Rolled Oolong, first brew question.


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Rolled Oolong, first brew question.

Postby fire_snake » May 16th, '11, 12:40

With rolled Oolong (not taking into account High Mountain or other kinds), should one wait until the leaves open before drinking the first brew, or do we gauge readiness by the appropriate brew time + temperature?

I read somewhere that we should wait until the leaves have opened before drinking the first brew.

This might mean that we'll let the tea brew for longer, which I assume might introduce bitterness if the water is hot or if it takes too long for the leaves to unfurl.

Thanks,

Christian
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Re: Rolled Oolong, first brew question.

Postby teaisme » May 16th, '11, 14:16

Fire_sna... wrote:I read somewhere that we should wait until the leaves have opened before drinking the first brew.


When brewing for one or 2 long infusions with less leaf that would make sense
But if you are using high tea/water ratio in a small pot, that would not
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Re: Rolled Oolong, first brew question.

Postby tortoise » May 16th, '11, 14:35

Not sure I completely understand the question, but I think the simple answer is that most rolled oolongs will yield excellent tea before the leaves are fully open if you are brewing gong fu style. Western style may vary.

There may be some tea variety or local style of brewing that requires one wait until the leaves are fully opened, but I think with gong fu brewing, it may take 3 or more steeps before you see an unfurled leaf and you are hopefully well on your way to bliss by then.
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Re: Rolled Oolong, first brew question.

Postby wyardley » May 16th, '11, 15:10

Sometimes you can wait between the first rinse and starting the first infusion, i.e., rinse with boiling water, pour quickly, let the leaves sit for 1 minute or so, and then do the first infusion. I do this sometimes with greener oolongs.

This timing also should let the water cool down just a bit, depending on what kind of kettle you're using.

But there are no hard and fast rules; just something to try and see if you get good results.

If the leaves aren't opening up by the end of the first infusion, it's also possible that the water you're using isn't hot enough.
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Re: Rolled Oolong, first brew question.

Postby tortoise » May 16th, '11, 15:37

wyardley wrote:
If the leaves aren't opening up by the end of the first infusion, it's also possible that the water you're using isn't hot enough.


Just to clarify, the rolled oolong I've prepared always begins to open immediately. When I think of leaves that are fully open, I don't see that usually for a few infusions. (Using boiling water)
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Re: Rolled Oolong, first brew question.

Postby wyardley » May 16th, '11, 17:10

tortoise wrote:
wyardley wrote:
If the leaves aren't opening up by the end of the first infusion, it's also possible that the water you're using isn't hot enough.


Just to clarify, the rolled oolong I've prepared always begins to open immediately. When I think of leaves that are fully open, I don't see that usually for a few infusions. (Using boiling water)

Right. Sometimes they might not open 100%, but if you use a good amount of force on the rinse (making the leaves "dance"), then wait a minute, then do a first infusion, I think you will get pretty close to fully open by the end of the first or second infusion. I would make the first infusion (though not the rinse) maybe a bit longer too.
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Re: Rolled Oolong, first brew question.

Postby FlyedPiper » May 16th, '11, 22:39

The rinse should start the opening process slightly. In my experience the best infusion is before the leaves are open. Usually the third one (including the rinse flash infusion). By the time the leaves are completely unrolled I'm already increasing infusion times to compensate for weaker tea.

That's assuming you're brewing gongfu style though. If you're talking western style your guess is as good as mine.
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Re: Rolled Oolong, first brew question.

Postby David R. » May 17th, '11, 04:19

With goa shan cha, I tend to use hotter water for the first brew than for the following ones. It was an advice from Stephane (TM). You pour slowly off boil water (no rinse) and the leaves open up nicely during the first infusion, if it is not too "gong fu" of course.

After that, you reduce the temperature slightly. I am quite happy with the result.
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Re: Rolled Oolong, first brew question.

Postby Stentor » May 17th, '11, 09:09

I have had good results with David's method.
You get full flavor with the first infusion and can still infuse many times. It doesn't come out bitter at all if that's what you're worried about.

However, this is just one method that works.
I'm sure I haven't had enough practice with it to master the "rinse + short infusions" approach.

It always seemed illogical to me to do very short infusions since the the leaves are so tightly rolled. They wouldn't open until after several infusions.
With fukamushi sencha and its fine particles I can understand short infusions due to the leaves' larger surface area that interacts with the water but with rolled oolong, it seemed odd to me to use the same practice (or even shorter infusion times!)

So you guys use a LOT of leaf vs very little water, rinse and then infuse for 15-20 seconds, right?
It would be nice if some of you could elaborate on your exact methods (ratios, times, temperatures).
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Re: Rolled Oolong, first brew question.

Postby teaisme » May 17th, '11, 14:32

Stentor wrote:It would be nice if some of you could elaborate on your exact methods (ratios, times, temperatures).


