Making tea in a teapot: pretty straightforward, but like cooking, the process of making tea is a definitely a craft. It is a physical skill that is comparable from one tea lover to the next.
You can read about how it’s done from writers, or watch the process from the tea masters. The real fun, however, begins when you start doing it yourself, learning as you go along, refining the technique continually.
Here are nine steps to making tea with a ceramic or earthenware teapot, including their Chinese terms:
1. ‘Delight in viewing the tea’ (赏茶)
2. ‘Throw in the tea’ (投茶)
3. ‘Moisten, lubricate the tea’ (润茶)
4. ‘Pour in the hot water’ (入汤)
5. ‘Drench the tea pot’ (淋壶 )
6. ‘Decant the hot water’ (出汤)
7. ‘Distribute the tea into small tea cups’ (分茶)
8. ‘Present the tea respectfully’ (奉茶)
9. ‘Savour the tea’ (品茶)
Step 3: ‘Moisten, lubricate the tea’ refers to the tea leaves being ‘washed’ or ‘blanched’ before the water is discarded and ready for the actual infusion. Blanching the tea leaves:
‘opens up the dried leaves so their constituents more readily infuse into water to become the tea that we drink. This is particularly helpful when the surface of the leaf remains quite intact, i.e. not cracked and twisted during production processing.’
Post-fermented teas like Pu’er:
need to be blanched before actual infusions that the resultant liquor can be much clearer and distinctive tasting. Blanching rids the coating of residual microbe matters on the surface of the leaves. These microbes are indispensable to the process of post-fermentation, but they are in the way of a clearer taste. That is why Pu’ers are always blanched twice.
Step 5: The purpose of ‘drenching’ the tea pot with boiling water is to raise the temperature of the water inside the teapot.
Step 6: ‘Decanting the hot water’ refers to pouring off the water in the teapot into a ceramic or porcelain tea bowl, and then pouring into small tea cups.
Step 9: The Chinese character for savour ‘品’ consists of three ‘mouths.’ Drinking tea is an act of mindfulness that starts with the eyes, then the nose, and finally, the mouth.
Compressed Pu’er tea should be loosened and ‘woken up.’ ‘Waking up the tea’ (醒茶) means that compressed or well-preserved Pu’er loose teas should be exposed to the air before being brewed. This is similar to letting red wine ‘breathe’ to enhance the taste. Loosening of the compressed leaves is usually performed with a small knife. The time period for awakening the tea leaves is between 10-15 days.
‘How to make Pu’er Tea’ in Yunnan’s Pu’er Tea (云南普洱茶), Wang Yingxin (ed), Yunnan Jishu Chubanshe, 2006: 25.
‘Why blanch the tea leaves’ (view here)
Image Credit: Baidu