Due to the diverse varieties of tea, significant differences in water quality, variations in brewing techniques, and the individual touch each person brings to tea preparation, the color, aroma, and taste of tea can vary widely.
Even with high-quality tea, good water, and proper tea utensils, achieving a great cup of tea can be challenging without mastering the art and technique of tea brewing. To brew a great cup of tea, five essential conditions need to be met:
- Water is the mother of tea, akin to the role of water for fish. Good water typically meets the standards of "source, vitality, sweetness, clarity, and lightness." Renowned tea sage Lu Yu advocated using water from mountains, rivers, or wells based on their respective qualities. Modern scientific experiments suggest that spring water is the best, followed by deep well water, distilled water, and tap water being the least preferred.
- The temperature of water determines the color, aroma, and taste of tea, as well as the release of chemical components from tea leaves. The water temperature should be adjusted based on the type of tea and the raw materials used in tea production. For example, high-quality delicate green teas like Longjing or Xinyang Maojian are best brewed with water cooled to 80 degrees Celsius, while oolong teas may require pre-warming of tea utensils before brewing.
- The brewing time and frequency depend on factors such as tea type, water temperature, the quantity of tea used, and personal tea-drinking habits. For daily consumption of red and green teas, using about 3 grams of dry tea per cup, steeping in approximately 200 milliliters of boiling water, covering for 4 to 5 minutes is a common practice.
- The amount of tea leaves used for brewing depends on the type of tea, the size of tea utensils, and the consumer's preferences. Generally, for home brewing, it is recommended to use 1 gram of tea leaves per 50 to 60 milliliters of water. The specific quantity may vary for different types of tea.
- The mood or mindset of the person brewing the tea is a crucial factor. Brewing tea is not just a technical skill but also an art. A calm and positive mindset contributes to producing the best quality and authentic taste.
In addition to managing water quality, temperature, time, tea quantity, and mood, a proper and elegant brewing method is also important. This involves eight steps: warming the teapot, warming the cups, placing the tea leaves, high pouring, skimming foam, low pouring, smelling the aroma, and savoring the taste.
In conclusion, brewing tea is not just a skill; it is an art and a field of study that enthusiasts and connoisseurs should delve into deeply. Respect for tea is a form of cultivation.
Since ancient times, China has had the tradition of serving tea to guests. In the Zhou Dynasty over 3000 years ago, tea was already considered a gift and tribute. In today's fast-paced society, where the pace of life is increasing, the joy of life is gradually diminishing. To relax both body and mind in today's society, one can try slowing down the pace of life, learning to drink tea, appreciate tea, and serve tea.
Tea serving can be a way to entertain guests and an important part of social interaction. Tea-serving etiquette includes four main steps: preparing tea, taking tea, serving tea, and replenishing tea. During the tea preparation stage, tea utensils such as teacups, teapots, trays, and containers holding tea leaves should be kept clean. After guests have seated themselves, inquire whether they have any specific preferences for the tea they would like to drink.
When serving tea, use special utensils like tea spoons, according to the type of tea leaves, and try to avoid using hands to prevent contamination. When serving tea, the teacup should be placed in front of the guest's right hand. When offering tea, the tea should be presented with both hands, and the fingers should not touch the rim of the cup.
When replenishing tea, lift the teacup from the table, stand with one foot in front of the other, pour the tea into the guest's cup, demonstrating refined manners. When engaged in conversation while drinking tea, it is necessary to add hot water in a timely manner to show respect for the guests.
When serving tea, there are four details to pay special attention to: offering tea with a shallow cup, saying "sorry" when presenting the tea, maintaining a pleasant and smiling expression, and following a specific order based on positions and ages.
Tea Storage Techniques:
Tea leaves are highly absorbent and need to be stored in a dry and odor-free environment to prevent them from deteriorating. Therefore, the choice of tea canisters is crucial.
Tea storage methods vary based on the type of tea, whether it's bulk tea or household tea, and whether it's unfermented, semi-fermented, or fully fermented. For bulk tea storage, methods such as lime block storage, charcoal storage, vacuum nitrogen filling, and freezer storage can be employed.
For household tea storage, five common methods include airtight storage in iron, tin, colored glass bottles, or ceramic containers, storing with drying agents like lime or charcoal, refrigeration below 5°C, insulation in a well-sealed thermos, and storage in odor-free, new, and non-porous plastic food bags.
Different types of tea, such as unfermented, semi-fermented, and fully fermented teas, have specific storage requirements. Unfermented teas like white, yellow, and green teas are highly sensitive to light, moisture, and odors. They should be stored in shaded, cool, and well-ventilated places or kept in the freezer.
Semi-fermented teas like oolong teas share characteristics of both unfermented and fully fermented teas. They should be protected from sunlight, moisture, and odors similar to unfermented teas.
Fully fermented teas like black teas have already gone through the entire fermentation process and don't require protection from moisture and sunlight. However, sealing the tea canister is necessary to prevent exposure to odors.
In general, the basic rule for tea storage is to keep tea leaves in an airtight, light-proof, dry, low-temperature, and odor-free container. The better the sealing performance of the container, the easier it is to maintain the quality of tea leaves, and the longer the tea leaves can be stored.
In summary, the storage of tea leaves is the foundation for brewing and enjoying good tea. The quality of tea leaves directly affects the performance and taste of tea, making proper tea storage essential for tea enthusiasts. Drinking tea is not a blind preference; when you understand tea, tea naturally understands you. Knowing tea is understanding life.
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