A number of tea masters and merchants recommend brewing techniques as guidelines, and in the same breath say, “But these are just signposts. You have to know the tea.”
By learning the nuances of one tea, you pick up the secrets of others. This is the art of the tea connoisseur.
For example, J-Tea’s Mi Xiang oolong, smells a little bitter after the rinse, and when brewed for 60 seconds, the tea exhibits a harsh edge and an almost dry mouth feel. When brewed for 20 seconds, however, it’s a really fine, smooth tea with complexity, character, and even a wry sweetness. Where did the bitterness go? It seems to have been swallowed by the black hole created by the absent 40 seconds.
The same goes for the Bamboo Fragrance Puerh from The Phoenix Collection and a number of other teas that I now recognize as a category when I smell them….the sharp, bitter smell, mingled with other notes like sweetness and smokiness signal a tea that requires a short brewing time. Brew it for only 10-20 seconds and you might not taste any bitterness at all.
This works for Phoenix oolongs, green puerhs, and other teas like J-Tea’s Mi Xiang. So in getting to know the Mi Xiang by spending real time with it, I learned something about a certain quality in tea and what it’s telling me about its brewing requirements.
From there, brewing variables increase: you can experiment with different tea ware or water, leaf quantity, and higher or lower water temperature. Each tea will sing more sweetly or wail a little louder with each slight change.
What are you learning from tea? Let me hear about your tea adventures….