Western style brewing guide
Also known as “hot water brewing”, the common practice of this style likely came about from the colonial Dutch-English mode of preparing tea, involving black tea taken with milk and sugar. The name and the tea brewing style has remained something of a standard in Commonwealth countries, perhaps owing to the enduring tradition of high tea.
No matter how you call it, this brewing method involves placing several teaspoon-measures worth of tea leaves into a teapot, kyusu or other vessel, and covering with a high volume of hot water. After several minutes, the tea is strained and served. All of the nuances of the leaf, colour and flavour, are expressed within 1 or 2 long infusions, usually up to 5 minutes long.
This method is different, not necessarily inferior, to the staggered-brewing styles of Senchado and Gong Fu Cha. As with all things tea, it comes down to preference and practicality. This style can handle anything you like, from a chunk of pu’erh through to a fine white tea.
2g tea per 180ml water, or 1 teaspoon per small cup
Black, and pu’erh/fermented teas are ideally steeped at 100°C, and should be steeped for a minimum of 90 seconds, through to no more than 5 minutes.
Green and white teas are ideally steeped at 70-80°C for 90 seconds through to no more than 2 minutes.
Lightly oxidised oolongs can be steeped at 85-90°C for up to 2 minutes, while heavily oxidised as well as roasted oolongs can be brewed at 95°C/100°C for up to 5 minutes.
Preheat the teapot and the drinking vessels by filling with boiling water up to a third. Wait 30 seconds, then discard the water. Pre-warming the teapot helps to maintain the correct temperature.
Put tea leaves in the teapot.
Pour the water over the leaves. While steeping, cover with a lid to ensure the aromas do not escape.
Stir the leaves briskly at least once, to distribute the colour and flavour from the leaves.
Once the tea is ready, remove the strainer (if used) and immediately pour the tea liquor into serving vessels.
Use only fresh tea leaves, preferably from a recently opened package.
Ensure that only filtered, freshly drawn and recently boiled water is used. Never reboil water, as this will flatten the taste.
When selecting a teapot, be sure that it is adequately sized for the amount of tea that you wish to serve, and is large enough to accomodate the expansion of the leaves. The rule of thumb is 200ml for every cup, so a 500ml teapot will amply serve two cups.
When brewing all teas, but particularly ball-shape oolongs and shotty teas such as gunpowder green tea, benefit from stirring at intervals prior to serving. This helps to agitate the leaves and release more flavour.