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Frequently Asked Questions regarding tea.

The place for all those questions you wanted to know but never knew where to look. Have you wondered how long to brew you favour tea for? Or, how to select your future ZiSha tea pot? How brew the prefect cup of tea? Our Tea FAQ section hopefully answers these and more. If you have a question that is not hear please contact us - your questions may well end up here.

How long should I brew my tea for?

Traditionally for those brewing tea in a large teapot, then a brewing time of 3-5 minutes can chosen for most teas. This will depend on the amount of tea leave and water used per person. The more tea relative to the water, the stronger the tea.

As with many aspects of tea preparation optimal may be different for each person and tea type. For example even between 1st and 2nd flush Darjeeling tea there is a significant difference, as the first flush is considerably more tender therefore care should be taken over brewing.

It is important to remember that using the same weight of tea, small leaf teas will brew quicker than large leaf types due to the larger surface area exposed to the water. Likewise, broken leaf will be faster again.

You will see in our brewing tea guide that many of the Chinese methods of brewing only require 30 seconds for the first infusion.

Why not read our brewing tea guide for more ideas and information.

What temperature water should I use?

Green tea: 30-80 degrees centigrade
Oolong tea: 65-100 degrees centigrade
Black tea including PuEr: 85-100+ degrees
Flower and herbal tisanes: 80-95 degrees centigrade

It is important to remember that water cools quickly from boiling as such it is best to brew your tea next to the kettle. Another note is that many modern kettles fail to boil all the water to 100c. This is especially noticeable in tall kettles where the heating element is in the base. The best type of kettle are those that have a wide base, so that water can be evenly boiled. Where possible never fill the kettle completely. Try and boil just the water you need. This way the kettle should heat the water more completely.

How much water should I use?

A vital factor the making tea equation is how much water to use. This will relative to the tea brewing style you are using and the tea type.

For gongfu tea styles the proportion of water to tea leaf is high. This means brewing times can be shortened.

For traditional western tea brewing methods, such as large teapots, then less leaf is used compared with water. For people who like stronger teas then this frequently means that brewing times need to be longer, for example 3-5 minutes.

If you consider most modern tea cups are around 100-150ml, with tea mugs being 250-300ml then you can multiple by the number of people or cups/mugs you are preparing.

What water should I use?

Ideally spring or mountain water should be used. More practically, most US and European tap water is acceptable, though benefits from filtering. Those in large cities, places with a strong, unpleasant flavoured water or with especially hard water then filtering is vital.

When filling your kettle only use the water you will need for each infusion. A very important factor in a good cup of tea is the amount of oxygen in the water. Each time you boil the water the amount of oxygen is reduced. Higher amounts of oxygen should give you a brighter cup of tea.

How should I prepare tea?

Good question! There are a multitude of solutions, from simplest ones through to those that require more time and skill.

At the simplest end of the spectrum is adding tea leaves to a (tall) glass or mug and then adding the correct temperature water.

At the opposite end of the spectrum then the Chinese, Japanese and Korean cha yi or cha dao methods which can take a lifetime to refine. More about these can be found in the Wan Ling Tea House Tea Facts section and on our Tea Culture Links page.

In between there are a number of versatile methods. One of the most common is using a teapot. Teapots are available in a wide range of sizes and materials. Most modern teapots are available with removable filters which make them idea for preparing a wide range of large and small leaf teas. By buying a glass teapot or ceramic teapot, both of which are easy to clean and does not retain any flavour or aroma, you will have a teapot that can be used for any type of tea.

Another good alternative is a coffee press, one that is solely used for tea. Coffee presses are a great method that removes the nuisance of tea leaves but can allow multiple infusions i.e. re-brewing.

The Wan Ling Tea House team are big fans of the Gongfu tea cups and mugs which are otherwise known as one press tea cups. These modern design tea cups allow you to easily adjust brewing times and can be used to make a wide range of teas. The food grade plastic filter does not absorb heat too much and therefore ensures that water temperature is relatively high which is important to extract as much flavour as possible.

