Wednesday, October 3, 2012

This Tea Comes with Frills

There are certain perks to living in China, and having access to abundant amounts of delicious green tea is one of them. Loose leaf tea is common, and the most fun to brew. I love to spend a small amount of my work day watching tea brew. The leaves start out dry and then expand as they rehydrate. Small residual currents in the water can make watching tea brew about as interesting as a lava lamp.

 It only requires access to hot water and some way to filter the leaves off the finished product. In my sample video, I've used a specialized tea mug that comes with a metal screen (you'll see at the end how well it doesn't work) but other contraptions such as french presses can work too. Some of the professionals use their teeth to strain out the leaves, and chew the remains like whole leaf tobacco.

I'm not expert enough to pick out a good tea until it's been brewed (and poured in my mouth) and I couldn't name any specific type. The term "green tea" seems to refer to any tea that is green. Some has huge broad leaves, other teas have small slender leaves and I've seen some that include flowers or other frills. There are certain types from certain regions of China that are "famous" and I'm trying to learn by sampling as many as possible and trying to remember the Chinese characters for each.

Regardless of the tea origin, one important factor is to not over steep the tea. Leaving it too long or using too little water results in bitterness. The batch I made for this video was deliciously brewed at ten minutes. It is unlike anything you'll get in a bag from Lipton.

A taste for good tea is one of the many small effects China will have on my life. Will I be disappointed after returning to the states? Or will I find a local source for "broad leaf green tea with frills?" I've already got the mug...


  1. Nice hearing from you, Clif! Your reports from the other side of the globe are always entertaining and informative. Three observations on this one:

    1. Were I you, I'd spend a larger amount of my work day watching tea brew.

    2. I can totally relate to the image of small residual currents in the water invoking lava lamp memories. I've spent many an hour...

    3. I can't remember the third.

    1. Lava lamps are dangerous. The correlation between lava lamp enjoyment and memory loss is alarming.

    2. But green tea is supposed to help with memory you're both all good!

    3. True that, the correlation. And green tea would certainly help, Erin, if you remember to have some.

    4. ...or in what cupboard it's kept. ;-) Oh-so many variables!

    5. Just don't confuse it with your oregano stash.