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How to make green tea that isn't bitter

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Shelley

Are you using water that has just boiled in the glass? I don't know if my glasses wouldn't shatter if i put that hot water in them, is it a special glass? Can I use china tea cup with a lid instead or does it need to breath?

 

Do you think I can buy this type of tea in the UK at a Chinese supermarket? And if so what do I ask for? will it have a different name here or if it is a mixed Cantonese/mandarin store (which mine is) will it have different names?

 

Sorry to bombard you with all these questions.

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wibr

I like the directly-in-glass method! For which kinds of tea can I use it? I usually drink Oolong from Taiwan, maybe I'll just try it and see how it goes...

 

8 ounces = 236ml btw

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ZhangKaiRong

You can use a gaiwan, Shelley, without any problems. Personally I would never consider using 90 celsius degree water for any kind of green tea, because the result would be quite bitter. Green tea likes 70 to 80 degree water, brewed for some 30-40 seconds for the first time, and you can add 10 to 20 seconds to the following brewings to get everything out of the tea. If you do well, green tea loses its real power after the third or fourth brewing.

I doubt that an ordinary supermarket would keep any tolerable Chinese teas. Unfortunately, Europe got used to the lowest grade of teas during its history and this is why you can find horrible teas in supermarkets. You can either run into gunpowder, jasmine green or terrible Biluochun, but none of them is the real thing. I recommend to buy tea from a local teashop or if there are no such shops nearby then order it from a good webshop (I will compile a list of them if it helps). You can ask for them using the Mandarin name as both teas are well-known.

One thing: there are very big differences in terms of quality. There are also a lot of fakes, especially among the famous teas. A Chinese friend of mine told me a real Xihu Longjing would cost like 3000+ RMB for a 斤. There are some relatively good tea under the name of Longjing, but don't expect condistent quality. I advise you to buy some not so well-known teas, e.g greens from Sichuan, because this way you can get good quality for your money.

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abcdefg

ZhangKaiRong is right. Sounds like he knows tea and has lots of experience working with it. (ZKR -- I'm glad you have come along.)

 

I advise you to buy some not so well-known teas, e.g greens from Sichuan, because this way you can get good quality for your money.

 

That's an excellent tip. Sichuan and Hunan both produce some first rate green teas which don't cost as much because they are less famous. All physical tea shops will let you taste before buying here in China. They will brew you some on the spot. I'm pretty sure that's the case in the west too, but I could stand corrected. Many, if not most, on-line sellers have a generous return policy. Some also sell very small and inexpensive "sampler" size packages specifically to try out.

 

I doubt that an ordinary supermarket would keep any tolerable Chinese teas. Unfortunately, Europe got used to the lowest grade of teas during its history and this is why you can find horrible teas in supermarkets.

 

Right, a supermarket is probably the least desirable place to buy tea. You cannot taste it before handing over your money and you cannot return it if you just don't like how it tastes once you get it home and try it. The only advantage a supermarket offers is convenience.

 

Are you using water that has just boiled in the glass? I don't know if my glasses wouldn't shatter if i put that hot water in them, is it a special glass? Can I use china tea cup with a lid instead or does it need to breath?

 

Yes Shelley, it's water that has boiled and has now cooled a bit. Ordinary glass tolerates the heat, doesn't need to be special tempered glass. If your glasses are antique, it might be different.

 

By all means you can use a lidded cup or gaiwan 盖碗, as ZhangKaiRong points out above. That is actually a more common preparation method. What I had planned to do was just use the "in-the-glass" method as a starting point because it didn't require dedicated equipment and might be an unfamiliar technique. 

 

Didn't want anyone to feel that they had to go out and load up on special gear right off the bat. Had planned to talk about making green tea in a gaiwan and in a teapot next, probably today and tomorrow, with tips on how to have it turn out well.

 

ZhangKaiRong makes another excellent point above regarding water temperature. If in doubt about the specific tea you're making, it's always best to err on the side of cooler water, lower temperatures. The thing to remember is that if your water is too hot, it ruins green tea and makes it nearly undrinkable. But if your water is not quite hot enough, you can still get a decent cup by just letting it steep longer.

 

#3 -- Wibr --

 

I like the directly-in-glass method! For which kinds of tea can I use it? I usually drink Oolong from Taiwan, maybe I'll just try it and see how it goes...

 

Works well with most green teas and Oolongs. Should be fine with your Taiwan Oolong. After you try it, please return and let us know how it went.

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skylee

When you say 'bitter', do you really mean 苦? I find it hard to imagine green tea being bitter… but I have recently tried a cup of Japanese green tea made of green tea powder and all I could taste was that it was very 腥. How do you describe 茶腥 in English?

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abcdefg

#6 -- Skylee --

 

When you say 'bitter', do you really mean 苦?

 

I mean both 苦 and 涩 sè (astringent) taken together. It's normal for green tea to have some astringency when brewed well, but if that element is too strong or mixed with bitterness, then something is wrong.

