A few people have e-mailed us and asked us how to brew Pu Erh tea. Here we try to provide two baseline ways of brewing Pu Erh Tea. One is the more traditional way, and the other one is a friendlier way for everyday drinking.
Here’s the marketing answer first: There is no wrong way to drink tea as long as it makes you happy inside!! We know people that would steep for 5 seconds each time and get 20 steeps each time. On the other extreme, we have friends that leave the tea in the teapot for 15 minutes and get one serving of really bold and heavy Pu Erh.
Make no mistake, you can’t drink the tea the “wrong way.” If anything, the best part of Pu Erh is that the different steep times affect the taste differently. Going through the process and finding what you like is more important than doing it “right.” Pu Erh tea is arguably one of the teas with the most variety based on region, years aged, sheng/shu type…etc. Each tea needs to be adjusted slightly and there is no one size fit all. If anything, that’s why Pu Erh is so fun! We provide two baselines where you can start to experiment with, and then add/subtract time as you play with the tea!
Some General Stuff that Applies to Both Baseline Methods
- Dark teas (including Pu Erh teas) generally take on higher temperature that is around 200°F – 210°F. The term “turbulent waters” is described close to the boiling point. Usually I just let the water sit for a minute or two after it boils.
- Tea that has been aged longer generally require longer steep times
- Sheng type teas usually require longer steep times than shu type teas
- We recommend the smaller tea pots (not required) that is under 10 oz
- Amount of tea used each time is 3 grams to 10 grams: we keep it around 5 to 8 grams
- Teas with more buds and less leaf usually have less steeps in them
If you want to “wing it” on how much tea to use, it heavily depends on the size and how compressed the tea leaves are. Here we show you two ends:
1. 5 grams of compressed smaller leaves from our Goddess of Beauty
2. 5 grams of very big loose tea leaves from 2016 Bold and Raw
Baseline 1: Traditional Way
The key to the traditional way of brewing Pu Erh is: Fast in – Fast out!
What this means is the steep time is very short.
The first step is to Rinse or Wash the tea:
Rinsing the tea or washing the tea is a fancy term for the first steep. For many Chinese teas, the first steep is usually thrown away. There are two ways you can do this
- Pour in the hot water, swirl it around for 5 – 10 seconds, pour out and discard the tea
- If you use a tea ball, you can just run hot water through it for 5 – 10 seconds
Rinsing the tea is used to “wake up” the tea leaves. The conventional answer is, the second steep is the “best” steep in terms of taste. The tea leaves are awaken, and there is still a lot of flavor to it.
Then, each steep afterwards is about 15 seconds each. Steeping the tea this way will usually give you at least 10 steeps for high quality teas.
A variation on this way of steeping you can try: Since the tea loses flavor each steep, some people add more time each steep. For example
- 1st steep: 5 seconds
- 2nd steep: 10 seconds
- 3rd steep: 15 seconds
- …and so on.
Try different times! Play with your drink! The discovery process IS the fun in Pu Erh Tea.
Baseline 2: The Everyday Method
The traditional way seems very labor-intensive. Also if you steep so accurately and setup this ritual at the office, your boss might not appreciate the beauty of Pu Erh as much as you do… I don’t want anybody to lose their job over drinking tea.
Here’s the simpler version for everyday drinking that I use at the office. For ease, I use tea balls or cups with simple filter mechanisms.
First step, rinse the tea (same as above). **In everyday drinking, I skip this step completely.
- 1st steep: 1 minute
- 2nd steep: 2 minute
- 3rd steep: 3 minutes
That’s it! 3 solid cups of Pu Erh per serving with minimal work.
Some Other Things to Consider
- How strong do YOU like your tea?
- Look at the color, usually you can probably get a pretty good guess from the color of the tea
There you go. I hope you have a good guideline to start with. Then feel free to change it up a little and find your favorite Pu Erh steeped your favorite way.
If you’re new to Pu Erh, I hope you’re less intimidated now and have a starting point to work with. Let us know if you have any questions in the future. Please share if you think someone else would benefit from this!
If you want to spice up your Pu Erh and add some other ingredients to it, check out some of these other blog posts: