Monday, July 22, 2013

Guest Post: Brewing White Tea, Precisely So

Have you ever wondered how to make a perfect cup of white tea? Today I'm exited to share a guest post from Samantha of Seattle Coffee Gear. It's wonderful to know that there are people in the coffee world who do their part to educate their customers about tea.
An exact recipe for a delicious cup of white tea is hard to find. There are brewing guidelines but the recipe can (and will!) change based on many variables. +Nicole Martin recently wrote about Silver Needle, the most popular white tea available. In legend white tea dates back 5,000 years and full scale agricultural production dates back to 1885. You can imagine in its long history that opinions on preparation differ.

Various guidelines quote anywhere from 2 teaspoons to 2 tablespoons of white tea per cup. This is not at all precise. Silver Needle and White Peony, both popular types of white tea, will fill a measuring spoon differently than a black tea based on their dried leaf shape. Due to this, a measuring spoon is not a very useful tool. Instead try weighing your tea on a digital kitchen scale (make sure to keep track of your findings in a notebook) for a few days to find your desired dosage. As a starting point, try a ratio of 3 grams of tea to 8 ounces of water. Silver Needle is more delicate, so the dosage may be increased compared to White Peony based on personal preference.

We immediately come to our next stumbling block. The water guidelines vary. Recommendations on commercially packaged white teas state the water temperature should be anywhere from 165F to 194F degrees. The only agreement I found was that the water has to be fresh filtered and it cannot be boiling. The goal is to steep white tea without “stewing” it since it is very delicate. A variable temperature kettle is indispensable in overcoming the lack of consensus regarding water temperature. For my own experimentation I used White Peony tea and 175F degree water. It all “boils down” to personal taste though. Your tea journey may lead you to a different conclusion.

In your cupboard of tea accouterments find a glass or porcelain teapot or teacup. It will not hold heat as well as heavier ceramic or cast iron pots and for once, this is a good thing. The heat should be allowed to escape. Even though white tea is fussy about temperature, it is not at all fussy about steep time. The timing of this gentle infusion varies from 1 to 4 minutes. Don't throw in the (tea) towel just yet! The reward is worth the careful accumulation of data for your own white tea brewing protocol.

How does a precise person deal with the imprecise, let's call it ephemeral, nature of white tea? A kitchen scale, variable temperature kettle and a stopwatch will allow your favorite cup of tea to be replicated time and again. However be prepared, just when you think you have everything under control, the 2nd infusion will have different variables!

Equipment List
  • High quality loose leaf white tea
  • Kitchen scale
  • Filtered water
  • Variable temperature electric kettle
  • Porcelain or glass teapots/teacups and infuser
  • Stopwatch
  • Notebook
+Sam Joyce  is a writer for +Seattle Coffee Gear and enjoys sharing her knowledge of all things coffee (and tea!)