Different Ways to Brew Loose-Leaf Green and White Tea - And Which is the Best
There are many different ways to brew green tea: these are the most popular, in order of my opinion of the best (at the top of he list) and the worst (at the bottom).
For a step by step guide with pictures to brewing one of the most popular green teas - Anji Bai Cha, read my guide to Making the Perfect Cup of Anji Bai Cha green tea - the method also applies to a lot of other loose-leaf green and white teas, like Dragonwell and Silver Needle. And if you're new to loose-leaf tea and want to know more, read my guide for newbies to green and white tea.
1. Glass Jug out of all the different pieces of equipment used for brewing green (and white) tea, the humble plain glass jug is my favourite. It’s simple, easy to clean and it allows the leaves room to move around in the water so that they infuse fully. You will also be able to watch the beautiful ‘leaf dance’ of the tea as it brews, and admire the pastel colour of the infusion. As the leaves infuse the water, the heat dissipates, so that your tea is at the perfect drinking temperature, and because the heat isn’t trapped, your leaves won’t oversteep, so your tea won’t taste bitter. Add to this that there’s a measurement guide on the side of the jug, so whether you’re making one cup of tea or enough for a tea party you’ll always be able to judge just the right amount of hot water to pour onto the leaves, and the simple lowly jug wins out every time.
2. Infuser Mug these are a fantastic idea if you like to make quick cups of tea. A chamber with holes, or made of mesh, sits inside the mug. You put the leaves into this chamber and pour hot water in. Wait for the tea to steep, remove the chamber, and you have a mugful of tea. For the second and third infusion, you replace the chamber into the empty mug, and pour more hot water in. Many even come with a glass ‘lid’ to rest the infusion chamber on between infusions to catch the drips. I really can’t fault these, and would highly recommend them to anyone.
3. Teapot if you’re having a dinner party and want to serve green tea, there are some exquisite glass teapots that will show off your wonderful green, white or flowering teas and elicit a few ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ of appreciation from your guests. Porcelain teapots aren’t quite as spectacular, but might still be more to your taste if you’ve brought out the best china for a special occasion and don’t want an old measuring jug in the middle of the dinner table ruining the effect. There are a couple of minor difficulties with a teapot: the pot retains heat which means you have to be quite sharp timing steeping length so that the infusion doesn’t become too astringent and bitter. Also, if the teapot has an infuser, this can restrict the free movement of the leaves so that they might not fully brew; and if the teapot doesn’t come with an infuser, it can be a little awkward to scrape out the leaves afterwards. The teapot might not be the best way to make your everyday cuppa, but for special occasions the effect of an unusual and beautiful teapot can make it a very worthwhile investment.
4. Tea Balls these seem like such a good idea: they’re cheap, practical, and unfussy. But for green tea, they just don’t work so well. Their small size means the tea leaves are crushed up together and don’t have room to move freely in the water, so they don’t fully infuse. But what’s worse is that you don’t get to enjoy the lovely ‘tea dance’ of the leaves floating in the water that makes a glass jug or glass teapot such a wonderful method of making tea. However, if you don’t have an infuser mug, and tend to make your tea in the cup but don’t want to have to fish out the leaves with a teaspoon, then one of these could be quite a boon for you, and if you get one of the larger mesh ones, you can minimise the problem of under-infusion.
5. Tea Infuser these are a great idea, but sadly they solve a problem that doesn’t really exist. They are two-chambered devices with a top-reservoir into which you put your leaves and then pour hot water in, and a bottom chamber that holds the finished brew. Once the leaves in the top chamber are infused, you allow the liquid to drain into the bottom chamber. There are a couple of issues I have with these. The first is that even in the largest size, the top chamber only holds enough water for one cup of tea (or two very small ones) whereas the bottom chamber holds twice the amount, which suggests that you mix the first and second infusion: but the taste and pleasure of the different infusions are a part of the magic of green tea, so mixing them seems to be a little pointless. The second issue I have with it is that the infuser is wholly sealed, which means it retains heat and thus potentially oversteeps the tea and makes it taste bitter; this feature also creates the third issue I have with these devices: because the steeping leaves are enclosed, you can’t enjoy their aroma, which is one of the joys of making loose-leaf green tea. All in all, these seem to add complications to the tea-making process , and since the device still must be cleaned, and the leaves scraped out of the top chamber, they don’t add any convenience or pleasure to it.