Surprisingly few tea-lovers are aware that all orthodox teas (not including herbal) are produced from the very same plant – the Camellia sinensis. The wide range of flavours that we get to enjoy when we drink the tea all comes down to different processing methods, as well as which parts of the plant are used.
With these differences in mind, it should therefore make sense that different full leaf tea types should be brewed in their own special manner in order to extract that perfect cup of tea that makes your mouth water.
Below is a guide for brewing the different tea types; since all teas differ, it is just a general guide for a standard mug size. After some experimentation you will quickly discover your favourite methods.
White tea is the least oxidised of all the true teas. Commonly made with the buds, such as silver needles, it is typically made using a sun drying process. The very slight fermentation and minimal oxidation results in the subtle, smooth and naturally sweet flavour. Satemwa makes a magnificent hand rolled white tea called “pearls” that releases a light floral flavour as the leaf unravels.
How to Brew White Tea
- White tea is less compact than other teas, so two teaspoons should be used
- As a delicate tea, boiling water could scald it and end up with a bitter taste – use water that is roughly 75?C (when the small bubbles start to form in the pot)
- Steep the leaves for anywhere from 5 to 7 minutes for peonies and needles
- Satwema pearls brew well at 90?C for 2 and a half minutes
There are two types of green tea: Chinese (leaves are roasted/fired) Japanese (leaves are steamed). Both types are unfermented, and roasted green tea has a subtle, toasted flavour, whilst the steamed leaves produce more of a sweet, oceanic seaweed flavour.
How to Brew Green Tea
- One teaspoon per cup will suffice
- Again, boiling water will result in a bitter flavour, so aim for a temperature of 65?C to 80?C
- Steep the leaves for 2 to 3 minutes (Japanese green tea requires less time; anything from 30 seconds to 2 minutes at 60?C)
Black tea is probably the most popular type of full leaf tea as it is the basis for classics such as Earl Grey, Darjeeling and Ceylon. Full fermentation provides a deep and robust flavour. Satemwa TSFBOP1 is an outstanding fully oxidised black tea, perfect as an English breakfast with milk.
How to Brew Black Tea
- A maximum of one teaspoon is enough for this strong wholesale tea type
- In most cases brew black tea with boiling water, which will release the flavours
- Steep the leaves for 3 to 5 minutes
- Darjeelings prefer 70 to 80 degree temperature for 4 minutes
Oolong teas are partially oxidised, and range the spectrum from just past green to close to black tea. Some black teas could be more accurately be classified as oolongs, but tradition dictates them to be classified as black. There is a wide variety of this specialty tea, so flavours can range from smoky and nutty, to fruity and floral. An extremely complex category. Arguably the best oolong teas originate from the higher gardens in Taiwan, but the style of production most likely originated in Fujian province. Satemwa estate produces the only African origin oolong tea, a treasure worth exploring. The best hand made Taiwanese oolongs can offer 8 good infusions per serving. Machine made ones seem to express around 5.
How to Brew Oolong Tea
- One palmfull of full leaf tea per cup
- Water should be just under boiling – 88?C to 93?C
- Some styles of preparation will wash the leaf, but this is rarely necessary for exceptional quality.
- First steep is typically 90 seconds, and subsequent steepings add 10 seconds
The whisky of the tea world, pu-erh tea is aged traditionally in caves and compacted into cakes or bricks. Old pu-erhs are national treasures and are auctioned off for astronomical sums. Closely associated with Chinese medicine, the tea produces a red liquor, with deep rich and earthy flavour. Poor quality pu-erh teas are known to exhibit a fishy taint resulting from poor control of moisture.
How to Brew Pu-erh Tea
- One teaspoon of leaves
- Pu-erhs can be made with boiling water, or even water which is just under boiling at about 96?C
- Steep for 2 to 5 minutes (anything over 5 could spoil the tea)
Tisanes are made from infusions of herbs, spices or other plant material, or pretty much anything you can get an infusion from. Offering a myriad of flavours from jasmine, mint and cinnamon; to raspberry , spices fruits and berries.
How to Brew Tisanes
This is highly dependent on the variety; some herbal teas need only a pinch, while others may require several teaspoons. Likewise, some can brew for just one minute, while others may take up to 10 minutes. If you have no instructions, the general rule is boiling water, and 3 minutes steeping time.