For high mountain oolong this is a little tricky. Often the 'parameters' you are looking for will change from tea to tea due to tightness of balling, water content etc etc.

Here are some links though to give you a general idea of what is going on.
Really though timers and thermometers you can be without when gonfu brewing oolongs.
[url]
http://houdeblog.com/?p=136[/url]
http://teamasters.blogspot.com/2005/10/gongfu-cha-brewing-lesson-4-brewing.html (some good advice on pouring and other stuff too in the classroom section)

Often times you will find people telling you to brew a tea light the first time you try it. imo one reason for this has to do with our in-built intuition. It is easier to listen to the tea when there is not as much. Be mindful and relaxed, let your body do the work effortlessly. Let it absorb into you and tell you about itself. If enough about it has been driven into your brain, after a few times you should know deep down when to pour, how to pour, etc. You will feel it (sorta like gut instinct). Easier said then done, but after a while of doing this your brewing should improve to suit your tastes pretty well. don't forget to enjoy :mrgreen:
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Re: Rolled Oolong, first brew question.

Postby wyardley » May 17th, '11, 16:19

Stentor wrote:It would be nice if some of you could elaborate on your exact methods (ratios, times, temperatures).

My personal opinion is that it's not helpful to think about it in quite such scientific terms. Learn the way tea tastes when the water, dry tea leaves, etc. look a certain way. Likewise, I don't really follow a specific set rule for timing. Just kind of keep note of your breathing, the way the water on the pot is evaporating, etc.

If you brew too long, or use too-hot water... well, there's always the next infusion, or the next session. There is no magic formula for a particular kind of tea, because each tea is different. A better tea may well tolerate higher temperatures or heavier-handed brewing than a slightly inferior tea, so if you blindly follow a specific set of parameters, you may end up not realizing the full potential of a tea.

I'm not saying I never measure anything - I will measure tea by weight occasionally, especially when brewing something rare or expensive that I only have limited amounts of. But I think you'll learn more long term by primarily following a more intuitive approach.
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Re: Rolled Oolong, first brew question.

Postby tea-awed » May 18th, '11, 00:40

I think that almost all of us went through the weight and temp thing in the beginning. I know I did. Ideally one would have someone that knows tea to sit and watch and learn from but in the West most of us don't.
I remember being surprised at how big a pile of yancha 5gms really is or how big a chunk of pu'erh. Shrimp eyes? Fish eyes? How big is a shrimps eye? How big a fish? After using a thermometer a few times I understood. Now I pretty much know that the water is ready by the sound of it in the pot.
I think that the last 2 posters have said it really well but it takes time and a lot of tea to get where they are : )
In time making tea will become second nature.
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Re: Rolled Oolong, first brew question.

Postby David R. » May 18th, '11, 03:34

churng wrote:imo one reason for this has to do with our in-built intuition. It is easier to listen to the tea when there is not as much. Be mindful and relaxed, let your body do the work effortlessly. Let it absorb into you and tell you about itself. If enough about it has been driven into your brain, after a few times you should know deep down when to pour, how to pour, etc. You will feel it (sorta like gut instinct). Easier said then done, but after a while of doing this your brewing should improve to suit your tastes pretty well. don't forget to enjoy :mrgreen:


Very nicely said.
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Re: Rolled Oolong, first brew question.

Postby fire_snake » May 18th, '11, 12:03

Thank you everyone for your responses. It seems experimentation is in order.

David R. wrote:With goa shan cha, I tend to use hotter water for the first brew than for the following ones. It was an advice from Stephane (TM). You pour slowly off boil water (no rinse) and the leaves open up nicely during the first infusion, if it is not too "gong fu" of course.

After that, you reduce the temperature slightly. I am quite happy with the result.


Yes, I've read Stephane's advice, which he recently gave (or re-visited) here:

http://teamasters.blogspot.com/2011/05/ ... pring.html

It seems to make sense. Hot water to tease out the flavour quickly. My concern is: can this be done with greener oolongs? Won't this pull out some bitterness as well?

So the advice is to use water that has *just* boiled (do we wait for a minute or not?) and to brew until the leaves open. Hopefully they open quickly, otherwise we'll get some bitter tones with the flavour. Or maybe my oolong isn't that great.

I'm going off to try this. First in a gaiwan.
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Re: Rolled Oolong, first brew question.

Postby tortoise » May 18th, '11, 12:09

Well, Gao Shan is high mountain oolong, which you excluded from your original question -- though it behaves in similar ways to other fisted oolongs (probably not all though).

I use boiling water for every steep of gao shan; from the rinse through the last one (usually 8 to 10 steepings). I am certain individuals have developed nuances depending on the tea they are brewing, but for myself, boiling water is not enough in and of itself to make gao shan bitter. This happens by oversteeping the leaves.

Green gao shan can take the heat.
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