05 July 2012

Tea, Oh the love of it.

I have been a tea drinker since about 8th grade. When most kids reached for soda I went to the tea kettle and got my caffeine kick.
My mother drank coffee by the pot. I always loved the smell of it brewing but never liked the taste, well until I had 2 children under the age of 4 in the house. I am afraid to say that there are some days that I may start out with my cup of Earl Grey followed by a cup of Star Bucks.
But I love tea, hot, cold bitter or sweet. There is something relaxing about putting the kids to bed and curling up with a hot cup of tea and reading a book before bed.
I have learned a few things along the way. Like temperature matters when steeping. Also the length of time that you steep will make the best tea bitter.
In my learning I often looked to the country that we often think of as tea drinkers, China. With our move to Japan as well I have learned their methods are easy and are tried and true.
So here is my break down:

Traditional Chinese Method: The Chinese traditionally distinguish five stages of how water can come to boil for tea. James Norwood Pratt in his ‘The New Tea Lover’s Treasury”says: “The Chinese distinguish five stages of tea water as the boiling point is approached: “shrimp eyes,” the first tiny bubbles that start to appear on the surface of the kettle water, “crab eyes,” the secondary, larger bubbles, then “fish eyes,” followed by “rope of pearls,” and finally “raging torrent.” If you have a glass tea kettle you can watch the bubbles through the glass and if a standard kettle, take a peek by opening the lid. The kind of bubbles correspond with the following types of teas and their appropriate brewing temperature:
Shrimp Eyes: Tiny bubbles the size of a pin head that resemble shrimp eyes begin to rise to the surface and pop. A slow and gentle vapor of steam will show. At 155°-174°F this temperature is ideal for delicate green teas.
Crab Eyes: Water that gets hotter will then produce larger growing bubbles about the size of crab eyes. Vertical streams of steam rise up during this stage. At around 175°F this temperature is perfect for brewing white, delicate green and greener oolong teas.
Fish Eyes: Bubbles resembling fish eyes (about the size of an average pearl) rise to the top of the kettle as the water heats up. More steam is present moving in thick columns than in the Crab Eyes stage and the kettle will make louder noises. At 175°-180°F this temperature is ideal for green tea or white teas. However, remember that if your green tea tastes bitter, the water is too hot.
Rope of Pearls: At 195°-205°F, a steady stream of large pearl size bubbles stream to the water’s surface. This temperature is ideal for black, some oolong and pu-erh teas.
Raging Torrent: Water that sounds like a raging torrent with swirling and rolling bubbles is called ‘ruined water’. At 212°F this is considered to be de-oxgyenated and flat or what is traditionally called ‘old man water’. Please note though that 212°F or a full boil is recommended for herbal tisanes to bring out the herb’s full flavor. Exceptions to do exist though.

Most of this was taken from a wonderful website Mighty Leaf. Their are many wonderful resources out there to gain information from this was just the one that made sense to me.

Let me know are you a coffee or tea drinker, and if you drink tea how do you brew it?

God Bless,
Kat