I’m back from vacation and feeling rejuvenated despite a busy return to work this week. I’d like to share an interesting experience I had a few days ago. My colleague brewed a pot of a newly arrived Castleton estate second flush Darjeeling and the first word that popped into my head as I took my first sip was
It had a honeyed peach aroma with rich peach and muscatel flavor notes.
Naturally, we all requested it for our morning tea the following day. As I took my first sip that morning, I thought I had poured the wrong tea into my cup. While it was a very good Darjeeling, all of the wonderful flavor notes I had experienced the day before weren’t there. As my tea cooled, however, I detected them but they were very subtle.
So, what happened?
Different steeping times.
The first cup was steeped at 4 minutes and the second at 3 minutes. What a difference a minute makes, huh?
Look at this gorgeous leaf. It’s huge and chock full of tips/intact leaf sets.
Just like your water source can make all the difference in your resulting cup of tea so too can your steeping time. In light of my recent experience (and it’s happened to me before), I highly recommend that you experiment with different steeping times to find what works best for you. A tea you don’t like with your first cup could end up being your favorite tea by just making an adjustment to the steeping time!
This is the tea steeped for 3 minutes in boiling point water – a glowing medum amber hue.
The cup on the right is the tea steeped for 4 minutes. The color goes deeper and the peach/muscatel aroma and flavor are much more pronounced.
As my tea cooled, I was expecting the longer steeped tea to develop that characteristic “bite” but it never did. I might even try this tea steeped for 30 seconds longer. I like to push the steeping time to just before it develops that bitterness, that well known bitterness of being oversteeped.
So, I encourage you, dear tea friends, to experiment with the steeping times for your tea. That being said, however, I think that it’s best not to change the water temperature or the amount of tea leaves used per cup. Those should remain consistent.
For this tea, I used 2 teaspoons of leaf per cup since the leaf is so huge and boiling point water.
Do you have a story similar to mine? If so, please share!
Enjoy your weekend!
Glad your back….your iced tea post two weeks ago was interesting.
Your #TD78 Puttabong Queen FF gave me a similar situation with steeping. I tried it at 3 min and it was good, but then I tried steeping it at 3.5-3.75 min and the flavor was much more fruity in nature with just a little astringency (which I like). A totally different, much improved tea.
Another tea #ZP77 Panyang Tippy Golden Needles Imperial steeped at 3.5 min was lackluster. At 4 and 5 min steeps the flavors developed fully, with more of the chocolate notes. I love that tea and I hope it can be restocked. It is another one of those teas I miss. It was just so perfect at a 4.5-5 min steep, velvety smooth, earthy, chocolate notes. The aroma and leaf are memorable.
As far as the quantity, I eyeball it. When I get that perfect cup, that is when I wish I’d measured it. I like most if my black teas, esp. FF Darjeelings, slightly below boiling.
I have yet to try the “cold brew” method for iced tea, as I stated in your last post, but I will. I had a question or two about it. Could you please reread the post and respond? Thank you Karen. 🙂
Good advice, Karen – and a great example!
Thanks for this excellent post Karen. You’re so right about steeping time.
I use my Upton gram scale religiously and find it essential, especially with the highly variable leaf size of the teas I buy. I live at altitude in Colorado and wanted to point out that for anyone in similar circumstances you have to increase the amount of tea and use steep times at the upper end of the range to compensate for the lower boiling point (= poorer extraction) at altitude. You lose 2 degrees F. every thousand feet of altitude so a full boil where we are is only 202 degrees, vs. 212 at Upton. 3 grams per cup and long steep times are essential.
That’s so true Kevin. My sister lived in Sante Fe at around 7,000 ft and had similar issues.
Thanks so much, Scott and Kevin, for sharing your tea brewing experiences!
[…] I was going to brew up a pot of that Assam from a couple of weeks ago but this tea caught my interest. A 2012 second flush offering from the Castleton estate called “Moonlight”. The leaf is incredibly bold and the color variations are gorgeous. If you’re interested, I reviewed last year’s second flush offering from this estate here. […]