Reasons for smaller volumes?


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Reasons for smaller volumes?

Postby yanom » May 10th, '12, 04:36

Hope it's okay to ask a rather basic question -- I've looked at other topics here but can't quite find an answer. The question probably applies to all teas, but for me particularly pu'er.

I appreciate there are lots of variables when brewing tea. If we say that the teapot and the water & the water temperature and the type of tea itself are the same, that leaves (at least): amount of tea, amount of water, time spent brewing. Keeping the amount of tea constant too:

Say someone brews 5g of tea in a 100ml pot for 20 seconds.
Someone else brews 5g of tea in a 150ml pot for 30 seconds.

They brew multiple times, lengthening the brew time, until the tea is exhausted. They will both probably have drunk about the same volume of tea, right?

So am I right in saying that the reason the first person prefers the smaller volume & shorter steep combination is because he wants more precision in tasting the changes in taste that you get each time you re-brew? And the second person will still have a perfectly nice drink but some of those changes will merge and run into each other and he might miss some of the more subtle changes?

Or: is there any other reason at all why someone would go for the smaller volume/shorter steep combo?
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Re: Reasons for smaller volumes?

Postby JakubT » May 10th, '12, 06:41

Hello yanom,
I thin that the most important factor is watching the tea progressing through the brews in detail as you said. It also depends on the tea though - some teas better enjoy a lot of leaves and very short steepings, while some are better when less leaves is used and the steepings are longer.

There are some other aspects that come to my mind:

a) The water will probably cool down at a different pace in two differently sized pots. The tempo of cooling down is rather important I think - e.g., when I brewed green tea in a thick clay gaiwan with porcelain on the inside, it came out much worse than when brewed in thin-walled jingdezhen porcelain gaiwan.

b) I am not sure if the tea particles will spread in the same way in both teapots - even though there is more time with a larger pot, the particles will have to move in a different, larger environment.

Still, I don't think that 100ml and 150ml is a huge difference (after all, though it won't be exactly the same, you may fill the 150ml from 2/3). If we are speaking of 100ml vs 350ml, that would be a large difference.

P.S. I just coded a small simulation to support the hypothesis b) and it seems that it does have some impact, but not really a big one. It sort of says that if you take 5 times larger pot and give it 5 times more time, the resulting tea will be some 8-15% weaker. If you take a pot which is 50% larger (as in your case), the difference is quite small...
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Re: Reasons for smaller volumes?

Postby Poohblah » May 10th, '12, 11:54

Usually higher leaf/water ratio results in a stronger flavor as well.
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Re: Reasons for smaller volumes?

Postby tingjunkie » May 11th, '12, 00:36

I think TIM sums it up very nicely here... http://themandarinstea.blogspot.com/201 ... g-tea.html

Like he says, for some of us the goal is to push teas to their limit. It's like standing on the edge of a cliff; being too far from the edge is easy and boring, but hanging your toes over is a thrill. If you go too far and step past the breaking point, all is lost. A real master can balance right on the very edge. [As for me, I often trip over my own feet and fall one way or the other, but at least I'm trying. :lol: ]
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Re: Reasons for smaller volumes?

Postby yanom » May 11th, '12, 05:07

Poohblah wrote:Usually higher leaf/water ratio results in a stronger flavor as well.

I don't understand how that can result in a stronger flavour if you're shortening the brew time. Yes, one particular flavour could dominate in brew 1, a different one in brew 2, a third in brew 3, whereas a longer brew would cause them to be blended together. And I'm not denying that changing the variables in order to more clearly delineate those flavours can be fun & worthwile, as tingjunkie describes. But I can't see how the overall strength of flavour would be at all stronger -- and I don't think that's been my experience.
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Re: Reasons for smaller volumes?

Postby tingjunkie » May 11th, '12, 13:03

Sounds like your thoughts are mostly theoretical at this stage yanom. Time to grab a small gaiwan and get to the laboratory. :wink:
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Re: Reasons for smaller volumes?

Postby teaisme » May 11th, '12, 14:09

I think quality of leaf has a lot to play in multiple short infusions.

You can pack gaiwan full of sub par leaf and do flash infusions and get no where. Then you can do the same with a tea crafted for such short heavy packed infusions and be amazed beyond words at all the notes an extended infusion with less leaf could not provide.
And then there are teas that are good ones but just not meant for heavy packed short steeps.

Have fun figuring out what works for you :mrgreen:
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Re: Reasons for smaller volumes?

Postby Poohblah » May 11th, '12, 16:11

yanom wrote:
Poohblah wrote:Usually higher leaf/water ratio results in a stronger flavor as well.

