I have mentioned on many occasions that there are inexpensive ways (or things I did) that had improved my puerh tea brewing sessions while I was brewing tea at home. The following ideas or methods are not expensive to do and I would like to share (repeat) these ideas again in this blog entry. The improvements might be very very tiny, hardly noticeable but can be discerned by a pu erh tea drinker.
1. Water. I use tap water for my tea. Chlorine was added to the water (during purification) to make it germ free. The chlorine scent is quite pronounced especially when you fill a jar, cover it and returning to it 15-20 min later. I use a filter (simple gravity type) to remove this smell. Another way to remove chlorine is to fill a jar of water and leave it overnight. Drinking chlorine free water does improve the taste and aroma of the pu erh tea. I know a few tea friends that went the extra 'mile' by placing mineral stones or charcoal pieces in the water jar.
Another inexpensive method is to use boiling water for brewing all your pu erh infusions - raw or ripe. Even for later infusions, start up your stove again or let the kettle reboil before brewing your tea. I feel that I could get a wider aroma profile from just using boiling water. Ideally, if you can get a kettle of water and get it to slowly simmer (low boil) throughout the tea session...is best. I am sure you had noticed some friends, teashops or even video where the water is never reboiled after the 1st infusion and the water gets 'cooler' with subsequent brews.....the tea taste and aroma is affected by the lower temperatures and the interpretation of the tea in my opinion is compromised. Reboiling a hot kettle of water only take a few seconds and your tea would taste better with this extra effort.
2. Use a Yixing teapot to brew your tea. There is a big difference between using a gaiwan and a Yixing teapot when it comes to brewing pu erh tea. A Yixing clay teapot will enhance the taste and aroma of your pu erh tea. Perhaps it is the tea patina from constant using of a teapot, that had improved the taste of the tea. Maybe, the teapot holds the temperature well (preventing the tea from cooling too fast)...or maybe it is the interaction of the clay with the tea. (Incidentally, I also found that purion teapots made by Lin Ceramics seem to make my pu erh tea more amplified in the aroma and taste.) Buying a Yixing teapot may be an expensive proposition. You would be looking at prices from $50-200 for a Yixing teapot. But....if you are careful with it, the teapot can give you many happy brews of your tea. I have a few teapots that I have used and brewed tea for more than a thousand times. I had personally found, I could use a Yixing teapot to brew either ripe or raw tea and I could not discern any inconsistency in the tea when I used such a teapot. I recently read an article that using a teapot is not 100% necessary and that using a gaiwan is good enough. You can brew a tea anyway you want even throwing some leaves in a cup, adding hot water and drinking the tea later, but to enhance the atmosphere of drinking and appreciating Chinese tea, a teapot is an important utensil that serious tea drinkers cannot do without.
To be continued.
I think you referenced one of my recent posts. I think we mainly agree about most of this. But in regards to the importance of teapots, I'd respectfully share a few of my thoughts and push back a little bit.
In my opinion, good Yixing can improve a session. I also use Yixing for a significant majority of my own sessions so I'm certainly not a total skeptic. I also do believe that it's importance can be overly inflated.
My post was written towards people newish to Chinese tea and/or pu'erh. The cost of good clay pots can be quite high and getting a $200 teapot is often seen as a significant barrier towards trying Chinese tea, when I think it'd be better if it wasn't.
From what I've seen, a fair number of people just starting will end up with cheap pots that they'll stop using at some point. You could argue this is necessary just as tuition tea is.. But.. I'd argue newer people would be better off focusing more on tea rather than concerning themselves with the intricacies of the teaware market.
Can a serious tea drinking person be into tea without owning teapots? This is a harder question, but I do think it is possible. I have a good tea friend that's been into tea for several years.. They have a couple pots, but when resources are limited he just about always ends up buying tea. Having old, nice pots is a nice thing to have but I also don't think it is a 100% requirement to be considered a serious tea person. I'd argue it is a luxury more than a 100% requirement.
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