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How to Steep a Great Cup of Taiwan Oolong Tea


Brew Oolong tea with a teapot - ToDoTea

Every type of tea leaf is different and requires different steeping setup to bring out the best taste.

By changing the steeping temperature and teapot, the same batch of tea leaves can have dramatically different tastes.

How to make tea using loose leaf Taiwan Oolong comes down to 6 elements:

  • How to choose the best water for brewing

  • Don’t over boil the water for tea brewing

  • Which teapot to use and how much tea leaves to fill it with

  • How long to steep the tea leaves

  • Choose tea leaves from trusted sources to eliminate pesticide risk

  • What teapot material to use

We will share with you some tea brewing basics to help you begin your Oolong tea steeping journey.

How to choose the best water for brewing Taiwan Oolong tea

The quality of water affects every part of tea brew, such as colour, aroma and taste of tea.

Mediocre tea steeped with great water can become a great brew.

The best water for brewing flows from mountain streams, good water comes from rivers, and lesser water comes from still wells.

Mountain stream - ToDoTea

Brew the best tea with stream water.

Stream water flows through layers of rock and foliage, accumulating minerals while mixing with air as it flows.

As a result, stream water is rich in minerals and carbon dioxide, and low in chlorine and iron, perfect for brewing tea.

If it is difficult to find stream water, we recommend filtered tap water for the best tasting tea brew.

Don’t over boil the water for tea brewing

As mentioned in the previous section, a great cup of tea needs great water as a base.

So, boiling great water becomes quite an important task too.

When water temperature rises, small bubbles form on the inside surface of your kettle.

As the temperature gradually reaches boiling point, more and bigger bubbles appear, until the water bubbles are big enough to create tumbling waves in the kettle.

Water evaporates very quickly at boil, and you risk increasing the concentration of minerals and other impurities the longer you keep the water boiling.

As a result, over boiled water has different mineral concentration than the original water source.

We recommend taking the water off the heat immediately after reaching boiling temperature for the best steeping taste.

Which teapot to use and how much lose tea leaves to fill it with

“How much tea leaves to steep in the teapot?” is a common question asked by someone new to drinking Oolong tea.

If you don’t put enough leaves in the teapot, you get weaker tea brew that leaves you wanting.

If you put too much tea leaves in the teapot, leaves do not have enough room to expand in the brewing process, creating a stuffy and bitter taste while wasting excess leaves.

Therefore it is important to provide enough expanding room for tea leaves during steeping.

When steeping rolled Taiwan Oolong tea leaves, we recommend using just enough leaves to cover the base of a wide gongfu teapot, filling it about 1/4 of the teapot capacity.

Wide Xi Shi teapot - ToDoTea

Put just enough tea leaves to cover the base of wide Xi Shi teapot to allow leaves enough room to expand.

If you prefer Taiwan Red Jade Black tea, which is twisted rather than rolled, we recommend steeping with a taller teapot.

Since twisted tea leaves do not expand, you can fill 1/2 of the teapot with leaves for a richer brew.

Tall Dragon Egg teapot - ToDoTea

Fill 1/2 the capacity of a tall Dragon Egg teapot with twisted tea leaves for richer flavours.

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How long to steep the tea leaves

It may seem difficult to calculate the perfect tea brewing time, but the general rule of thumb is, the second steep is always the shortest.

Tea brewing time for loose leaf Taiwan Oolong tea - ToDoTea

Second steep is always the shortest.

When you first pour hot water into the teapot with fresh tea leaves, the tea leaves need time to unfurl, soak and warm up to the water temperature.

So you need to steep the leaves awhile for the flavours and nutrients to release into tea brew.

First steep is always the most nutritious.

At second steep, the tea leaves have properly expanded, so it takes the least time to create the perfect flavours.

As the tea leaves release less and less flavours in subsequent steeping, you will need to wait a few seconds longer to get your desired tea brew.

Choose Taiwan Oolong tea leaves from trusted sources to eliminate pesticide risk

Some urban tea legend says it’s good practice to not drink the first steep so you can wash out the pesticides from tea leaves.

Not only is the legend wrong about washing the pesticides off, because most pesticides don’t dissolve in water, but it prevents you from drinking the most nutritious first steep tea brew.

The best way to eliminate the risk of pesticide in your Oolong tea, is to buy loose leaf tea from trusted sources.

The tea leaves should only be harvested after the pesticides wear off, not to mention the roasting process would further reduce the level of pesticide residue.

The tea authorities in Taiwan has a long history of regulating the pesticide levels in locally-grown tea leaves, therefore you can safely drink Taiwan Oolong tea without worrying about pesticide residue.

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What teapot material to use

Legend has it, “A great teapot is the father of great tea.”

No wonder it is important to select the best teapot for the right kind of tea leaves.

In the same way you select a pot for cooking, the key aspect of a teapot is heat insulation.

Heat insulation properties are determined by the material and thickness of the teapot.

Zisha is a great insulating material, and keeps the tea brew hotter, longer, concentrating the tea aroma inside the teapot.

Zisha teapots are suitable for brewing aromatic High Mountain Oolong tea.

Zisha gale teapot - ToDoTea

Zisha teapots are great insulators of heat, can concentrate tea aroma inside the teapot.

Ceramic teapots’ insulating properties are lower than Zisha, making it perfect for Oriental Beauty Oolong tea, to bring out the original flavour of the tea brew.

Pour tea brew from ceramic teapot - ToDoTea

Ceramic teapots can bring out the original flavour of tea brew.

Glass teapots lose heat quickly for their low heat insulation, so do not create stale taste in tea brew.

They are suitable for tea leaves on either side of the oxidisation spectrum, such as the most oxidised black tea leaves, and the least oxidised flower tea.

Glass teapot brewing flower tea - ToDoTea

Glass teapots are suitable for the least oxidised tea, such as flower tea, and the most oxidised black tea leaves.

Now that you understand the basic elements to making great tea, you should never forget your mood is also a huge contributing factor to how much you enjoy a tea brew.

Sit back and relax, and have a sip of your favourite Taiwan Oolong tea.

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