Handmade Teapot, Tea Related
Selection of Handmade Teapots
If your goal is to brew good tea, then selecting good tea is the most important element. The second-most important element is whether or not you master the Three T’s when brewing tea: tea amount, temperature, and time. Different tea accessories can also affect tea quality, however the tea itself is the key; tea accessories are merely companions that improve good tea.
Some tea drinkers may have seen others using white china gaiwan to brew tea. Cheap and easy to clean, this accessory is a good gateway into the world of tea. When drinking tea alone, so long as you can brew good tea, the type of accessory isn’t that important. If several good friends come over to drink tea however, a more unique and representative accessory might be more essential.
A hand-made teapot is used to brew Gongfu Tea and is a common accessory for tea drinkers. Good teapots can improve the quality of the tea, and even collect value. A good teapot is not necessarily found only by chance, but can instead be selected. With all of the many kinds of hand-made teapots on the market, how should you make your choice? Below are some things to consider:
Traditionally, people may use 4 or 6 cups to describe a volume of a teapot. This is of course very general since every person drinks from different-sized cups, and so the best method to determine a teapot’s volume is to judge according to the number of people drinking tea, and the size of the cups. If too large, the teapot wastes tea leaves, if too small, the teapot might not make enough tea.
The personality and expression of teaware are closely related. The body, lid, spout, and handle make up the teapot’s exterior, and beautiful teapots naturally demonstrate good contours in these areas. Whether they represent ancient, rustic, modern, imperious, exquisite, or even charming shapes, they are always worth appreciating when brewing tea.
Every person appreciates beauty differently, which is natural and neither right nor wrong, and because of different life experiences and stages, they perceive and are moved by different things. Some look at a certain piece and are affected by it, because they strongly resonate with it. So, when it comes to choosing the shape, just go according to your own aesthetic and choose the teapot you like best.
A ceramist’s every work uses different clays and styles, and even if it’s the same ceramist, they can still shape pots with different bodies, lids, spouts and handles. Trying these things out on a teapot may not be easy, but is very important.
A good teapot offers more than a pleasing shape and texture, since effortless pouring is a basic function when brewing tea. Therefore, you can tell from how the teapot pours water whether or not brewing will go smoothly.
Classification of Tea Types
Different buds on tea plants, when applying different tea-making processes, can produce all sorts of teas. For the most part, if using the color of tea leaves and the tea itself to distinguish type, they can be classified into six groups: green tea, yellow tea, white tea, Oolong tea (including Pouchong tea and Oolong tea), black tea, and dark tea (such as Pu’er tea).
The world’s commonly-used method for classifying tea comes from the process of making tea leaves, according to the level of their fermentation. They are divided into non-fermented (such as green tea and yellow tea), partially-fermented (such as white tea, Pouchong tea, and Oolong tea), fully-fermented (such as black tea) and post-fermented (such as Pu’er tea).
Fermentation is also known as the oxidation of tea leaves. The catechins within the tea leaves go through oxidation, which then morph into polyphenols, such as theaflavins and thearubigins. The higher the oxidation, the more the appearance and type of polyphenol. In the process of making tea, oxidation impacts higher tea types, such as black tea and heavily-fermented Oolong tea, which also makes the color appear redder. Because Mainland China’s Pu’er tea uses a post-fermented process, it has the quality of dark tea with a unique dark brown color, and is the result of mico-organisms taking part in the post-fermentation process.
The Six Types of Tea and Fermentation Levels
Oolong tea is situated in between the non-fermented green tea and the fully-fermented black tea. It includes many different types, such as Taiwan’s Wenshan Pouchong Tea, Dongding Oolong Tea, Mucha Tie Guanyin Tea, White Tip Oolong Tea, as well as Mainland China’s Minnan Anxi Tie Guanyin Tea, and Minbei Wuyi Rock Tea and more. These teas are found within the six major tea types, all under the “Oolong Tea” (or “qingcha”) partially-fermented group, which the international community collectively calls “Oolong Tea.” Oolong Tea has become one of the richest and most diverse types of tea. As a result of the sheer variety of tea plants, places of origin, maturity, and tea-making processes, many kinds of naturally floral, fruity, milky, and even nutty fragrances take shape, making this a complex and appealing type of tea.
