Vessel Too Small To Brew Oolong Properly?

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Jun 19th, '15, 14:12
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Vessel Too Small To Brew Oolong Properly?

by bambooforest » Jun 19th, '15, 14:12

On a few occasions I've heard people say that if your brewing vessel's too small it won't brew oolong properly.

The following is a gaiwan I use daily for oolong: http://www.dragonteahouse.biz/feng-qing ... -69-fl-oz/

It's advertised at 50 ml for practical use, but I think it may be closer to 60 ml for practical use.

Just curious what people's opinion's are. At what point is a gaiwan/teapot so small that it won't make a proper cup of tea? And this is assuming one is making tea gongfu style.

It should be recognized, though, that while there is more room in a bigger vessel, you're also going to end up using more tea leaf too.

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Jun 19th, '15, 15:23
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Re: Vessel Too Small To Brew Oolong Properly?

by wyardley » Jun 19th, '15, 15:23

I do find it tricky in certain cases, though a 60 ml gaiwan has always been Ok for me, especially since the opening (and even the base) will typically be large.

When you get into a more spherical shaped pot, a 40-50 ml pot can be difficult to put certain teas in (for example, when the leaf size is longer than the pot is wide at the base). I think at that point, you a) need to be careful about the volume of dry leaf, especially if you're choosing the amount of tea by eye, and b) you may want to consider crushing some of the leaf (not sure what book this is sourced from, but kyarazen's site has some ideas of how to do this and some possible ideas of why: http://www.kyarazen.com/chaozhou-gongfu-tea/). While ball-shaped leaves will be easier to load in than wiry ones, you will need to be more careful with the ball-shaped ones to not end up putting in too much leaf.

I have recently brewed yancha (medium length leaf) in a 40 or 50 ml shui ping with better results than in the past.

In my (very limited) understanding, I think you do actually want some compression of the leaf with certain styles of tea brewing (vs. the usual idea that the tea needs to have room to expand completely), but too much may cause problems.

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Re: Vessel Too Small To Brew Oolong Properly?

by debunix » Jun 19th, '15, 15:48

I happily brew up oolongs in pots and gaiwans that size, and even some very long spiraling Dan Cong leaves can work--if not too many of them, and I let them stick up out of the rim until they are wetted and then gently guide them down into the pot without breaking the leaves. I don't crowd Dan Congs but often crowd some TKYs.

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Re: Vessel Too Small To Brew Oolong Properly?

by tingjunkie » Jun 19th, '15, 17:40

Really depends on the oolong type, as others have mentioned. Some twisted oolongs can have dry leaves up to 2" long, whereas a rolled oolong is small enough to go in to any pot, but then will need room to expand a certain amount depending on its firing level. A 60ml gaiwan should be able to handle any kind of oolong though, it's just a matter of not over-stuffing it so that the leaves don't overflow too much when they expand.

My smallest teapots are 40ml. I could imagine going down to 30ml, but below that it's not even enough tea for one person. In theory I could use a 20ml pot, but to double-brew just to get a single tiny teacup? No thanks.

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Re: Vessel Too Small To Brew Oolong Properly?

by wyardley » Jun 19th, '15, 17:43

Maybe it's the ones I own, but I've also found that the small pots I've used tend to lose heat quickly.

FWIW, my personal opinion and experience is that 60-80 ml is usually plenty small. Though at this very second, I'm brewing a rou gui in a ~ 40 ml shui ping.

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Re: Vessel Too Small To Brew Oolong Properly?

by BioHorn » Jun 19th, '15, 23:35

wyardley wrote:Maybe it's the ones I own, but I've also found that the small pots I've used tend to lose heat quickly.

FWIW, my personal opinion and experience is that 60-80 ml is usually plenty small. Though at this very second, I'm brewing a rou gui in a ~ 40 ml shui ping.
I agree with Will. Once things get too small, the attention needed to keep things hot goes way up.

That said, maybe a tea that is not fussy would work better. I have been brewing yancha in a 40-45ml and trying to maximize the heat. Sometimes I will fill a small dish with water and nuke it hard in the microwave before beginning the session. It seems to keep things hot hot for the first few brews.

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Re: Vessel Too Small To Brew Oolong Properly?

by William » Jun 20th, '15, 11:16

I found that to keep small teapots hot enough was rather easy .. just never pour water over them.

