony aspect of it almost as much as the tasting experience - and for me at this stage of my development measuring and timing are part of the fun, I had expected the tea bowl washing and presenting to be paramount but my clumsy hands have ensured that I pay less attention to those details than I had been prepared - one day My Tea princess will come and together we will indulge in an enhanced ceremony.

There could be no problem in me using fresh tap water for every brew the kamjove kettle works very well, but at some stage I want to move on to bottled water I am sensitive to Fluorine and the smell of my running tap water does not fill me with enthusiasm, but once boiled it appears to produce an excellent tea or coffee so I may hold back on the bottled water. The kamjove keeps it at Oolong temperature - but at a range once it cools to the lower end of the range it powers on again, at the moment I always wait until it is at the top end of the range where I have the dial set to about 3/4 of the way into the Oolong quadrant.

Thanks again for all your comments
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Postby wyardley » Sep 12th, '08, 20:43

Herb_Master wrote:The timing may be more difficult especially if the time needs to expand for successive brews - you quote 4 brews as a potential maximum yet so many bloggers boast of 3 times that number I sometimes get 5 but feel the waiting time for weakening brews after that is not worth the wait - so wonder how thay get so much out of so many brews - your suggestion makes more sense to me [other than for educational purposes - to see how much extract one can get from the leaves]


I typically can (and do) get at least 8-10 good solid brews (not including a rinse, which I usually do, though not religiously) out of most of the teas I drink. I tend to use a lot of leaves. How far you want to go is really up to you - I know some people (like marshaln) who are happy to keep drinking as long as there is some flavor in the water, and other people who give up very quickly.

It sounds to me like you should try using a smaller brewing vessel or less leaves (or maybe better tea), because I think all brews up to the first 6 or 7 at least should be pretty short.

I was only suggesting 4 as a maximum for this particular ceremony. I asked the guy who showed it to me why it's done that way (because I'd read that before, but never understood the reason), and he said that it's because you should stop while the flavor is still strongest, so you have the best possible memory of the experience. For me, personally, I've also found that it keeps the experience more focused and meaningful.

Also, the goal is to get all 4 infusions of equal strength. And when you're using a small pot that's 1/2- 3/4 full of dried leaves, including some fairly crushed ones, we're talking about a very strong cup of tea (and, I'm sure the tea merchants like this part -- you'll go through tea leaves very quickly). I don't do this all the time, but I think doing it sometimes is a nice exercise, and it's true that the experience is very different from drinking a tea until the bitter end.

He said if you're worried about wasting leaves, you can move the leaves to a bigger pot and brew some more (after waiting a while, so you can appreciate the aftertaste), or else you can just do some more brews to feed / season your pot.

Of course, then, he proceeded to make probably more like 6 brews total (one round was for some guests who came in), so even he is not a total slave to ceremony.
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