When it comes to Oolong Tea’s aroma, most tea-drinkers consider the color, fragrance, and flavor -- aroma being an important part of determining the quality of tea. The aroma of tea is very much interrelated with the type of tea plant, place of origin, season, and tea-making process.
Below will differentiate these four elements and their influences on aroma.
Type of tea plant
Within tea leaf arrangements, grid-like leaves have much more aromatic qualities than sponge-like leaves. For the most part, plants with small to medium-sized leaves have thicker grid structures than larger leaves, therefore making their aromatic qualities higher, and are often used to make non-fermented or partially-fermented teas. Although plants with larger leaves have lower aromatic qualities, they can still produce pleasing aromas after undergoing certain tea-making processes, and are mainly used to make fully-fermented or partially-fermented tea.
Different kinds of tea plants have different types of aromas, and every place that produces partially-fermented tea also develops the essential types of tea. In Taiwan that includes: Qingxin Oolong, Jin Xuan Oolong, Jade Oolong, and Four Seasons Spring Oolong, which all have their own specialties. Of course, it’s difficult to put aroma into words, and so the more types of tea you try, the easier it will be to tell the difference.
Place of Origin
Even if it’s the same tea plant, if it grows in a different place, it will have very different aromas because of climate conditions (the length of sun exposure, temperature, amount of rain), the tea garden’s position, and the difference in soil quality.
Even if it’s from the same place with the same tea plant, if it’s in a different season, the aromatic elements in the leaves will be different due to the changing weather. In Taiwan, winter and spring tend to produce the best-quality tea leaves in a year. Winter tea is a bit light and seldom bitter, and spring tea has a richer aroma. Because of summer’s high temperatures in these environments, the quality of summer tea leaves just can’t compare to spring or winter’s fine flavors; however, summer tea still has its special seasonal aromas which is suitable for making black tea.
The process of making tea is definitely the most important element when it comes to aroma, and the weather on the day one plucks tea leaves is purely elemental. The ripeness of the tea leaves, time it takes to pluck them, and method of making tea are also important factors of making good tea. People have no way of controlling weather changes, but those with experience and skill can adjust to the climate’s harvest time, and develop a smooth process that ensures good quality, aromatic tea.
Based on the aforementioned elements, quality Oolong tea contains a variety of unique aromas, flavors, and aftertastes. Some Oolong tea can be steeped even more than 5-6 times with Gongfu Tea brewing method in which every steeping offers changing sensations. Add on the fact that there are different brewing methods that can give one type of tea so many different qualities, and it’s easy to see why many people are fascinated with Oolong Tea.
Tea Oxidation and Roasting
Oxidation and Roasting are the two most common tea-making processes for Oolong Tea. The oxidation of tea leaves and its high or low levels determine which kind of tea will be made. Different types of tea have different levels of oxidation, and even the same tea plant can undergo different oxidation levels to make green tea (non-oxidized), Oolong tea (partially-oxidized), or black tea (fully-oxidized). That being said, there are still certain tea plants more appropriate for making certain teas, which are chosen based on experience. Because of different kinds of tea plants and the characteristics of each place, they have their own different aromas and abilities to adapt, and so tea farmers will have to grow tea plants according to the tea they wish to produce as well as the climate.
Oxidation process oxidizes the catechins within tea leaves, and its polymers theaflavin, thearubigin and so on, then determine the taste and color of tea. For the most part, the stronger the oxidation, the redder at the margin of leaves., which is the result of oxidation. For teas with strong oxidation, they tend to be more orange-red. Oxidation is the main process used to determine the flavor of tea leaves, and when catechins are in the process of oxidizing, the protein hydrolysis that accompanies tea leaves produces aromatic mechanisms for types of amino acids and glycosides. This determines the tea’s main aroma and flavor, therefore those making tea will have to go by their own experiences to figure out the best oxidation level.
