Daniel Lui's Blog

2 Secrets of the Tea Masters

Today, I am sharing two advanced techniques of tea-making and why they make your teas taste so much better. The first is a better way to use your teapots and the second is about water temperature.

Tea masters always have a large selection of Chinese Yixing unglazed clay teapots on hand for every kind of tea (including Oolong Tea, Pu-erh Tea, and White Tea). These are the tools of their trade when making tea the traditional Chinese way called Gong Fu Cha (Tea With Great Skill). Each teapot is designed to be used for a specific type of tea. This chart shows the basic guidelines that are generally used by Gong Fu Cha tea-makers.

The different densities and firing temperatures of the clays used to make Yixing teapots regulate heat and oxygen in different ways which are very important factors in tea-making. Even the shapes of the teapots are designed to optimize the different ways tea leaves expand in water. So a lot of consideration goes into the selection of a Yixing teapot. You can get a real Yixing teapot at a Chinese tea shop for around $25.

Yixing teapots also absorb the oils that give tea its bitter taste. Low-fired teapots are thick and porous and are used for strong and robust teas like Black tea and Pu-erh teas. High-fired teapots are finer, denser and less porous and absorb less oils. These are used for more delicate teas like Green tea, White tea and Oolong teas.

For better tasting tea, try this technique. Use a higher-fired teapot for aged teas that have already mellowed like aged Pu-erh teas and aged Oolongs like Wu Yi Shui Xian or 20 Year Old Iron Buddha and any tea made from tips. Many people would like to drink Green teas like Long Jing Dragon Well and Silver Needle  but don’t like the grassy, bitter taste. This is largely because they use glass or porcelain teapots. Use a high-fired Yixing teapot for these teas which will make them taste sweet.

Water temperature is another important factor in tea-making. The higher the temperature, the faster the tea leaves dissolve but this gives less control over the brewing time. An advanced technique is to find the lowest water temperature possible for the tea you are making. This chart will give you a good starting point:

*Boiling means when the water has just reached a slow boil with big bubbles.

A great accessory that we use every day to control water temperature is the new digital variable temperature kettles. With a little experimentation using different teapots and water temperatures, you will be able to control your tea brewing with more precision and get the very best taste for each brew. You will be amazed at the results. You will also use less tea and save money which will make you happy.

More information about clays, firing temperatures and using Chinese Yixing Teapots can be found in a complete guide here, in the Chinese Tea Shop’s Library.

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    The Rare Chinese Teapot That Is Made From A Mountain –- Really!

    There is much interest in teapots from China and their effect on making tea taste its best.

    The best of these are Yixing teapots made from special rock clay from the Yixing area of China. The best Yixing teapots are called Zisha (Purple Sand Clay, even though they may not necessarily be purple in colour). Zisha teapots are at the heart of the Chinese method of tea-making called Gong Fu Cha (Tea With Great Skill).

    Unlike western pottery teapots which are made from mud clay and turned on a wheel, Yixing Chinese teapots are assembled piece by piece, either by hand or machine or both. These teapots have excellent porosity and heat handling properties for tea making and as they age, they improve the taste of the teas made with them.

    Chinese Teapots ImageThe most rare and special of the Yixing Zisha teapots are known as Zhuni. These teapots are made from clay that comes from a rare rock vein found on some mountain sides and are actually made oversized. They are then fired at a low temperature and for a much longer period than other Zisha teapots. During firing, they shrink to size leaving subtle wrinkles on the clay. This process makes the clay almost glass-like. Most of the teapots break during firing, making the survivors rare and expensive.

    Today the markets abound with “Genuine Zhuni Teapots” but it’s all in the definition. During the Ching Dynasty (1644 – 1912 CE), the rare rock was found in a single mountain and Zhuni teapots were exported to Europe. By the mid ‘70’s the rare rock began to run out and since then, three more regions have been used. The clays from each region give the teapots distinctive properties and all can be said to be Zhuni. But amongst serious collectors, only those from the Ching Dynasty period are the real ones. Getting one of those though is almost impossible.

    When it comes to Zhuni, buyer beware!

    A complete guide to Chinese teapots can be found here,  in The Chinese Tea Shop’s Library — along with information on all types of Chinese tea (including pu-erh teaoolong tea, and white tea).

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