The idea of weighing your tea might sound a bit strange if you’re new to loose leaf tea. It’s not nearly as fussy or intimidating as it might sound, and doing this one step can really step up your tea brewing game. It is particularly beneficial if you are making your tea gongfu style. In this post, we’ll explore why you might want to weigh your tea leaves and the easiest way to do it.
Why Should You Weigh Your Tea Leaves?
Tea is often described as being measured in teaspoons. The trouble with this unit of measure is that tea is not a uniform product like sugar or flour. There are thousands of varieties, and they all take up a different amount of space. The leaf particles of a CTC-style black tea from Sri Lanka have a completely different size and shape from China’s wild and woolly Mao Feng green tea. It’s like the old pound of feathers vs. a pound of bricks analogy.
I experienced this often with my past customers at tea retail stores. A few ounces of a fluffy Silver Needle white tea for one person might fill a small bag to the very top. An herbal tisane with lots of chunky fruit pieces is much denser and will hardly take up any space at all. People who purchased the latter often looked a bit crestfallen, feeling like they had been cheated, even though both customers received the same amount of tea.
Another reason to weigh your tea leaves is that doing so will help you replicate an enjoyable tea session. Every time you brew a particular tea will be slightly different, but making a note of your brewing parameters can help you to dial it in. If I brew gongfu style using 6g of leaves, but it turned out light-bodied, I might want to increase the amount of tea I use next time. If it turned out bitter and astringent, that tells me that I should reduce the amount of tea.
How Much Tea Should You Use?
The amount of tea you use is determined by the volume of the vessel you will be brewing in. If I’m not sure how big a teapot or gaiwan is, I’ll fill them with water and then measure the contents by pouring it all into a measuring cup. That is one reason why I really like using Pyrex beakers as a cha hai for gongfu sessions.
If you’re brewing in a larger cup or teapot (8oz+), the general rule of thumb is 2 to 3g of tea leaves for every 8oz of water. For gongfu brewing, the leaf to water ratio is much higher. I will usually use a ratio of about 1g of tea for every 15ml of water. These parameters can vary slightly depending on the type of tea and the vessel that I am using, but they are a good starting point.
How to Weigh Your Tea Leaves
An inexpensive digital pocket scale is all you need to weigh your tea leaves properly. Larger kitchen scales won’t work well for this because they do not measure in small enough quantities. Before adding your leaves to the scale, place your brewing vessel onto the scale and press the tare or zero buttons. Doing this will remove the weight of the gaiwan or teapot to know how much tea you are adding easily.
You can then slowly add in your tea leaves until you reach the desired weight. If your vessel is too large to be safely placed on the scale, you can place the leaves onto a small bowl or plate instead. I like to use a traditional tea leaf presentation dish called a cha he because the curved shape prevents tea leaves from falling off.
There is something to be said for intuitive brewing. Things happen, and technology can break, so it is good to learn how to make tea without tools like a scale comfortably. It does take time and repetition to eyeball the volume of tea leaves you need accurately. Once you feel comfortable with a certain tea, especially when it is in a vessel that you are very familiar with, you don’t need to rely on the scale every single time that you brew.
As a tea reviewer, I have made it a habit to weigh the leaves for any tea I am writing about. This ensures that I am accurately following the tea company’s brewing recommendations. I don’t weigh the leaves every time if I am brewing something just for myself to enjoy. That is especially true for cold brewing and grandpa style.
Do you weigh your tea leaves? Are there times when you don’t take that extra step? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!