Saturday Morning Tea

Happy first day of Spring, my friends! Outside my window, birds flit across the bright blue sky, welcoming the season with their lovely songs.

For my morning cuppa, I chose a black tea from Assam in northeastern India. It’s from the Harishpur estate.  The Assam tea growing region is the only area in the world, besides southern China, that has native tea plants.

I chose this particular tea because of some correspondence I had with a customer this past week. He had purchased this tea and found it had an unpleasant burnt aftertaste. So, we decided to do some testing by steeping the leaves at 3, 4 and 5 minutes, respectively. I repeated this test at home this morning.

Usually, I will steep a whole leaf Assam, as this is, for 4-5 minutes, reserving a 3 minute steep for the broken leaf teas. What I found out this morning from my testing is how very individual teas really are and it’s important to experiment with steeping times for each tea.

The 3 minute steep was rich yet quite smooth with some malty and fruity notes. No need for milk or sweetener, the tea tasted wonderful plain. I didn’t detect any aftertaste.

The 4 minute steep, while retaining some of the flavor notes of the 3 min. steep, was starting to exhibit a sharp astringency which I’ve always described as a taste I can feel in my teeth.

The 5 minute steep was incredibly astringent and left a sharp, yes, almost burnt taste in my mouth for awhile. Even when I put a little milk in it, it was still in my opinion, oversteeped.

As you can see, the tea liquor is the same color – a deep amber – no matter how long the steeping time.

One of the things I love about my job (and there are many things!) is that I have the opportunity to converse with tea lovers from all over the country. Each moment is a learning experience and my tea journey is constantly expanding with new knowledge and ways of seeing the world.

I encourage you to be open and experiment with your teas and would love to hear of your experiences!

“How gently the winds blow!  Scarce can these tranquil air currents be called winds.  They seem the very breath of Nature, whispering peace to every living thing.” ~John Muir

4 comments on “Saturday Morning Tea

  1. dave says:

    Thanks for the tip. I will remember to steep for only three minutes when I make this.


    Maybe now is a good time.

  2. artandtea says:

    You’re welcome, Dave! Enjoy!

  3. Bruce (Teaman) says:

    As stated previously, I steep all my Assams for 2 or at most 2.5 minutes to prevent that astringency. Many Assams are broken leaf, some in fact quite finely (CTC). I personally hold the American tea bag industry responsible for turning Americans off to tea by always stating a steep time of 5 minutes on their packaging for tea that is mere dust in a bag. Invariably this will result in bitter tea.

    Your test results also help point out the fallacy of another belief, that steep time determines strength of tea. Yet your 3 cups have the same coloring of brew. I find that beyond a nominal 1 or 2 minutes starting out, it’s quantity of leaf in the steep that determines strength, not length of steep time.

    Thanks for sharing your testing and comments, as always. I’m still amazed you can take Assam tea straight, no sweetener. Hard core! 🙂

  4. artandtea says:

    You’re welcome, Bruce, and thank you for inspiring me to be more open minded about Assam teas! 😀

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