Our brewing tea guide also contains more step by step information including timings, number of infusions for GongFu tea preparation.

Should I add sugar to my tea?

This is very personal, so if you feel you need sugar for flavour then you can. We would recommend that teas are drunk without. Most high grade tea leaves are naturally slightly sweet so normally drunk without any additives.If you need a sweetener, consider adding honey as an alternative to white cane sugar. Honey is a healthy alternative with many subtle favours.

Should I add lemon to my tea?

This is a traditional European way of drinking tea. Certainly it is a great way to add flavour to average teas, in fact there is some research that points to lemon improving the absorption of certain minerals by the human body that naturally occur in tea.

Should I add milk to my tea?

If you are a UK resident then in all likelihood you will normally drink tea with milk. Most tea bags are purposely blended with that in mind, hence can seem bitter and astringent without. The flavour of most high quality, full leaf teas will become overwhelmed if you add milk. Experiment to find what works for you. Remember most high street tea bags are made with CTC, Cut or Crush Tear Curl tea, a production line process that produces teas well suited to adding milk.

Teas such as Nilgiri, Assam and some Yunnan black teas can be a good choice for milk tea drinkers who prefer their tea with body.

How much tea leaf should I use for each serving?

Typically you should add between 2-8 grams for each serving. Typically with many Chinese teas 5g is an ideal amount. Many Indian teas then 2-4g is sufficient. Unfortunately each tea size/weight is different so suggesting an accurate rule for all teas is very difficult.

For black teas, then the traditional tea spoon can still be used as an excellent way to measure out your tea. On the whole one tea spoon is sufficient for one cup, if you are making a large pot then one spoonful per person and one for the pot is a good rule of thumb.

A method for full leaf green teas, though not the most accurate, can be a pinch i.e. what you can pick up with a finger and thumb from the bag, on the whole one to two pinches per glass/per person tends to suit many. As you become more familiar with your own preferences and the differences in each tea you'll more than likely find an optimum amount that suits you.

It is important to remember leaf size has a significant impact on strength. Small leaf teas or smaller leaf size grades such as fannings and dust will infuse much quicker.

What is the difference between SFTGFOP, FTGFOP, FOP, BOP etc.?

These terms have been developed over the centuries and were used by Dutch and British traders for the size grading of black and oolong teas from India, Africa, Sri Lanka and other tea producing countries. Tea grades cover everything from the finest whole leaf, through broken and small leaf to fannings and finally dust. The best tea size grade being FTGFOP, Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe, and lowest being BD or Broken Dust. Recent competition in the markets, especially in India has seen Super or Special being added to the acronym - SFGFOP.

There are some variations in the use of certain terms between different tea countries and even within Indian tea markets such as Kolkata and Coimbatore.

CTC teas, Cut Tear Curl, have a distinct grading system again, including BPS - Broken Pekoe Souchong which is the largest size grade of 'Broken CTC', BOP - Broken Orange Pekoe (large broken), BOPSM - Broken Orange Pekoe Small/medium (medium), BP - Broken Pekoe (Smallest Broken), PF - Pekoe Fannings, OF - Orange Fannings, PD - Pekoe Dust and CD - Churamoni Dust.

These size grades do not directly relate to quality, beyond the outer appearance of the tea leaf. It is still possible to get a single estate, single batch high quality dust size grade. Typically however these smaller size grade teas are blended for use in tea bags or mass sale.

How do I prepare a Pu Er tea cake (bing) for drinking?

In terms of the PuEr tea's then these are relatively easy to prepare, again with all the teas it worth experimenting in order to find what works best for you. As a general rule of thumb then the water should be boiling. Use the first infusion to rinse the tea and then pour the liquor over the other utensils, such as the cups/pot or gaiwan.

