Steeping white tea


White and yellow teas are among the most subtle.

Steeping white tea

Postby Cher » Mar 13th, '07, 20:09

While I've noticed slight variations on recommendations for steeping times of tea, they tend to be fairly consistent in most cases. However, I've noticed a huge discrepancy across websites for recommended steeping time on white teas. Adagio says to steep them for 7 minutes, others say 2-3, and still others say 4-5.

The only long steeping recommendation I've seen besides Adagio is for one white tea at Upton tea; they recommend 8-11 minutes. Otherwise, Upton and many others recommend 3 or so minutes for Silver Needle. There's a big difference between 3 and 7. Plus, some sites say to use 1 teaspoon and others say 2 teaspoons. Any recommendations from white tea drinkers out there? Silver Needle, in particular, is an expensive tea to play with, so I'd like to get it right.
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Postby Mary R » Mar 13th, '07, 21:43

White tea is a crazy, crazy mistress.

That being said, I've had some nice success using a method where I start off with a short time and then increase it with each subsequent infusion I make with the leaves. For instance, I start with a 2 minute steep, then with my next cup I steep for 5 minutes...then 7, 9, etc. From what I can tell, this system works well with every type of white I've tried. I've got some more detailed notes for Adagio's offerings here and here.

I sort of get why different sources would give different amounts of dry leaf (1 tsp, 2 tsp, etc). With the exception of silver needle, most of the whites are loose-packers...that is, you can fit a lot less of it into one container. I think two tablespoons of my white peony weighs about the same as 1 teaspoon of my keemun black. (About 2.5 grams for each.) It's touch and go, though. Sometimes I get a lot with a tablespoon of white, sometimes I don't. To ensure consistency, I'd highly recommend weighing whites.
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Postby scruffmcgruff » Mar 13th, '07, 22:24

White tea is very, very difficult, in my opinion. I have found that overbrewing white teas gives an awful burnt taste, so I tend to go for short infusions (15-20 seconds @ 160-170F) in a gaiwan. Note that this is done with more leaf than I would normally use for the same amount of water, about 2 teaspoons of pearls or 1 tablespoon of needles per 3 oz or so. This method seems to work well for me. By keeping the steep time short I prevent the burnt flavor from rearing its ugly head, and by using more leaves/buds I am able to coax out quite a flavorful infusion.

I have also seen suggestions of 7 minutes (I once saw one for 12!), but I have no idea how that produces any good results. I tried brewing for 6 minutes once and the brew tasted like straw. To each his own, though.

Unfortunately, whites really need experimentation to get right. To be perfectly honest, you're probably going to end up wasting a lot of tea (I know I did) before you find a method you like. Because of this, I would definitely recommend that you start out with something cheaper than silver needle.

Don't get discouraged by all my negativity, though. White teas are definitely worth the effort. Good luck, and I hope this helps!
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Postby Cher » Mar 13th, '07, 22:40

Mary, I love your site and I can't wait to read more reviews. Thank you for your recommendations. Scruffmcgruff, I had a feeling someone would tell me that I'd need to experiment. Unfortunately, I'm a bit overwhelmed by my tea samples right now. I've gotten around 50 or so in the last few weeks and I've actually managed to try most of them. It's going to take some time to get proper steep times and weight for each one. Well, at least for the ones that I care about.

I would probably be happiest if I had a tea scale, but considering that I've recently spent an obscene amount of money on tea and and teaware, I need to back off a bit. Again, thanks for you help!
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may as well add my two cents

Postby Space Samurai » Mar 13th, '07, 23:26

For silver needle I use a tbl spoon for five minutes at 180-185 F.

For white peony it kind of depends. If it is from Fujian or Yunnan, I use two tbl spoons for 6 min first infusion, 7 min second infusion, both at 185 F. If it is a Darjeeling white peony, I only brew it for five minutes.
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Re: Steeping white tea

Postby TeaMan » Mar 16th, '07, 11:43

I actually usually steep for around 15 minutes, I don't find it to be bitter at all (and I drink it straight and plain every time,) steeping it only for 1-5 minutes is too mild for me. Some people would find 15 minutes far too long but I actually prefer the result, you might want to try it out.

The only time I find it to be a little bitter is if I steep it in water that's too hot.... I don't measure the temp of the water each time (that's too much of a hassle and I drink it at work) but if I steep in water that's too close to the boiling point it seems to greatly affect the flavor in a negative way. I can tell when I do this even before I taste it, just going on smell.

I drink 3 cups every day (Silver Needles).... and have done so for quite a long time. It's a little pricey but worth it. I recomend that you start with Silver Needles as well (if that's the variety you plan on drinking,) I've had other kinds of white tea that I don't care for regardless of how I brew them so you might never be able to "get it right" if you start with a variety you don't care for.

Once you really develop a taste for it brewing it properly will be beyond easy - trust me. Brewing it properly almost becomes instinctual and requires very little thought once you find your preferred taste.
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re: Steeping white tea

Postby varatphong » Mar 27th, '07, 09:07

The one thing most people will agree on for brewing white tea is to use low temperatures. I find that this helps draw out the delicate floral, nectar like quality that white teas are known for. Using very hot water gives the brew an unappealing vegetable like character. The brewing time and quantity of leaves used can vary greatly. Personally I like using lots of leaves and making short multiple infusions. The brewing parameters I use for my White Puerh tea can be seen here http://www.puerhcha.com/Tea_Selection/2 ... eacake.htm

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Postby tomasini » Apr 10th, '07, 01:30

I'm with TeaMan when it comes to Silverneedle, I'll steep it for 15 minutes before I drop it and that's the time I got from Jane Pettigrew's The Tea Companion
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Postby Chip » Apr 14th, '07, 01:51

Yin Zhen...4.5 grams per 200 ml water...170*...3 minutes...6 or more steeps increasing tme and temp each steep...hahahaha, well, this works for me.

WOW, amazing how diverse brewing parameters are for white tea.
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