I don't understand how that can result in a stronger flavour if you're shortening the brew time.

There's a saying I've heard a couple times from Chinese tea drinkers: If you want a stronger brew, adjust the leaf, not the water.

You can brew a few leaves in a big mug all day if you want, but they'll never be as flavorful as one flash steep in a full gaiwan. The more leaves you have, the more flavor you have. Adding more water will dilute the flavor.
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Re: Reasons for smaller volumes?

Postby yanom » May 11th, '12, 21:17

You can brew a few leaves in a big mug all day if you want, but they'll never be as flavorful as one flash steep in a full gaiwan.

Sure, this I agree with because the differences we're talking about are enormous (water/leaf proportions, brew time). But I'm thinking more about the example I gave of 100ml versus 150ml. And that's partly because I've got pots in those sizes! As it happens, I like the smaller size for good oolong but for equivalent aged pu'er find the larger size works fine -- and would only use a smaller size if I wanted to work some pu'er really hard in a kind of 'tea-hobby' way.
I've been drinking various Chinese teas for the last 10 years or so and until the last couple of years only ever used a gaiwan, but then again it's only more recently that I've moved away from the much simpler oolongs and pu'ers that I started with.
Anyway the reason for the question was to try to find some logic behind some of the advice about smaller sizes and to try to understand why, for me, it works for oolong but not for pu'er. Maybe unconsciously influenced by tradition! :?
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Re: Reasons for smaller volumes?

Postby TIM » May 12th, '12, 06:17

http://www.chinaheritagequarterly.org/f ... &issue=029

This might help you understanding some basic tea tasting. Enjoy
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Re: Reasons for smaller volumes?

Postby yanom » May 12th, '12, 06:56

Thanks. It's nice to read further reassurance that brewing pu'er tea gongfu style is a very new invention.
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Re: Reasons for smaller volumes?

Postby tingjunkie » May 12th, '12, 20:31

yanom wrote:Anyway the reason for the question was to try to find some logic behind some of the advice about smaller sizes and to try to understand why, for me, it works for oolong but not for pu'er. Maybe unconsciously influenced by tradition! :?


Ok, I think I'm understanding your question a bit better now. As I'm sure you've probably figured out, not all Chinese teas across the board will be "best" by using the same weight in a 100ml brewing vessel. The key is finding the optimal amount of leaf/water ratio for any given tea. Of course, this amount will change for every single tea drinker out there. It's all subjective. When I brew, my goal is usually to push teas to their limit. Occasionally I do like to brew a slightly more relaxed style, especially if I'm not in the mood to really focus and give a tea the attention it deserves, but otherwise I want to bring each tea right up to the line of maxing out on flavor, mouthfeel, aftertaste, energy, etc.

If I brew 15g of traditionally high roasted Shui Xian in a 100ml pot, or if I brew 8g in the same pot, I will get different impressions of the tea. There may even be some things I notice in the lighter brew that get lost in the heavy one, but for me, I'd be missing out on much more by taking it easy. That's my personality though. I enjoy taking my hobbies and passions all the way to their limit. (One reason I'll never try hard drugs or let myself get really into alcohol! :lol: ) Now, my "limit" with high mountain Taiwanese oolongs will be substantially less leaf. For 100ml I think about 5-6g tastes best there. Any more than that, and I feel I have exceeded the teas limit because it will get too bitter and the higher floral notes will be lost.

The other huge reason to use smaller pots is this- good tea is expensive! If I'm brewing for myself, I'd rather use a 60ml pot for yancha than a 120ml pot because I just halved the cost of that pot of tea. When teas start approaching $1+ per gram, that could save me $5-$10 dollars per pot.
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Re: Reasons for smaller volumes?

Postby Drax » May 12th, '12, 21:19

*sigh* I have a sneaky suspicion that nobody has really understood what yanom is really asking.

I'll use an abstraction and we'll see if this is what he wanted to know...

Let's say 5g of tea leaf has "1000 flavor points" in it.

We put the 5g of tea in a 100 mL pot and we steep it 10 times for roughly "100 flavor points" in each steep. Of course, it doesn't work that way, likely it would be something like 90, 130, 130, 110, 100, 90, etc, etc...

Now we put another 5g of tea in a 150 mL pot. But we only steep it 7 times, and at longer times than when we did it in the 100 mL pot -- so we're actually trying to get roughly "150 flavor points" in each steep. Of course, we get fewer total steeps (but we have more volume of tea per steep).

Note that what I've done is try to get the "flavor points:volume" ratio to be the same between the two methods -- which makes the assumption that this ratio is what would make two cups brewed in different fashions taste the same (science people will notice the similarity to "molarity," a way to measure concentration of a solution).

