How to make most of your tea with the help of extraction theory

Once you’ve bought your carefully selected high-quality tea, surely you’ll want to maximize the enjoyment in order to for the tea to last as long as possible?

Here I’m giving advice on how to make most of your tea. Let’s start with brewing and different techniques. If you brew your tea the Eastern way (Gong Fu style), that many tea enthusiasts prefer, you’ll get so much more out of your tea! Eastern way of brewing tea can only be made with great quality tea.

Basically the Western way is a way to brew tea in a way that makes 1 decent cup. Then you throw away the leaves. The Eastern way is to really go deep into the different flavors that appear at different times, and this creates multiple good cups! By brewing the same tea shorter many times, you’ll find the richness of complex aromas that unfortunately cannot be extracted simultaneously in just one cup. That means many more cups from the same leaves for you to enjoy! What happens in the Western style brewing is that the gentle, delicate aromas are hidden behind the stronger aromas, because you’re trying to get all the flavors out of the leaves at the same time and this is not possible. You’re brewing only one cup, with less leaves and a longer brewing time.

The basic idea is that different flavors extract at different times. This might seem complex, but I’ll try and explain the best I can: The flavors are extracted in following order: 1. sour 2. sweet 3. bitter. This can be copied to for example coffee, as well. In a body (how much the tea fills your mouth) perspective, you could say the body develops in this order: 1. oily 2. syrupy 3. thin. In the first phase acids and fats are dissolved into the liquid, because they are simple compounds. Sour is a natural flavor in tea, in fact, tea was originally called a sour herb. In flavor terms, it’s better using the term “acidic” than sour. Even floral and fruity flavors are extracted in this phase. Next up are sugars that create sweetness. They have a more complex molecular structure, so water needs more time to extract them. Lastly, if the tea leaves are left in the water for too long, the bitter notes will come up. The water starts breaking the cell walls and fibers that create bitter and dry notes. So number 3 we want to avoid, right?

You can try the Eastern style of brewing tea by brewing your tea the following way, this is just an example, try and find your favorite way of brewing tea:

(You can rinse the leaves in order to optimize the first brewing. Just pour the right temperature water over the leaves and toss the water within a couple of seconds)

  1. Measure 7g of tea leaves in to a brewing vessel (no need to go fancy in here, if you don’t have a small teapot or a bigger filter, just have the leaves in a mug and use whatever’s in your kitchen to filter out the leaves after the time’s up)

  2. Add 150ml of water that is the right temperature for your tea

  3. Brew the tea e.g. for 20 seconds and separate the leaves from the fluid. Taste the tea and how it feels in your mouth. What flavors come up?

  4. Repeat the steps 2 and 3 for 3-8 times, depending on the tea. If the tea is rolled, it takes more brewings to open the leaves. You can add about 5-10 seconds more to the each brewing.

If you like to brew your tea leaves again the next day, the flavor will suffer a bit. But not that much, it’s worth a try in some cases. The best way to preserve your leaves is to leave them on a piece of paper in room temperature. Don’t leave the leaves in moisture (e.g. in a teapot or in a filter) because the extraction will continue and then there’ll be no flavors left for you the next day). Don’t wait too long before re-brewing the leaves, as the oxygen will alter the flavor of the leaves.

Next tip to maximize your tea enjoyment is shelf life. Tea is a fresh produce, and really doesn’t like moisture or air. Keep your tea leaves safe from direct light (sunlight or artificial, so no glass jars or see-through plastic bags), closed in an airtight container or a bag and keep away from odors. No onions or bananas near your teas. Best temperature for tea is room temperature. Often people store tea in the kitchen above the stove and extractor hood. Unfortunately, that place is perhaps the worst place to store your teas, because there’s a lot of moisture and odors. Have your own tea cabinet or shelf in the kitchen instead! If tea is exposed to light or odors, it’ll change its aroma and oxygen shortens the shelf life.

Hope you got several good tips on how to enjoy your tea while it lasts!

Petra AhlmanComment