How to Make Loose Leaf Tea explained by Tea experts

It can be easy to make a great tasting cup of Japanese green tea at home, you just need to follow a few simple steps. In this video, we’re going to cover a few basic principles. There are 3 three important factors to consider when brewing leaf tea. First is leaf to water ratio, the second is temperature and the third is time. 

Before we talk about brewing tea, let's first just cover brewing methods briefly. 

The Kyusu teapot is the best tool for brewing Japanese green tea. If you don’t have a teapot at home, a strainer can be the next best thing. This allows you to separate the leaves from the water so none of them end up in your cup. The downside to the strainer is that it packs the leaves into a tight space and doesn’t allow them quite enough space to open up. This is why when you make tea in a strainer, it can be slightly weaker or less complex in flavor. 

A kyusu teapot will allow the tea leaves enough space to open up and fully release their flavor into the water. The clay in the teapot can even accentuate some of the savory notes of the green tea, giving them a stronger taste profile. The teapots will either have a built in metal strainer, or a clay strainer thats carved into the teapot itself. This makes sure the leaves don’t end up in your cup.

The reason we don’t use teabags is because they tend to be made from very poor quality leaves. The tea in teabags can be made from later harvests, and therefore they are lower in flavor and nutrients. They are also crammed into a tighter space so they are unable to expand. The paper and plastic of the bag itself can also negatively affect the cup of tea, especially when brewed with hot water. What you want to go for is high quality, loose leaf tea.

When you brew Japanese green tea, you want to use 5 grams of leaves and 150 millileters of water. This comes out to about a tablespoon of leaves and half a cup of water. This may seem like a lot of leaves and not a lot of water, but it really improves the flavor by concentrating the tea into a smaller space. This will really allow you to appreciate the complexity of the tea. Instead of drinking a more diluted tea in a larger glass, you can enjoy a very concentrated tea in a smaller glass and savor each sip.

When it comes to water temperature, there are a couple of things worth considering. Hot water extracts more from the tea, including the bitter catechins that might overpower the more sweet and savory flavors of the green tea. If you brew a tea too hot, it will become bitter, if you brew it too cool, it will take a long time to extract a good amount of flavor from the tea. 

A tea like Gyokuro is best prepared at a low temperature of 140 degrees. This tea is designed to have a sweet and savory flavor with very little bitterness. A tea like sencha can be brewed between 150-170 degrees. Sencha is meant to have a little bit more of these grassy or vegetable notes, without being too bitter. Finally, the teas that can be prepared at a higher temperature are Genmaicha, Bancha, Kukicha and Hojicha. These teas are a bit tougher, and they can benefit from hotter water. With Hojicha for example, you really want to accentuate the strong, smoky flavors of the tea and that can be done at a higher temperature.

Steeping time is another important factor when it comes to preparing Japanese green tea. A lot of this comes down to the surface area of the leaf. For example, Fukamushi or deep steamed teas can have more broken leaves, and therefore they extract faster. You only need 45 seconds to one minute to brew a Fukamushi tea, whereas a regular sencha is brewed for a full minute. Gyokuro is rolled into even tighter needle shapes than a sencha. For this reason, it needs 2 minutes to open up and fully release its flavor into the water. Once the leaves have been opened up, you just need to brew them for 20 seconds.

After you brew your tea, you can reinfuse the leaves 2-3 more times. You will find that the flavor evolves as you go from the 1st brewing to the 3rd brewing. Some people actually prefer the second brewing of a tea because of its stronger, vegetable flavor. The color of the tea can also become greener, particularly with Fukamushi teas. The majority of the caffeine should be released in the first brewing of the tea, so you can enjoy the second and third brewings later in the afternoon. Just make sure you don’t leave the wet tea leaves in your teapot overnight. If you do this, you will want to rinse out the teapot and give it a quick scrub with a toothbrush.

So lets review. If you're making a fukamushi sencha, you can use 5 grams of leaves, 150ml of water at 160 degrees and brew for 45 seconds. If you are making regular sencha, you can use 5 grams of leaves, 150ml of 160 degree water and brew for 1 minute. If you are using Gyokuro, you can use 5 grams of leaves, 150ml of water at 140 degrees and brew for two minutes. If you are making Hojicha, bancha, kukicha and hojicha, you can use 5 grams of leaves, 150ml of water at 175 degrees and brew for 1 minute. 

When you follow this guide, you should be able to really get the most out of your green teas. As you can see, each tea has been designed to create a specific tasting experience and in order to fully enjoy that experience, you have to use the correct parameters. In our next segment, we will discuss how to prepare matcha or powdered tea. Preparing this tea is very different because it is not an extraction, but rather a suspension of tea powder in water. 

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