For those following my blog you know I take pictures of the tea I review and turn them into art – this post isn’t about “tea art” though. What I’d like to talk about today is the “ART OF TEA.”
If you Google “art” they return a definition at the top of the page that begins with the following:
the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination
I couldn’t have said it better, but how can that be applied to tea? How is tea an art?
It all starts with what I like to call Tea’s Four Golden Rules:
If your tea is too bitter, you’re infusing it for too long.
If your tea is too weak/strong, first try adjusting the leaf volume accordingly.
When leaf volume changes do not work, incremental infusion time adjustments are your last course of action.
When the three previous rules fail to produce a satisfying cup of tea, then it’s not the tea for you!
Many people who haven’t tried a loose leaf or true tea find it intimidating. In the west, most of us have been brought up on tea bags and the idea of free-floating leaves in our tea is not the tidy cup we’ve come to expect. Times have changed though and there are many modern infusers (see my sidebar) out there for those of us who want a no-fuss method.
For most though, its the actual brewing/infusing of the tea leaf that turns them off and it shouldn’t. This is where the “Art of Tea” of comes into play. Like a true artist, there are a few ground rules. If you want to make purple, any artist knows that green and red won’t do it. The same goes for tea.
Green tea tends to be one of the trickiest. And with the recent attention its been given for its health benefits, I fear many have given loose leaf tea a try and tossed the resulting bitterness down the drain, never looking back. Like mixing colors though, tea has some specific rules that need to be understood, especially green teas: NEVER INFUSE FOR MORE THAN A MINUTE.
I know there are all kinds of vendors telling you to infuse green tea for minutes, BUT THEY ARE WRONG. Too long in the water and you are guaranteed to get a bitter cup from green tea. Most other types of tea are more forgiving.
Whites, yellow, oolongs, black, and pu’erh teas are amazingly versatile allowing you to adjust your methods according to your own tastes. This is the true “ART OF TEA”, learning the basics and then guided by Tea’s Four Golden Rules you can begin a tea journey that will last a lifetime.
Experiment, play, test…try different infusers or pots…blend your favorites. Compare spring vs filtered waters. Mess around with infusion times. Adjust the amount of tea your using. Boil your spent leaves. Take a jab at cold brewing (this one is on my summer to-do list).
Tea is as broad, complex, forgiving, and creative as art. I always like to compare Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain” to making tea, anything goes. Don’t give up if your first cup wasn’t what you expected: Tea Is An Art & like all art it takes practice.
If your not sure where to start here are my recommendations (click image to order) that will get you set up for around $40 (not including shipping & tax).
Right now you can get $5 off your first order of tea from Yunnan Sourcing by using this link. Here are the teas I’m currently recommending and drinking myself (the Wild Tree Purple Moonlight I’ve even reordered)
Imperial Pure Gold Bi Luo Chun Black Tea of Feng Qing
Premium AA Da Hong Pao Wu Yi Shan Rock Oolong tea
Wild Tree Purple Moonlight White Tea from Jinggu
2007 CNNP “8891 Red Label” Raw Pu-erh Tea Cake (get the sample)
If you’re looking for a good green tea, I recommend the following from Upton Tea Imports:
Japenese Sencha (only brew for 15sec – I use boiling water)
To learn more about making loose leaf tea see the following three pages of my blog: