THE PERFECT CUP
As with the quest for the Holy Grail, finding the Perfect Cup of tea remains an unrealized dream (even the French can’t claim to have done it.) In fact THE Perfect Cup doesn’t really exist. But we continue the search nonetheless so here are some suggestions, pointers and factoids to speed you on your way.
Pound for Pound
Pound for pound, tea and coffee are poles apart. A standard cup of quality loose tea uses 3-6 grams of leaves, depending on preferred strength. One preparation of Tillerman tea generally can be brewed three or more times if you are using a Yixing pot or a gaiwan. By contrast, a standard cup of coffee requires 30 grams and the beans can only be brewed once. One ounce (28 grams) of tea will make as many as 9 – 20 cups while one ounce of coffee will (barely) brew just 1 cup.
Keep It Cool
Store tea in a cool environment, but avoid the refrigerator as teas readily absorb other odors. Tillerman oolongs enjoy a shelf life of 12 – 18 months. Generally, the less oxidized the tea, the more perishable it is. Oolong teas, which vary in oxidation, vary in shelf life.
Just Add Water
Tea is possibly the easiest beverage to enjoy; just add water! Remember: tea first, water second. Tea is most aromatic and tasty when hot water is poured over the leaves. The flow of water aerates the tea, releasing aromas and flavor. That goodness won’t emerge if the tea is scooped into pre-poured water. Spend some time looking for good water that enhances the taste of your tea (after all, tea is 99% water) but don’t use distilled water. The lack of minerals will leave your tea tasting flat.
The 3 H’s
How much? How long? How hot?
There are no firm rules to brewing the perfect cup of tea; there are merely suggestions (although we suggest you begin with the suggestions.) For gong fu brewing in a gaiwan or Yixing pot, use 6 grams of tea per 100 ml of water. Brew for +/- 40 seconds depending upon the tea. For an 8 oz. cup, start with 3 – 6 grams of tea per cup (that’s one or two heaping teaspoonfuls for most teas – but using a gram scale is best.) Steeping time will vary but for most oolongs we think 60 – 90 seconds is appropriate. Finally we think that oolong tea is at its most fragrant using water heated to about 195°F (90°C) but many producers in Taiwan recommend fully boiling water. If you use boiling water, cut the initial steep to about 15 seconds. The 3 H’s are all interrelated; more tea, shorter time; hotter water, less tea, and so forth. Experiment – you’ll soon find the way you like best.
Claims about caffeine content in a particular tea are rough guesses at best. Myths and half-truths abound. Countless variables contribute to the amount of caffeine in your cup. The particular pluck of tea leaf affects caffeine content; the younger the leaf, the more caffeine it contains. Moreover, the time and season of harvest affects the caffeine level in the leaf. Water temperature plays a part; generally hotter water extracts more caffeine while cooler water extracts less. And brewing time counts; the longer the brew time, the more caffeine in your cup. However, very long infusions often extract other elements from the tea that mix with the initial release of caffeine and may actually reduce the net amount of caffeine in your cup.
These fluctuating factors make it difficult to determine exactly how much caffeine is in a particular cup of tea. All we can say for sure is that tea does contain caffeine. And if it didn’t, tea would not have evolved over the centuries into the civilized beverage we enjoy today.
Looking for a decaffeinated option?
Tillerman Tea does not support decaffeinated products because the decaffeination process guts most of the goodness from tea. Tea is decaffeinated in two ways; either using a solution of ethyl acetate to remove the caffeine or by using super critical CO2. Both methods remove large quantities of antioxidants from the tea; ethyl acetate over 80% and CO2 about 60%. The much preferred CO2 method is also much more expensive. As a result, and somewhat counter-intuitively, CO2 tends to be used only on inexpensive teas so the cost can be spread over a large volume. And remember, “decaffeinated” does not mean no caffeine; some caffeine will still be found in the tea leaves.