The main goal of roasting is to reduce the water content in tea leaves. When there’s a high water content in tea leaves it creates instability, which is why using roasting can dissipate water and preserve it. In addition, roasting can change the flavor and feel of tea leaves. Tea after roasting tends to be sweeter, and the aroma is transformed to become more understated. The effect that roasting has on tea color is that the stronger the roasting, the darker the color. The red-orange color that comes from heavy oxidation is an unrelated result.
The Oxidation and Roasting of Different Teas
Tea Brewing Methods
Correct brewing methods can highlight the best components of tea leaves. If you use an incorrect method, even if it’s good tea, it’s still a waste. Brewing good tea isn’t very hard, and if you pay attention to The Three T’s, you can brew the best kind of tea you like.
If you have too much tea, it’s easy for the tea to become bitter; if you have too little, then it’s too bland and you can’t enjoy the flavor. It’s generally recommended to use 7 grams of tea leaves for every 250cc of water. In the beginning, you should measure this exact amount of tea leaves, and can consider using a gram scale or a soup spoon to calculate. A soup spoon is about 3 grams, and the amount of two full soup spoons is just about 7 grams. But, using a soup spoon is just a measurement method that works if using semi-balled or balled Oolong Tea. If using twisted Oolong Tea or black tea, because of its larger tea leaf volume, you may need twice the amount of soup spoons to reach the same 7-gram volume.
Every person’s preferred tea-brewing temperature is different. In general, if the water is too hot the tea can be bitter, whereas if it’s too cool the tea can be bland. When it comes to Taiwan’s Oolong Tea, the recommended brewing termperature should be about 95°C. A simple method for cooling 100°C boiling water is to pour boiling water into a different container, then pour it once more into the teapot or teacup. When boiling water goes into a different container, the temperature decreases by about 5°C-10°C.
When brewing time is too long, tea can become tart, so it’s recommended to brew tea for 2-4 minutes. In principle, the more oxidized and roasted Oolong Tea can be brewed a bit longer, but high mountain tea or Baochong Tea should be brewed a bit shorter. The actual time depends on each person’s preferred tastes.
If able to master the aforementioned Three T’s, anyone can brew their perfect cup of tea. Other than these three things, water quality and its level of hardness, plus tea-brewing accessories can likewise influence the quality of tea. In some places, the water is too hard, and so has a higher mineral content, which can then create bad tea. As for tea-brewing accessories, it’s important to give tea leaves proper space to unfurl in order to release their elements within. In addition, a good hand-made Gongfu teapot can improve the taste and impression of the tea.
Brewing Gongfu Tea
When it comes to the method for brewing Gongfu tea, it cannot be steeped for too long each time, and if you want to manipulate the flavor in each brew and enjoy a change in flavor each time, then Gongfu tea is a great brewing method. The aforementioned Three T’s for for brewing (tea amount, temperature, and time) still apply.
Gongfu tea utilizes teapots with slightly smaller volumes. For the most part, if it’s semi-balled or balled Oolong tea, you can use one layer of tea leaves along the bottom of the pot for brewing, 1-2 if you like a stronger brew. If using twisteded tea leaves such as Baozhong tea, you’ll need an extra layer, or double the amount. Because Gongfu teapots come in different shapes, this is just a suggestion to consider when it comes to tea amount. Some teapot bases are quite large, and so the same one layer of tea in different-shaped teapots will of course have different concentrations. Another way to measure tea is to put 6-9 grams of tea per 125cc of water. All of these are suggestions to consider for tea amounts, and in the end, it still comes down to each person’s preferences.
