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The Drinking of Tea

1. What are the fundamental element for brewing a good cup (pot) of tea?

The bowing of a good cup of tea will be affected by a variety of factor. Regardless of the quality of the tea, different tea brewers have their brewing habits. The experienced tea brewers know the features of the tea they brew. Thus they can choose suitable brewing methods based on the nature of tea, which usually include controlling the leaching efficiency of the flavoring ingredients to accentuate the enjoyable elements of the tea’s features, and to reduce the dissatisfaction, if any, caused by the defects in the tea s quality. The fundamental elements of brewing tea can be concluded in the following six aspects:

① Quality of tea: tea quality is the prerequisite for a better taste of tea infusion;
② Choice of water: the mineral elements or other substances contained in the water can affect the brewing;
③ Teaware: the shapes and materials of teaware affect brewing;
④ Brewing time: the different lengths of brewing time can lead to different infusion;
⑤ Brewing water temperature: under different temperatures, the flavoring and aromatic substances in the tea have different leaching efficiency and volatilization rate, thus resulting in different flavor;
⑥ The ratio of tea leaves to water: different ration ratios can result in different brewing results.

2. How to choose the time for brewing tea?

The time used to brew tea has an evident effect on the taste of infusion. The longer the brewing time is, the higher their contents are in the infusion. Also, the concentration of taste is positively correlated with the content of compounds leached into the infusion; thus, the longer the brewing lasts, the more concentrated the infusion is; the shorter the brewing lasts, the less concentrated the infusion is. People differ in their preference of the taste concentration. Some people like to drink strong tea, and yet some people like to drink mild tea. But the concentration of infusion, which most people can accept, is variable within a certain range. Therefore, you can choose how to brew a cup of tea according to your own flavors.

3. What is the requirement for water temperature for brewing tea?

Generally, the solubility of the content of compounds leached into the infusion in the water is positively correlated with the temperature of the brewing water. The higher the water temperature is, the more the contents are leached, and the more concentrated is the infusion. Conversely, the lower the water temperature is, the less concentrated the infusion is. However, the requirements of temperature of brewing water are different for different types of tea. When brewing premium green teas of tender buds and leaves, the temperature of brewing water is better not too high, ideally between 75-85℃,because only with water at a relatively lower temperature, the infusion can become light green and the taste can become refreshing. By contrast, brewing with too hot water increases the leaching of tea polyphenols, likely to make astringent taste and damage vitamin C. The choice of water temperature varies with the consumers' geographical regions, ages, genders, habits, etc. Generally speaking, water at high temperature, for example boiling water, is used for Oolong tea, dark tea, white tea and scented tea. For black tea and yellow tea, the temperature depends on how tender the leaves are: lower temperature like 75 - 85℃ for those that are relatively less tender. In any cases, the above mentioned temperature of water is attained by cooling down boiling water.

4. What is the appropriate tea-to-watere ratio in brewing?

Generally to say, placing more tea means a stronger taste. An appropriate tea-to-water ratio may rest on the tea variety, the size of teaware and the personal taste. For example, the ratio can be approximately 1:50-1:75 in brewing premium green tea or black tea, i.e. 3g of dried tea requires 150-200 ml of water between 75-85℃, but in brewing Pu'er tea or Oolong tea, the amount of tea should be twice as that of black tea and green tea for the same size of water. People of ethnic minorities, who have a penchant for "brick tea" that features highly concentrated infusion and efficacies of decomposing fat and facilitating digestion,like to follow a ratio between 1:30 and 1:40 by applying 1,500-2,000 ml of water to 50g of brick tea.

5. Why should we separate infusion from tea?

It is recommended to separate infusion from tea in brewing fundamentally with following reasons. First, as different chemical components of tea may offer different leaching rates, the separation will keep the flavor of each brew approximately the same by the control of steeping time. Second, since tea varieties differ in an acceptable number of brews, the action will give us folly a sensory joy from each brew. Third,it will make tea better-tasted and more nutritious, which can be more instrumental to maintaining the color, taste and nutritious of the infusion.

