When you’re having some exquisite, expensive wine, would you serve it in a plastic beaker? Maybe if there had been some sort of apocalyptic event and you really had absolutely nothing else, but nine times out of ten you'd want a red wine glass, with a wide, round bowl, which increases the rate that oxygen interacts with the wine.
Just as you’d want to capture every nuance of flavour of a phenomenal glass of wine by using the best vessel you have, the same can be said about premium, high quality loose leaf tea. Its always a good idea not to overlook the fundamentals - preparing your beautiful tea beautifully.
This guide will run the gamut from speedy single serves to making tea for 10 or more, and then on to multiple personal infusions in specialist teaware (a Gaiwan).
If you’d like to know more about how to infuse the tea itself, have a look here.
Warming Your Teaware
A simple step, but it can be vitally important. Entirely optional if you don’t have the time, but for some of the teas infused at a lower temperatures it can make the difference between a warm last sip or a cold final dribble... It also rinses out the teapot making sure there are no old left over leaves getting musty or water left stagnant.
Either heat a little extra water to warm up your teacups, mugs and teapots (and any other receptacle in the process) or use hot water from the tap (it’ll be discarded in the end). We’ll explore this in more detail in some of the following methods...
Rare Tea Company Glass Teapot
We can’t resist a tiny toot of our own horn - we think these are the ultimate in simplicity and usability. Delicate and pretty, yet tough where it needs to be (made out of borosilicate glass), practical and beautiful and dishwasher safe. It’s used in top restaurants around the world - spot them in Core by Clare Smyth and Angela Hartnett's Murano.
Wonderfully simple to use - add tea and fill up to the point where the top of the spout meets the body of the teapot.
You can also see the leaf swirling and unfurling as it infuses, and watch as the colour seeps in gracious clouds through the pot. It’s an experience every time you use it – most magnificently when you infuse some of our blossoms in there!
Simple but perfect
Dancing in the teapot
Single Serve in your Own Teapot
If you don’t have one of our teapots, then just measure out the water into your own teapot using the teacup or mug you’re going to use. This means you get exactly the right amount of water and make the perfect infusion.
Measuring out the hot water with your own cup also brings you the added benefit of warming your cup - perfect.
The Two Teapots Method
This one is excellent if you’re looking to have two or more cups (either to yourself or to share...)
This method really benefits from warming up the both your cups and teapot - otherwise you’ll be looking at a lukewarm refill, and we really don’t want that.
In a nutshell, the first tea pot is used to infuse the tea - once it has has steeped to perfection strain into a the second (warmed) pot. Don’t forget to scale the amount of tea and water you need accordingly (for details please see the product page for the teas or our previous blog post). You can use your own teacup or mug to measure the water, just like the single serve method.
Serve from the second pot at your leisure. You can even blend several infusions together to get a more rounded taste.
This is the method we use day to day at Rare Tea HQ - we make tea for everyone in the office daily, and first thing on a Monday morning it’s very beneficial to have to do a bit of mental arithmetic to get your brain going before the caffeine!
We use a beautiful style of teaware called Piquotware - it’s sturdy, utilitarian but also very pretty. Generally we do two big infusions brewed in the classic Teapot; we make two infusions of the same leaf and blend them together in the matching Piquot water jugs – designed exactly for decanting your infused tea...
Made in the 1950s
Still going strong
We can make tea for twelve people in about 5 minutes - it just goes to show how quickly you can do it with loose leaf tea.
Steadily growing in popularity and with good reason – this is something we began developing over a decade ago. We rather believe we were the pioneers of cold-extracted tea – certainly in the restaurant industry - (in Australasia they have been doing it in jam jars on windowsills for generations and calling it suntea) cold infusion is a great way to extract the full flavour of premium loose leaf tea without the risk of bitter tannins.
Not to be mistaken for traditional iced tea (well it is iced tea, just a different preparation method!) - cold infusion is extracting from the leaf using either cold or room temperature water, whereas iced tea is generally made with hot tea and then chilled... Cold infused tea can even extract flavours that hot water doesn’t reveal...
It’s also painless to do - all you need is a non-reactive receptacle (we’d recommend a glass bottle), fresh water and tea. Mix them together, leave for at least 8 hours to infuse and enjoy. It’s that simple!
For cold infusions you’ll need to adjust the amount of leaf slightly - start with about 6g (2oz) per litre of water. Infuse for a minimum of 8 hours (overnight is easiest) and up to 16 hours. If you’re not planning to drink it all in one go, strain and decant into another bottle.
To make your life easier, we have some brilliant Cold Infusion Bottles from Hario. These have a filter built in and fit perfectly in your fridge door.
Handy on the go
Lots of colours and sizes
Not only can Cold Infusions taste better, they might contain more antioxidants than hot infusions too - click here to find out more.
Firstly, what is a Gaiwan? Essentially it’s a lidded tea bowl, however it's far more than the sum of its parts. First conceived in the Ming Dynasty, it's considered almost essential for infusing the most delicate and intricate teas. It's particularly suited to Oolong, due to the ability of the leaves to be infused multiple times with a high leaf-to-water ratio (sometimes more than eight).
To use, you’ll want a high leaf-to-water ratio - about double what you’d do for a regular cup, between 4g and 6g.
For Oolong, you'll want to use an inch of boiling water at 100 degrees to “wash” the leaf for a few seconds - this opens out the rolled leaf and allows the water to penetrate (discard this “wash”). Begin your infusions with water from the same kettle - you don’t need to reheat the water - the softened leaf will require lower temperatures. Infuse for 10-30 seconds each time, draining the leaf completely. All in all we recommend at least six steps to allow the leaf to completely open out and reveal all its beauty.
For black, green and white teas, infuse at the correct temperature (as specified on the product page) and for around half the time specified. The higher leaf to water ratio will make sure that you get all the taste (even with a shorter infusion time). Re-infuse until the leaf is exhausted - each infusion should reveal different flavour notes.
We’ve got our own Rare Tea Gaiwan set that comes with everything you need: a Gaiwan teapot and lid, a fine mesh tea strainer, a serving jug and six small tasting cups if you’re in the mood to share...
Everything you need
Handy carry case
There’s a fabulous quote from one of our oldest and most venerable tea framers in Anxi about Oolong that we have to share with you:
“The first infusion is for your enemy, the second for your servant, the third infusion is for your wife and the fourth is for your mistress. The fifth is for your business partner, and the sixth, and the best, you keep for yourself.”
Lastly, please have fun experimenting - and if you have any questions please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd be happy to help with any questions you might have.