Next to water quality, brewing parameters are the most important aspect to obtaining a nice cup of tea. While it may seem like only time and experience will give you the ability to find a tea’s sweet spot, understanding the basics will actually get you most of the way there.

Today we will discuss the basics. The specific numbers and formulas in this post are geared for sencha, but the logic and method can be applied to any leafy Japanese green tea. šŸ™‚

Step Zero: Tools of the Trade

brewing parameters tools
While there is nothing wrong with being a touch-and-feel brewer, you will need to accurately gauge your parameters to hone in on the sweet spot.

So before we start, make sure you have these items:

  1. Cooking thermometer
  2. Scale that measures to 1/10th of a gram
  3. Cup to consistently measure your water with

Once you have the right tools, we can move on to step one. šŸ™‚

Step One: Understand What Each Change Does

Leaf to Water Ratio

If you increase the amount of leaf, you will have a stronger taste. Every aspect of the flavour will be stronger. Decreasing the amount of leaf will make the tea taste weaker. This likely is obvious, but it’s important to note because all the other brewing parameters play off of your leaf to water ratio.

Temperature

The temperature is a double edged sword. A higher temperature will make the tea seem more lively, but can also make it bitter. A lower temperature will make the tea sweeter, but can also make itĀ flat.Ā If your tea isn’t lively but increasing the temperature makes it too bitter, or if your tea isn’t sweet but lowering the temp makes it flat, you will need to change a different parameter instead of temperature.

Steeping Time

The length of time you let your tea steep for is likeĀ looking at a budding flower. Look at it too early and you will see only a small bud. Look at it too late, and you’ll see shrivelled petals and a bare stem. But if you look at it at the right time, you will see a flower in bloom.

To put it another way, look at this timeline. In this example, the perfect steeping time is 1:00.

  • 0:30Ā Very weak.
  • 0:50Ā TasteĀ is good, but a little light.
  • 1:00 All the positive aspects of the tea are shining. Perfect flavour.
  • 1:10Ā Still pretty good, but undesired astringency is creeping into the picture.
  • 1:30 Too astringent. All the pleasant aspects of the flavour are being drowned out.

Step Two: The Formula & Coarse Adjustments

Let’s start with the formula.

Leaf : Water – 1.0g:1oz or 3.4g:100ml or 4.3g:125ml. (These are the same ratio. Use the one that applies to you.)

Temperature –Ā Use what the vendor specified. If they don’t, use 77C/170F for fukamushi, or 72C/162F for asamushi.

Steep Time –Ā Again, what the vendor specifies. If they don’t, 0:55 for fukamushi, or 1:10 for asamushi.

If you try this formula and the taste of the tea leaves much to be desired, then it’s time forĀ coarse adjustments.

Start with the leaf. As stated earlier, all other parameters play off the leaf to water ratio. If the strength of the tea is good, then consider changing the temp and time.

If you feel you’re close but the tea isn’t singing, then it’s time to move on to Step Three.

Step Three: Balancing the Triangle & NailingĀ Your Brew

I consider leaf/water, temperature, and time to be a triangle that must stay in balance. Once you’re close to finding the sweet spot, for every adjustment you make on one parameter, you need to change the others to keep the balance.

IfĀ you decrease the leaf, try increasing the steeping time. If you increase the temperature, try decreasing the leaf. Knowing which part of the triangle to changeĀ is found through experience, andĀ takes trial and error.

These fine tuned adjustments should be around 1/10th of a gram, 1-2 degrees C (or 2-4F), and 5-10 seconds.

Now You Know How to Find the Best Brewing Parameters!

With proper tools and understanding, you should now be able to brew like a pro. šŸ™‚ But don’t become reliant on formulas; sometimes rules need to be broken.

Also, always make sure you’re noticing what each minor change does. Through careful observation, you will plant your feet firmly on the path towards becoming a seasoned Japanese tea aficionado.

 

Griff is the co-founder of The Art of Japanese Green Tea website and video series.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Sanjana

    Tea is my comfort drink.After a hectic day, I find solace in making a pot of green tea. The methods that you have suggested are very detailed and up to the point. I will keep these in mind while making my pot of tea !

  2. Wumbo

    Nice to see you post again. I started using a scale to make tea, a technique I picked up from making pour over coffee. Since 1g of water == 1ml, you can more precisely figure out how much water your pot holds after you’ve put leaf in, or make less than the full pot. Useful when the internet gives you a nice even amount like 100ml / 2g of tea, and your pot is 240ish ml. Just tare after adding the leaf.

    It’s wonderful when you hit the parameters just right. Frustrating when you’re out of practice and keep missing. It astonishes me how much skill there is to it.

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