6. Shall we discard the first brew of tea?

Some people believe that the first brew of tea is not clean, to they always discard it when brewing tea, believing that through this, they can clean the dust in the teaware and rid the pesticide residue. However, this practice is mistaken. Currently, the production of tea can be mechanized, continuous, and clean; in this case, the tea produced are clean and sanitary. Notably, the tea sold in the market must meet the China's Food Safety Standard. As long as the consumers buy qualified tea products, the sanitation indicators of the tea are trustworthy, and consumers can drink the tea with reassurance. What is more important is that most amino acids such as theanine, vitamin C, and some other nutritional substance are already leached into the first brew,so discarding the first brew of tea leads to the loss of these most nutritional substances. Therefore, the first brew of tea should not be discarded.

7. Do the different qualities of water influence the quality of the brew of green tea?

Different kinds of brewing water bring along different flavors of green teas. Bottled drinking water such as purified water (distilled water), natural spring water, natural mineral water, and tap water or source water are frequently used to brew a cup of tea in daily life. Normal brewing with purified water (distilled water) renders the pure and original flavor of green tea. Natural water (spring water) can better the taste and aroma of the tea to a certain extent. Mineral water influences the flavor of green tea, mostly in a negative way. The quality of tap water varies greatly for its sources. Generally speaking, the flavor of tea brewed by tap water in large cities is poor. Alkaline water is not suitable for brewing green tea. Purified water (distilled water) is a normal choice, and natural water (spring water) of low mineralization, low hardness, and low alkalinity is a good choice for fastidious drinkers.

8. Sometimes, white precipitates may appear in brewed green tea. Is there a problem with the tea?

White precipitates occur mainly due to the property of the brewing water. Tea leaves contain a high content of oxalic acid. Therefore when the water is too hard, having a high concentration of calcium and magnesium ions, large amounts of insoluble white precipitates, for example, calcium oxalate and magnesium oxalate, are produced. It is not an indication of the tea itself.

9. How to brew green tea in glasses.

When brewing green tea in glasses, the consumers can choose different methods, such as dropping tea at last, dropping tea secondly or dropping tea firstly. Brewing with dropping tea last means pouring water in the glass first, and then dropping tea into the water. In this way, tea gradually stretch on the surface of the water and slowly descend. The advantage of this brewing method is that the hairs on tea are maximally preserved. Thus this method is suitable for brewing tender teas with dense hairs. Dropping tea secondly means pouring one-third of water into the glass, then droning tea into the water, and finally filling the glass with water. This brewing method is suitable for tea which is neither too tender nor difficult to descend. Dropping tea firstly means dropping the tea into the glass first, and then pouring the water. This is suitable for the teas made of large buds or leaves which are difficult to sink to the bottom.

10. How to brew black tea?

Black tea can be brewed in many different ways. Bagged black tea and instant black tea normally are brewed in a cup .Broken black tea (CTC), black tea tablets and black tea powder are normally brewed in a pot, which is conducive for separation of infusion from the tea dust. Congou black tea and Souchong black tea can be brewed in a bowl with a lid or in a pot.

Take Kungfu black tea as an example. It is usually brewed in a lidded bowl. For each 3 grams of tea, it takes 150 mL of water at 85℃. Allow 45 seconds far the first brew, 20 seconds for first second brew, and 40 seconds for the third brew. Adding milk and some sugar into black tea brew makes the different flavors and is liked by some foreigners. some people are fond of mixing infusions with ice, honey, and fresh lemon in utensils to make iced tea.

11. How to brew Chaoshan Congou tea?

Congou tea, as an extremely elaborative tea-drinking habit, prevails in southern Fujian Province and Chaoshan Area of Guangdong Province.