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Re: Vessel Too Small To Brew Oolong Properly?

by tingjunkie » Jun 20th, '15, 19:26

BioHorn wrote:Sometimes I will fill a small dish with water and nuke it hard in the microwave before beginning the session.
Why not just fill the dish with boiling water from the kettle?

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Re: Vessel Too Small To Brew Oolong Properly?

by kyarazen » Jun 21st, '15, 13:30

small is good :D i find 67ml-80ml the best size for "gongfu", especially the 67ml size. small means faster cooling, and you can keep temp up by preheating, dousing with hot water over etc, and with the short steeps of gongfu (5-15 seconds), the margin for error is large enough for that size.

at this sizes too, the shape has significant effects on the leaf unravelling and expansion, and offers another parameter for control~~

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Re: Vessel Too Small To Brew Oolong Properly?

by William » Jun 21st, '15, 14:51

kyarazen wrote:small is good :D i find 67ml-80ml the best size for "gongfu", especially the 67ml size. small means faster cooling, and you can keep temp up by preheating, dousing with hot water over etc, and with the short steeps of gongfu (5-15 seconds), the margin for error is large enough for that size.
Pouring hot water over a hot teapot does not make the heat to evaporate quicker?

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by bonescwa » Jun 21st, '15, 18:37

I've also wondered about that. Some people say it causes the pot to cool faster... but it definitely seems to make the tea hotter to me.

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Re:

by William » Jun 21st, '15, 19:22

bonescwa wrote:I've also wondered about that. Some people say it causes the pot to cool faster... but it definitely seems to make the tea hotter to me.
From what I saw with my smaller teapots, once hot water is poured over a teapot, the tea becomes hotter only for a couple of seconds, 10~15 at most. After the initial increase of heat, I found all the teapots to cool much more quicker.

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Re: Vessel Too Small To Brew Oolong Properly?

by ethan » Jun 21st, '15, 20:35

It just strikes me wrong, this pouring hot water over teaware routine. Don't do it, won't do it, but will enjoy tea including gong fu.

There is a tea for every vessel & a way for every tea-drinker to make his cup right for him.

As to the observations of heat=- warm water in an ice tray becomes ice quicker than cold water. Related?

Cheers.

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Re: Vessel Too Small To Brew Oolong Properly?

by kyarazen » Jun 21st, '15, 22:52

William wrote:
kyarazen wrote:small is good :D i find 67ml-80ml the best size for "gongfu", especially the 67ml size. small means faster cooling, and you can keep temp up by preheating, dousing with hot water over etc, and with the short steeps of gongfu (5-15 seconds), the margin for error is large enough for that size.
Pouring hot water over a hot teapot does not make the heat to evaporate quicker?
in principle it will cause heat loss in the longer run due to evaporative cooling, but during the brewing phase for gongfu, the steeps are very short, when hot water is poured onto the teapot, as long as the hot water is warmer than the environment's room temperature, it will reduce the rate of heatloss from the pot during the pouring phase.

the sudden burst of intense heat and then rapid cooling is a nice big window for gongfu proper. you get into problems when you cannot cool fast enough, i.e. tea over extracted, rear heavy bitterness. and yet if the thermal spike in the front is not hot enough, the aromatics doesnt come alive into the brew. gongfu is not mythical taiji or voodoo, its just understanding parameters and gaining control :D

dousing the pot with hot water had been ongoing for centuries for the chinese, that was even pre-heating the pot, drying it, using the pot to bake leaves, etc. helps it develop a patina too :)
Last edited by kyarazen on Jun 21st, '15, 22:53, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Vessel Too Small To Brew Oolong Properly?

by BW85 » Jun 21st, '15, 22:52

A few months back I did my own experiments with pouring or not pouring hot water over the pot using an infrared thermometer to watch the surface temperature of the pot. Using two identical 80ml shuipings. Filled both with boiling water, poured additional boiling water over one. Did this 5 times back to back trying to control the variables the best I could. The pot showered with hot water remained 3°-5°F hotter at 45seconds to a minute.

And besides, if we're talking about brewing with very short infusions of 5 to 15 seconds, pouring hot water over a small pot to warm it up is only going to be beneficial, even if it did start to cool faster after that point

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