Thus, assuming that the laws of extraction and diffusion work that way, why choose one method over the other?

I could be way off the mark here, so I suppose I'll stop there and see if that was closer to the original question... :mrgreen:
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Re: Reasons for smaller volumes?

Postby TIM » May 12th, '12, 21:22

tingjunkie wrote:
yanom wrote:Anyway the reason for the question was to try to find some logic behind some of the advice about smaller sizes and to try to understand why, for me, it works for oolong but not for pu'er. Maybe unconsciously influenced by tradition! :?


Ok, I think I'm understanding your question a bit better now. As I'm sure you've probably figured out, not all Chinese teas across the board will be "best" by using the same weight in a 100ml brewing vessel. The key is finding the optimal amount of leaf/water ratio for any given tea. Of course, this amount will change for every single tea drinker out there. It's all subjective. When I brew, my goal is usually to push teas to their limit. Occasionally I do like to brew a slightly more relaxed style, especially if I'm not in the mood to really focus and give a tea the attention it deserves, but otherwise I want to bring each tea right up to the line of maxing out on flavor, mouthfeel, aftertaste, energy, etc.

If I brew 15g of traditionally high roasted Shui Xian in a 100ml pot, or if I brew 8g in the same pot, I will get different impressions of the tea. There may even be some things I notice in the lighter brew that get lost in the heavy one, but for me, I'd be missing out on much more by taking it easy. That's my personality though. I enjoy taking my hobbies and passions all the way to their limit. (One reason I'll never try hard drugs or let myself get really into alcohol! :lol: ) Now, my "limit" with high mountain Taiwanese oolongs will be substantially less leaf. For 100ml I think about 5-6g tastes best there. Any more than that, and I feel I have exceeded the teas limit because it will get too bitter and the higher floral notes will be lost.

The other huge reason to use smaller pots is this- good tea is expensive! If I'm brewing for myself, I'd rather use a 60ml pot for yancha than a 120ml pot because I just halved the cost of that pot of tea. When teas start approaching $1+ per gram, that could save me $5-$10 dollars per pot.


Im surprise that you can still post a meaningful comment, after 8 rounds of Kung Fooing!
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Re: Reasons for smaller volumes?

Postby gingkoseto » May 12th, '12, 21:50

Drax wrote:*sigh* I have a sneaky suspicion that nobody has really understood what yanom is really asking.

I'll use an abstraction and we'll see if this is what he wanted to know...

Let's say 5g of tea leaf has "1000 flavor points" in it.

We put the 5g of tea in a 100 mL pot and we steep it 10 times for roughly "100 flavor points" in each steep. Of course, it doesn't work that way, likely it would be something like 90, 130, 130, 110, 100, 90, etc, etc...

Now we put another 5g of tea in a 150 mL pot. But we only steep it 7 times, and at longer times than when we did it in the 100 mL pot -- so we're actually trying to get roughly "150 flavor points" in each steep. Of course, we get fewer total steeps (but we have more volume of tea per steep).

Note that what I've done is try to get the "flavor points:volume" ratio to be the same between the two methods -- which makes the assumption that this ratio is what would make two cups brewed in different fashions taste the same (science people will notice the similarity to "molarity," a way to measure concentration of a solution).

Thus, assuming that the laws of extraction and diffusion work that way, why choose one method over the other?

I could be way off the mark here, so I suppose I'll stop there and see if that was closer to the original question... :mrgreen:


I'm not sure if what you said is what yanom asked. But I think I understand what you said, and here is my comment. :D

Imagine there is flavor A that has faster infusion rate, say, 10 flavor points coming out in every 10 seconds. There is a flavor B that has a slower infusion rate, say, 2 flavor points coming out in every 10 seconds. Now we assume the flavors come out at a constant rate no matter what the leaf water ratio is (not accurate assumption but I guess it's often close to the reality).

Then by gongfu-ing for 10 seconds, you get a good deal of A and little B. By large volume and long infusion, you get almost equal amount of A and B (assuming in long infusions, the leaf releases all of the A flavor and no more is coming out).

Then imagine A is a good flavor (fruity, floral, whatever), and B is a less preferred flavor (bitter, astringent...). Then you get a better deal with gongfu method. You will manage to extract as much A as possible, but only 1/5 amount of B. In this case you would prefer gongfu.

Sometimes when A and B have equal infusion rate, gongfu and non-gongfu may not make a big difference. An example is some black tea with chopped leaves.

When B is barely available, gongfu may not hold a big advantages, or may even have disadvantages. An example is early spring whole leaf/bud green tea.

Oh my goodness this is fun! :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:
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