Easy Tips on Brewing Delicious Japanese Green Tea at Home
Last time we suggested preparing Japanese teacups or “yunomi” to use with your tea. This time, we are actually going to try brewing tea.
Just knowing some simple methods, proper temperature and timing will help you brew an especially delicious pot of tea.
Buying Tea Leaves
In Japan, any supermarket or department store offers several types of tea leaves, but of course the most recommended place to purchase is at a shop specializing in tea. We do say specialty shop but they often have a little shop corner in a section of supermarkets. So you can very easily purchase authentic tea leaves.
Additionally, at such tea specialty shops, there are some that offer leaflets with English explanation on how to brew each type of tea. If you by chance find such leaflets, we encourage you to get them.
Depending on the shop, there are some that offer tea leaves measured by weight or some that offer demonstrations explaining how to brew the tea and allow customers to taste. They make it easy for a customer who has no clue on which type of tea leaf to buy by offering some guidance on what to select.
Now we will use an actual in-store demonstration to explain how to brew tea.
1. Pour Hot Water into the Yunomi
It may be unexpected but hot water should not be poured directly into the tea pot. It is best to brew just the amount you will be drinking so the hot water is first poured into the yunomi.
The tea leaves will absorb liquid so the amount of hot water poured in should be a bit more than the amount of tea you want to make.
2. Hot Water is Transferred Into The Teapot
The hot water poured into the yunomi is then transferred in the teapot containing tea leaves.
3. Wait For the Tea to Steep
The amount of time you wait would depend on the type of tea leaf. This is often indicated on the package of the tea leaf you purchase. If there is no indication or if you do not understand the Japanese explanation, you can reference the below.
Genmaicha, Hojicha: 30 seconds at 95 Degrees (Celcius)
Sencha: 40 to 60 seconds at 70 to 80 Degrees (Celcius)
Gyokuro : 2 minutes at 60 Degrees (Celcius)
4. Gently Swirl the Teapot as You Pour the Contents into the Yunomi
When you pour, pour bit by bit in each cup alternately to get an even strength and flavor in each cup.
For example, the photo above shows preparing 2 cups of tea. The tea would be poured alternately between the yunomi on the right and left. It should not be poured so that 1 cup is filled up to the top first.
You end up with 2 cups of tea with the same strength.
Points to Keep In Mind When Brewing Tea at Home
Here we introduce some common mistakes that are made when brewing tea at home.
1. Don’t Use Boiling Water
Black tea uses boiling water when possible so that the tea leaves float in the water to extract more flavor.
However, boiling water should not be used for green tea. When the tea leaves come in touch with boiling water, the bitter or astringent flavors may be extracted ruining your delicious cup of tea. The reason hot water is first poured in the yunomi and then transferred to the tea pot is not only for the purpose of measuring the right amount of water, but also to adjust the temperature of the hot water.
*This is not the case for Genmaicha and Hojicha as these teas should be steeped in high temperature water.
2. The Amount of Tea Leaves
In the case of tea leaves, more does not always mean better. Using the appropriate amount of tea leaves brings out the best flavors of the tea.
3. Do Not Shake the Teapot
The teapot should not be roughly shaken or mixed in order to extract more flavors from the tea. This will make the bitter flavors to come out and make the tea cloudy in color, making it look unappealing as well.
4. Use Soft Water if Possible
Soft water of about 30～80mg/L in hardness is most suited for Japanese tea. Tap water in Japan is soft so it is suited for Japanese tea. If the tap water in your country is hard water, it is recommended to purchase and use softer mineral water when brewing Japanese tea.
Major brands of soft water that can be purchased overseas
Volvic hardness: 60 mg/L
Crystal Geyser hardness: 38 mg/L
How did you like it?
If you keep this information, steps and pointers in mind when brewing Japanese tea, you will be sure to have a delicious cup of tea. Try the proper method of brewing tea to enjoy delicious Japanese tea at home.