The best tea to start with are the small PuEr Xiao Tuo (the ones wrapped in white paper) as these are a perfect weight (about 5g). Remove the paper and place one in your chosen tea pot/gaiwan. The large (357g) cakes 'bing', you will have to break some of the tea up using your hands or a knife (carefully) and place it in a your pot or tea making vessel. Judging the weight will mean either using scales to weigh out the tea (5-8g) or practising judging by eye! The optimal way to break your Pu Er cake up is by inserting the knife from the side of the cake and levering upwards. The idea is to separate the leaves from the cake as whole as possible. For new comers, letting the tea infuse for around 1 to 2 minutes to start with should be sufficient.

It is important that you make sure all the liquor is poured off, this will prevent the next infusion becoming stewed or too strong. All of the pu er teas are very good for multiple infusions, again subject to your personal preference these can usually infused up to 10 times.

An example of preparing Pu Er tea can be found in our Tea Facts pages: Making Tea using a ZiSha Teapot. You can also browse some pictures from our visits to YunNan in South West China. Tea Photograph Galleries illustrating how PuEr cakes are prepared from dry tea leaf.

More details about tea preparation can be found in our brewing tea guide.

Multiple infusions. How many times can I use the same tea leaves or flowers?

One of the wonderful aspects of fine tea is that it can be reused. Again, personal preferences play a significant part, though on the whole most teas can be reused 3 or 4 times. Many of the Chinese teas including Jasmine, Pu Er, Tie Guan Yin and Qi Men can be infused up to 10 times.

How best to store my tea?

Each tea has specific ways to best store them. However, all teas basically are best kept;

Out of direct sunlight.
In a relatively cool and constant temperature.
Away from strong smells.
In a constant humidity, ideally not too moist, yet not too dry.

In the next couple of FAQs we will explain about the best ways to store specific teas.

How best to store my lightly oxidised teas such as green tea, white tea and qing xiang Tie Guan Yin?

It is critical that the basic advice from our 'How best to store tea' FAQ is followed.

Furthermore, many people like to keep these lightly oxidised teas chilled or frozen. This helps keep the green and floral notes of the tea and also the leaf colour for longer. It is vital that the tea is in an air tight vessel with no or very little moisture before you store in a fridge or freezer. It can not be stressed enough, that you should avoid a storage location with any strong smelling foods and drinks. A separate compartment or fridge / freezer is preferable if possible. Ideal temperatures are around -1c to -8c, though as low as -20c is sometimes used. The main factor is to keep the tea cool and at a constant temperature.

Don't worry if you don't have a fridge or freezer for your tea. Your tea will not spoil. For some people, they prefer not to cold store teas as this prevents them ageing. A good quality tea will mature, though this may mean loosing some of the more floral notes, often new characteristics will become more distinct and the tea more rounded. If you don't use cold storage, use an air-tight tin or non-transparent vessel to keep your tea in. Ideally avoid glass or clear plastic which will light and heat in. Our tea storage tins have been specially selected for this purpose.

How best to store my heavily oxidised teas such as black tea, zhong huo Tie Guan Yin, WuYi oolong tea?

The key points in our basic 'How best to store tea' FAQ should be followed.

Good storage vessels for these oxidised teas are porcelain or YiXing jars. These are not 100% air tight and allow the tea to 'breath' slightly. If you live somewhere relatively humid, you can place a sheet or news paper or tissue paper over the opening before putting the lid on the vessel which acts as a membrane.

By allowing the teas to receive a little air, the tea will age slowly, maturing. Older teas tend to mellow and flavours often become more balanced.

If you want to ensure your tea changes as little as possible from the time of purchase you can follow our guide to storing green tea, light oxidised oolongs etc..

For those of the more experimental nature, Wan Ling Tea House would suggest trying both methods with the same tea and seeing which suits you best. It is likely that both will create pleasing, if not varied results.

How to prepare a new ZiSha tea pot?

YiXing Teapot care has been given it's own dedicated section in our ZiSha Tea Facts pages - click here now.