 

I'm not familiar with the 腥 taste in tea that you are describing. Would that mean "fishy?" But then I know very little about Japanese tea.

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ChTTay

Great post, I'd like to buy some 安吉白茶 and try the above, how much should I expect to pay? I'm in China.

 

Any difference between those tea shops that sell fancy boxes of stuff and usually have ladies stood outside with tasting trays (not for tourists though) and the more independent 'looking' ones with just loads of big jars of tea around?

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abcdefg

You can definitely find it in Beijing, but I don't know the city well enough to tell you where. I would stay away from the main tourist zones where overhead is high. Ask them to let you try sipping some of it in the store.

 

See if they will sell you 50 Grams. (They will probably want to sell you 100 Grams instead, and that's still OK.) It should be well under 100 RMB for 100 Grams, good quality. Try to bargain to half of that (i.e. -- offer to pay 50 Yuan for 100 Grams.)

 

The best questions to ask when purchasing are:

 

1. When was it harvested? -- Before Qing Ming Jie is best. This is called 明前茶。

2. Ask about the leaf -- It should be 一芽两叶。Maybe 一芽一叶。

 

Asking a couple of intelligent questions like that makes you less likely to be trifled with. The seller will accord you a measure of respect and may even give you a slightly better deal. (At least that's always my secret fantasy.)

 

Let the vendor know you have friends who love tea and you will all probably be back if he or she treats you right. Steer away from gift boxes and elaborate packaging. Just buy bulk tea if you can. They will put it in a cylindrical cardboard container free. A tin might cost an extra 5 RMB.

 

Girls or ladies standing outside with tasting trays is not a good sign, because most local people know that the tea needs to be brewed fresh to taste up to its potential. It's a gimmick designed to lure the unwary.

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ZhangKaiRong

In Beijing, I recommend the 马连道 tea market. Three or four huge buildings, several floors, all packed with shops specialised in tea. The building closest to the city centre has floors which resembles a market (no separate shops), where Fujian and Yunnan traders can be found, they have good stuff. When I was there in 2013 I bought 太平猴魁 (my favorite Chinese green, huge leaves and mild taste) and 安吉白茶, both for 100 RMB per 50 grams but this was the very best quality, cheaper version ranged up to 50 RMB per 50 grams. Good tea is not cheap, and it's even pricier in Beijing. The main problem is as a newcomer to the world of tea it is hard to tell the difference between good quality and bad quality. If you have Chinese friends who know something about tea, it would be better to go with them together, just to be on the safe side.

Skylee: I guess you're referring to the umami taste (鲜味 in Chinese, the taste you feel in the back and upper part of your mouth and also in your throat), which is a specialty of Japanese teas. I have never encountered any Chinese greens that can come close to Japanese ones in terms of thickness. It is mainly due to the difference of processing: Chinese greens are mostly roasted in their raw form, while Japanese greens are steamed either in raw form (sencha) or after shading (gyokuro). I would describe Chinese greens as 涩 as well if brewed properly, with some sweet taste in case of some types, and 苦 if you not brew it properly (try to brew greens for 4 minutes in boiling hot water, it will be very bitter).

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wibr

My experiment with Oolong tea (包種茶): I used 75° water like I usually do but the leaves didn't really want to sink down. Even after a very long time half of them are still floating on the top. Not sure if a slightly higher temperature would be better, I will try it another time.

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ZhangKaiRong

For oolong teas, about 85 to 95 celsius degrees are recommended (85 for green oolong 青乌龙 and 95 for roasted oolong 烤乌龙. Due to the fermenting process, oolongs can turn into bitter quite rarely, they are less sensitive than green tea. Optimal brewing time differs a little bit, but could be somewhere 30 to 90 seconds.

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abcdefg

Agree with ZKR. @Wibr -- try hotter water.

 

What I would probably do next is go for broke. Brew a batch using real hot water, 95 or so. If the leaves sink but the tea doesn't taste smooth, then I would try the next batch with slightly cooler water, about 90. Sort of work your way back to a point at which most of the leaves (80 to 90%) sink and the tea tastes good.

 

Alternatively you could use a gaiwan or teapot instead of brewing it in a glass. That definitely works better for the fuller-bodied roasted oolongs such as Tieguanyin. In-the-glass brewing provides low temperatures, gaiwan delivers medium temperatures best, and a teapot is best for providing high temperatures.

 

From your earlier post, I'm assuming yours is a Taiwan Oolong. By any chance do you still have the box?

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wibr

So actually I didn't read your instructions carefully enough, I poured the glass full and then added the leaves on top. Will do it correctly next time. But 95° indeed works better.

 

I still have the box, anything particular I should be looking for? It's almost empty though, so I will have to drink a different tea soon (still Oolong from Taiwan, but no 包種茶).

 

If I understand it correctly, you leave the leaves in the glass, so how do you drink the tea without getting the leaves into your mouth?

 

Yeah I usually use a teapot, but I wanted to try your glass method ;-).