The suggested temperature is 95°C, and an easy brewing tactic is for every 60 seconds, arranging 1-minute brewing intervals with an hourglass timer, you can then enjoy the change in flavor with each different brew. If after the first 60 seconds, you think the brew is too weak, you can increase the time to 70 seconds, and can still maintain 60 seconds for other brewing after the first brewing. It’s normal that the fourth or fifth tea brew becomes weak, you can add 10-15 seconds each time to increase the tea’s flavor. The aforementioned brewing time is but a suggestion, and if you like stronger tea and therefore use more leaves, you can also be more flexible and shorten the brewing time.
There are many suggested methods for brewing Gongfu tea, and if you are considering different teaware, for instance a teapot made from different materials, it will be even more complicated. Essentially, if you can master the Three T’s: tea amount, temperature, and time, as well as some brewing tests according to your personal preferences, you can brew your favorite cup of good tea.
Loose Leaf Tea and Teabags
For most good quality tea, regardless if you’re drinking it yourself at home or with 3-5 friends getting together to taste it, you need to buy loose leaf tea and use appropriate teaware and tea-brewing methods. While it’s true that the way you brew it is very important for making good tea, the most essential part is having good tea, since brewing methods after all are but the icing on the cake.
Oftentimes, such as going to work, going on a business trip, going out, traveling and so forth, it’s not that convenient to bring along teaware, which is when it’s worth considering using teabags for convenience. In addition, for many foreigners and young people, teabags are very convenient products for everyday life.
Because of product position and cost considerations, many teabags insert low-quality and fragmented tea leaves. Moreover, this kinf of fragmented tea leaves can easily get the tea to become bitter, which leads many consumers to believe that the tea from teabags is not good, to the point that many foreigners who have only drank Oolong tea from teabags have never had the chance to experience high-quality tea from Loose leaf tea. In truth, there have already been some brands in recent years that put loose leaf tea into triangular teabags. In this way, when consumers brew tea, the tea leaves can still unfurl within the triangular teabag, which releases their best flavors.
Teabags were made for convenience, and for the busy modern person’s life, they really are convenient products for drinking tea. When consumers are choosing which product to buy, it’s recommended that they pay attention: the origin and material in triangular teabags. After all, the triangular teabag itself is a product to be brewed in hot water, and with a bit of caution, they can better look after their own health.
Machine-Picked and Hand-Picked Tea
Because the location of buds on tea plants is different, hand-picked tea can collect the best tea buds, which is beneficial to the tea-making process. Although using a machine to pick tea is more efficient, the machine-picked buds are sometimes long, sometimes short, not always ripe, and have higher chances of old buds producing tattered leaves. In recent years, many tea farmers have started paying more attention to tea garden management, and so in the wake of progress in farming and harvesting techniques, as well as the machinery’s filtering, machine-picked tea products are already incomparable.
A long-standing problem is the general labor shortage in the tea industry, and because of this lack of harvesters when tea leaves are at their best, there’s often no way of picking tea during its peak season. During the tea-making process for partially-fermented teas, the time period in which tea leaves are picked has a big influence on quality, and so if it’s not possible to pick buds during their peak, it will naturally influence tea-making quality.
Because machines pick faster, farmers can choose the best time to pick tea and so have a higher likelihood of producing good quality tea. It’s also possible to avoid making tea on days with bad weather conditions, which can substantially increase tea quality. It’s just not so simple to have hand-picked tea when tea-producing areas are faced with a shortage of manual labor and still wish to have leaves picked when they contain the lowest amounts of water.
If ignoring this difference between hand-picked and machine-picked tea and instead focusing on tea quality, completely using hand-picked tea in peak season and providing timely withering processes afterward naturally produces much higher-quality tea than that picked by a machine. That being said, if one must pick tea with dew or on a rainy day because of the labor shortage, these kinds of hand-picked tea leaves will not necessarily be better than machine-picked leaves harvested during peak season. So, when it comes to the pros and cons of machine-picked or hand-picked tea, one cannot look at the tea leaves at the time of harvest alone, the peak harvest season and the appropriate withering process that follows also have large influences on the quality of tea leaves.