I was prompted to talk about brewing tea by a Twitter conversation with @michaeljcoffey and @joiedetea. I am kind of a part time lurker in the social networking world, and I’m often surprised by the level of sophistication in the discussions about tea. I think that is really great, and am thrilled to see it. That sophistication is coming from a genuine enthusiasm that is contagious. If we look at the Seven Cups demographics, people between 25 and 35 comprise the largest chunk, like @dylanjha, @lainiep, and my all time favorite tea reviewer, now semi-retired for the ski season, @tyranosauruswrx.
First, let me address a myth about good tea that is completely false. The better the tea, the more difficult the brewing. This is the kind of nonsense that I see floated around by people who claim to be tea experts. Now it may have some truth if you are talking about tea that is produced outside of China, but the opposite is true of better quality Chinese tea. In fact, I would like to propose this, the better the quality of the tea, the more forgiving it is in the brewing. It is true, there is no denying, that an artist at brewing tea can raise it to its true potential. But come on. If you are a hard core tea drinker like I am, meaning that I drink tea all day long, every day, do you have to make every cup an artistic composition?
I drink tea this way, and I do mean all tea. If it gets bitter, or it doesn’t offer me an interesting complexity, then why should I drink it at all? Here is how I brew tea everyday when I am not traveling (I switch to a glass travel jar on the road). I make my tea in a heavyweight pint glass, a beer glass, for those that don’t associate a pint with beer. I put in at least twice the amount recommended. I measure it in the palm of my hand, no tea or teaspoons or other measuring devises involved. Both at home and at work we have a Zojirushi kettle, the one at work has lasted me for ten years. It keeps the water hot and has fairly accurate temperature settings. (My son Josh, also a hardcore tea drinker, has one that has survived being hit by a NYC taxi strapped to the back of his bike.) The water is always hot, and we are continually adding it to our leaves.
Now I’m sure some people would declare this a little bit crude, or even disrespectful, considering the artistry that went into the tea’s production, but it is hard to be both delicate and hardcore. The truth and the mystery of tea for me is how great it tastes and makes me feel with almost every glass of tea I drink. I have drunk so much tea, but a good cup is always is a fresh and intriguing experience for me.
Yes I know that we have brewing guidelines on our site and the back of every bag of tea we sell, and we are even planning to make them even more complicated and precise that they already are, but hardcore people are rarely rule followers, and I would recommend using our guidelines as jumping off points. I’m not going to pour boiling water over some tender Bi Luo Chun leaves, everyone needs some place to start, but there is a primary rule that should not be broken, and that is to enjoy your tea. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t jump deep into the cultural aspects, jump right in, but remember to enjoy yourself and share it with your friends however you do it.