A set of antique tea wares called "Four Treasures for Brewing Tea" is a prerequisite to enjoy Chaoshan Congou tea. The first treasure is Yushu Kettle, an ochre-brown platode water kettle with a capacity of around 200 ml. The second treasure is Chaoshan Stove, which is used to boil water. The third treasure is Mengchen Pot, a type of ceramic teapot as big as a goose egg with a capacity of around 50 ml (50 g water). The fourth treasure is a tiny Ruocheo Cup, half of a ping-pong ball in size, holding 10-20 ml of infusion. Taking "Fenghuang Dancong" as an example, 5g of "Fenghuang Dancong" is brewed with 100 ml boiled water at 100℃. It allows 30 seconds for the first brew, 20 seconds for the second brew, 30 seconds for the third brew, and an extra 10 - 15 seconds for each following brew. This tea can be brewed 5 - 8 times.

12. How to brew yellow tea?

The yellow tea is normally brewed in a lidded bowl or in a glass or a pot The method and water temperature for brewing yellow teas (bud and small leaf types) are similar to those for brewing green teas. Tender yellow teas with good shape can be brewed in a glass or a lidded bowl. For example, three grams of Mogan yellow-bud tea is brewed with 150 ml boiled water at 80℃. The first brew takes 80 seconds the second brew is 50 seconds, and the third brew spends 60 seconds. The yellow tea of big leaves can be brewed in boiled water at a temperature over 95℃.

13. How to brew white tea?

White teas can be brewed in lidded bowls by dropping the tea first The water temperature should be high (better over 95℃), especially when brewing "Baihao Yinzhen" (White Tip Silver Needle), and a longer infusion time than for other types of teas should be used. Medium and large-sized lidded bowls are chosen to brew loose white teas like "Baimudan" (White Peony) and "Shoumei". White porcelain cups are recommended to sip for appreciating the beauty of the infusion color. Take White Peony (Baimudan) as an example,each 5 grams of tea is brewed with 150 ml boiled water at 90℃, which allows 60 seconds for the first brew, 30 seconds for the second brew, 40 seconds for the third brew, 60 seconds for the fourth brew, and 80 seconds for the fifth brew. Brewing aged white tea in a large-sized pot makes the flavor even better.

14. How to brew dark tea?

The water temperature should be high while brewing dark tea. Normally large-sized boccaro teapots are selected to brew dark teas for their good retention of high temperature. Taking compressed Pu'er teas an example, each five grams of dark teas is brewed with 100 ml boiled water at 90 ℃. The first brew takes 20 seconds, the second brew takes 10 seconds, and the third brew takes 15 seconds. Each of the following brew thereafter takes an extra 5 - 10 seconds, and dark teas can be brewed more than 7 times.

15. Why is tea astringent.

The polyphenols in tea contain free hydroxyls, which can combine with the proteins in the oral mucosal epithelial tissues. The complexes are solidified into an impermeable film, which produces a taste of astringency. If the polyphenols contain many hydroxyls, a thick impervious film is formed to give a strong astringent taste as eating raw persimmons. If the polyphenols contain limited hydroxyls, the formed impervious film is thin and unstable and gradually dissociates, producing an astringent taste at the first and sweet aftertaste.

16. Why do some teas have grass odor?

The main ingredient that produces grass odor is geraniol, a terpene alcohol. It exists in fresh tea leaves with a boiling point of 156℃. The white tea processing is simple and mainly involves withering and baking, and thus geraniol is not completely evaporated. This is especially true for new white teas (within the first year after production),which usually carry a grass odor. Green tea without sufficient inactivation of enzymes would also have a type of grass odor.

17. Can children drink tea?

Yes, but weak tea is suggested. Since the caffeine in tea can be refreshing to human brain, an excessively strong tea may affect children's nervous system and cause over-excitement. It is therefore recommended for children not to have strong tea.