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realmayo

Drink it through your teeth!

 

If you're drinking oolongs from a glass and topping up with hot water a few times I think it's a good idea not to drink all the way down to the bottom, because at that point the tea could taste too strong, but instead top up when you're only half-way down the glass or something.

 

A doyen of the English speaking Chinese-tea world refers to drinking tea this way as 'Grandpa style': http://www.marshaln.com/whats-grandpa-style/

 

As abcdefg says it's a very common way of drinking green tea; for other types of tea it's an easy relaxed alternative to making a fuss with teapots and timings and so on.

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abcdefg

I like that designation, "Grandpa Tea." Hadn't heard it before, but it fits.

 

Here in Kunming where the altitude is high and the air is dry most of the year, local people seem to have one of these "always with you" tea glasses 茶杯 wherever you look or wherever you go. It's a matter of staying hydrated in a 干燥 environment.

 

Take it when you go shopping, take it when you go to the office, take it when you go to class. Year round. Male and female, young and old.

 

In fact, if I were a cartoonist wishing to caricature a Kunming person 昆明人, I would draw a young one with 茶杯 in one hand and 手机 in the other. A slightly older male 昆明人 would have his 茶杯 in one hand and a cigarette in the other. A senior citizen here, man or woman, usually has a knitted or crocheted cover for his 茶杯 and his free bus pas 爱心卡 on a lanyard around his neck. Matched set, presumably hand made by an adoring granddaughter.

 

Here's the 茶杯 I use at home. It has 双层 double glass walls, so as to keep the tea hot longer. It's equipped with a strainer 漏网 and a screw lid. Has a handle.

 

post-20301-0-54741900-1431398403_thumb.jpg post-20301-0-94245200-1431398394_thumb.jpg post-20301-0-74157900-1431398386_thumb.jpg

 

Here's the one I most often take to class. It also is glass and has double walls. But it's an easier shape to slip into the pocket of a backpack.

 

post-20301-0-81504200-1431398709_thumb.jpg

 

I have a couple that are plastic and are tougher. I take one of those when I think it might get bounced around. It goes with me when I travel. Can always get a refill of potable hot water somewhere along the way. Metal ones also exist, but I prefer glass or clear plastic so I can see my tea.

 

Sometimes, as in the photo just above, I put in more leaves than I should at the start. Once they steep and expand it's obvious, and the tea also tastes too strong. No worries. Just take some of the leaves out and add more hot water. After all, this is easy going "Grandpa Tea."

 

post-20301-0-91152500-1431398806_thumb.jpg

 

Sometimes I like to use a pottery teacup with a lid. This one fits my hand well and is from Jianshui 建水 (SE Yunnan) where they have a special famous clay. Pieces made from it are called 紫陶。It's dark and tough and develops a natural sheen after being handled a while. 

 

post-20301-0-89496200-1431398815_thumb.jpg post-20301-0-62730400-1431398824_thumb.jpg

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abcdefg

#14 -- ·Wibr -- Is it a 文山包种? Good stuff. I don't know a lot about Taiwan tea, but that is one I've had and enjoyed.

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abcdefg

Went to the store yesterday, a smaller, local version of Walmart, and wound up in the chabei 茶杯 section as if drawn by a magnet.

 

I never cease to be amazed at how large a selection is offered locally. This isn't a specialty store at all, and I think it just reflects the fact that absolutely everyone here (Kunming) has two or three portable tea cups like this. Even non-tea drinkers use them, just filling them with hot water.

 

I really can't remember any more if they are common in Beijing and cities farther north. Any one out there know?

 

post-20301-0-73268700-1431568966_thumb.jpg

 

This was only about a third of their stock. Wide price range, from about 20 Yuan to 90. Some were plastic, others glass, and still others metal. The metal ones were often vacuum flasks that kept liquids hot a long time. Some of the glass ones had double walls. Most plastic ones were single.

 

Wound up buying one that I didn't really need, but it seemed so sleek and practical that it was difficult to resits. Cost 40 Yuan.

 

post-20301-0-99435400-1431569249_thumb.jpg post-20301-0-86475400-1431569257_thumb.jpg post-20301-0-47056300-1431569422_thumb.jpg

 

You put tea leaves in the bottom chamber. Add hot water as you go about your business. Nearly every place you visit during the course of the day will have a water dispenser 饮水机 at which you can top it up with hot water. Even on domestic air flights, the stewardess will give you more. A very common sight.

 

I've come to associate these portable hydration gadgets with being Chinese, or at least Yunnanese. Don't think I ever saw a single one back in the States.

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imron
if they are common in Beijing and cities farther north. Any one out there know?

Yes.  Very common.  I personally go for the double-walled glass ones for indoor purposes, and small metal ones if I'm going to be going somewhere.

 

I've come to associate these portable hydration gadgets with being Chinese, or at least Yunnanese.

I would say it's definitely a Chinese trait, not just a Yunnan one.

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