YiXing Teapot Care: How do I look after and maintain my ZiSha tea pot?

YiXing Teapot care has been given it's own dedicated section in our ZiSha Tea Facts pages - click here now.

How to select a new ZiSha tea pot?

That's a challenging question. There is no right or wrong but rather a set of guidelines and suggestions.

Key points to consider:
Colour / clay type
Size / Capacity
Spout type
Opening size
Shape Tea type / leaf size
Personal preference

From our experience it is worth considering the type of tea, the colour of the tea liquor and the colour of the clay that you will choose. A simple rule of thumb is, a dark colour liquor will complement a darker coloured clay, whilst lighter liquors are more able to enhance the colour of any clay. This said, we have seen many cases of Chinese seasoning white and pale, Duan Ni YiXing teapots with black teas.

Traditionally green teas and flower teas are prepared in larger tea pots, for example 300ml+. Many places in FuJian use 100ml - 150ml tea pots for Oolong. Much of this is down to regional preferences in China. It is best to consider your usage; will you be making teas predominantly for yourself or fro groups of friends? Is convenience of primary importance or closer appreciation in multiple infusions? Typically 150ml-250ml is a popular size for GongFu style tea making and will serve between 2-6 people depending on the size of cup you are using.

When considering the tea you are going to use in the tea pot, consider the size of the tea pot's opening/lid and it's shape. For large leaf teas like Oolong, a large opening makes adding, removing and cleaning the tea pot much easier. Most important of all is your preference, there are hundreds of styles of YiXing tea pot available. Find one (normally one will lead to two and then...) which you like and use it, you will learn the pros and cons of different shapes, finishes, how different tea pots balance and pour. Enjoy your new tea making companion.

How should I clean my teapot?

Glass teapots, gongfu cups/mugs/pots and standard glazed ceramics: All our glass teapots, glass gongfu mugs and glazed ceramics are dishwasher safe and can be washed with standard household washing up liquid (detergent). When washing by hand make sure the teapot and tea wares are thoroughly rinsed with warm water.

For specialist tea wares such as JingDeZhen tea wares we highly recommend these are NOT cleaned in mechanised dishwashers, these should only be washed by hand. Though people prefer to wash with detergents, this is not vital and in many ways we advice against. The best way is rinse with boiling water, wipe with a clean, fine material cloth like our tea towels and repeat once ensuring the tea wares are dried thoroughly.

For YiXing teapots, detergents such as washing up liquid must NOT be used. The nature of these Chinese clay teapots means that they are somewhat porous and easily absorb liquids and retain aromas. YiXing teapots should have the spent tea leaves removed by hand or using specialist tea tools and then rinsed thoroughly with boiling water, ensuring the teapot is dried well.

What is the difference between the different styles of Tie Guan Yin?

There are many different styles of Tie Guan Yin from various parts of AnXi. Here we look to explain some of the difference between the traditional more fully oxidised Tie Guan Yin teas and the more modern, light Jade Tie Guan Yin teas.

Jade Tie Guan Yin is a name given to the more modern style of Qing Xiang Tie Guan Yin. Qing Xiang, means light and fragrant. Like most Chinese teas there are numerous grades with prices to match. Typically the top grades and so the most expensive are called Guan Yin Wang or King of Tie Guan Yin / Tie Guan Yin Emperor.

Qing Xiang (Jade) Tie Guan Yin is very light and floral. Floral tastes include orchid and hints of fruit. These teas have a delightful aroma which is a joy to saviour.

The Zhong Huo Tie Guan Yin is a traditional style of Tie Guan Yin. These teas are oxidised longer so are darker in colour and fuller in taste. These teas are ideally suited to ageing and when stored properly can be kept for decades. However they are also great the year of harvest too.

The primarily difference between Zhong Huo Tie Guan Yin and Qing Xiang (Jade) Tie Guan Yin is the oxidisation and so the processing is longer for the traditional style.​​

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