18. Is overnight tea drinkable?

Overnight tea can be taken in as long as it has not spoiled. Yet in summer, tea brews deteriorate easily to produce an unpleasant smell due to the hot weather. Sometimes tea brewed in the morning is not drinkable even in the afternoon. Many foods contain nitrates. These matters could combine with secondary amines to form nitrosamines inside the human body under certain conditions. Nitrosamines are carcinogenic during the process of metabolism in animals. As tea contain a certain amount of protein,some people surmise that the overnight tea would contain nitrites and thus is carcinogenic. In fact, a very little amount of nitrites is formed in the overnight tea, even if there is any. Moreover, nitrite per se is not carcinogenic and becomes a bit toxic only after forming nitrosamines by reacting with secondary amines under certain conditions Moreover, tea contain abundant polyphenols and Vitamin C, which hinders the formation of nitrosamines. Thus you can drink the previous night's tea if it does not deteriorate.

Of course, we do not encourage people to drink such previous-night's tea. Any beverage tastes best when it is fresh. The same is true for tea . The newly brewed tea is fragrant, more nutritious, and contains less living contaminants. Thus, it is better to drink the newly brewed tea.

19. Can we swallow the medicine with tea?

Tea contain caffeine, theobromine and tea polyphenols, which might have chemical reactions with certain compounds in the medicine. This may influence the efficacy of the medicine,so it is not advisable to swallow certain kinds of medicine with tea or drink tea immediately after taking medicines. The depressant and hypnotic effects of Miltown, barbital, diazepam, among other inhibitors of the central nervous system, might be offset by caffeine and theophylline that can stimulate the central nervous system.Caffeine in tea can contradict adenosine, consequently perils the efficacy of dipyridamole when it is taken together with tea by patients suffering from cardiovascular diseases or nephritis. The efficacy of chalybeate deteriorates if anemia patients have this medicine with tea because tea polyphenols can precipitate chalybeate. In addition, chlorpromazine, aminopyrine, pantopon, berberine, digitalis, biofermin, multienzyme tablets, pepsin, ferrous sulfate and tetracycline, and other antibiotics medicines can combine with tea polyphenols and form insoluble precipitates. This will affect the absorption of the medicines. In order to give full play to the performance of the medicines and avoid adverse consequences, one should not have medicine, no matter the Chinese medicine or the western medicine, with tea or drink tea right after taking medicine unless otherwise instructed by the doctor.

20. Why has tea become a necessity for minority ethnic groups in northwest china?

This is related to their living habits and geographical environments. There are three main reasons. First, they cat a diet heavy on dairy products and meat, which are fatty and difficult to digest Some ingredients of tea help break down fats and promote digestion. Second, the altitude is high in northwest China. The thin air and dry climate cause a faster water loss in the human body and call for adequate water intake. Apart from providing water to the human body,drinking tea can stimulate saliva secretion with its polyphenols, which increase appetite and quench thirst. Third, people living in highlands suffer from a shortage of vegetables and fruits and are therefore susceptible to vitamin deficiencies. Tea contains various vitamins, which is acquired by people who drink tea.

21. How can we make dishes with tea?

There are usually four ways of cooking with tea:
① tea dish, mix fresh tea with dishes while grilling of frying;
② tea soup, stew or simmer dishes in the tea soup;
③ tea powder: grind the tea into powder and sprinkle it into the dish or snack;
④ tea fumigation, fumigate food with the aroma of tea.

22. Is the tea infusion acidic or alkaline?

This depends on the relative concentrations of free hydrogen ions and free hydroxide ions in the tea infusion. Main acidic substances in the tea are various carboxylic acids (such as citric acid, fatty acids), certain amino acids, vitamin C, theaflavins, and theaflavins, and thearubigins among others; alkaline substances are some aroma compounds. The pH value of the infusion has a certain correlation with the processing of tea, the quality of made tea, and the brewing of tea. More often, tea infusions are acidic, and there is no alkaline one.