Why Does MORE LEAF MAKE BETTER TEA – Brewing MASTERCLASS

Why Does MORE LEAF MAKE BETTER TEA – Brewing MASTERCLASS


Don Mei : Hey teaheads! This is Don from Mei
Leaf. In this video : Why Does More Leaf Make Better Tea? In this video I’m going to be
explaining how the amount of leaf that you use affects the quality of your brews. If
at any point in time you enjoy this video then make sure you hit it with a “like”, and
if you’re not following us on all your socials yet then go click those buttons. This is it,
[the] third part in our brewing master class series. If you’ve not watched the first two
I’ll put links in the description below. In these videos we go geeky, so be prepared.
We go very geeky into understanding how all of the different parameters affect the quality
of the tea that you produce. The aim of this series is to test all the theories. Let’s
not assume that they’re all correct. Test all the theories, learn together, and by the
end of it my pledge to you is that you’re going to come out of it as a Gong Fu brewing
master, for free. You’re going to know how to brew just by looking at the leaves. In
this video we’re doing probably one of the most important definers of Gong Fu brewing,
the leaf-to-water ratio – in other words, how much leaf you’re using per 100 [milliliters]
of water. It is the key definer for Gong Fu brewing. For those of you who don’t know what
Gong Fu brewing is, again, I’ll put a link in the description below describing Gong Fu
brewing. But essentially, it is one of the best ways to get rich and flavorful extractions
from your tea leaves. And, as I said, one of the key markers for that is that you brew
a large leaf-to-water ratio. In other words, you shrink the size of the teaware down to
small volumes, and you use a lot of leaf. But why is that? Does it make a difference?
Is it worth you doing? You’ve probably seen me brew in other videos where I stuff the
Gai Wan full of leaves. Am I just trying to sell you more tea, by showing you that you
should use a lot? Or does it make a difference? Let’s first do a quick recap on our first
two episodes. [In] the first episode we talked about how temperature affects the experience
of your tea. And we came to the following conclusions: that as you increase temperature
you increase the bitterness that is extracted, [and] you increase the associated astringency.
However, you have a more structured tea with a longer finish, and the taste EQ tends to
be a little bit more in those bassier notes. What do I mean by that? Well, for me, higher
aromatics are aromatics that are very bright, very light, [and] very zesty. Whereas bassy
aromatics tend to be more of those woodier, earthier notes. It is a very kind of conceptual
idea, but I hope that it makes some sense to you when you are drinking your teas. In
the second episode we focused on how the length of brewing time affects the quality of the
tea, and we came to the following conclusions. We said that longer brewing makes tea that
is more viscous – in other words, thicker. Again, [it] has more of those bass aromatics,
less of the high, bright EQ aromatics.[It] makes a stronger tea, however again, [it]
increases the bitterness [and] increases the astringency, and you get a longer and more
structured finish. So those were the conclusions that we came up with from our first two episodes.
We talked about brewing temperature, [and] we’ve talked about brewing time. The third
most important key decision that you guys have to make when you’re brewing your tea
is the amount of leaf you use – in other words, the leaf-to-water ratio – and this can be
a bit deceptive. In front of me I have a Huang Pian Puerh tea, and I have Gyokuro from Japan,
a green tea. These are both 5 grams of tea. So you can see [that] if you’re judging the
amount of leaf that you’re using by volume, you can be very easily deceived. This, obviously,
looks like a lot more leaf than this one, but I can assure you that it is 5 grams. To
prove that point I have ground down the same amount of the Huang Pian and the Gyokuro so
you can see [that] when you take away all of the air that’s hiding in and amongst these
leaves you start to get a more accurate picture of the difference. You can see that there
is a difference, but the difference is hardly as pronounced as it seems when you look at
the volumes of the leaves. You can see that’s 5 grams of the Gyokuro ground up, and 5 grams
of Huang Pian. So its very important that, [when you’re talking about] leaf-to-water
ratio, that you’re focused on the amount of grams of the leaf. Now, as you start to become
more experienced in Gong Fu brewing you start to be able to eyeball. You start to say, “Well,
I know this is a Huang Pian. I know it’s very straggly, large leaves, and therefore there’s
going to be a lot of air, and it’s going to look like a lot more leaf.” But at the beginning,
when you’re starting out brewing, I would highly recommend getting yourself a very cheap,
accurate scale, and that will really help you dial in your parameters. Okay, so you
can see here the deception that can happen with the volume of leaf. And I also have to
say that when we talk about grams per 100 [milliliters] of water that is also quite
deceiving too. Because obviously, the amount of water that you put in a Gai Wan, if it’s
empty, may be 100 [milliliters] – or a teapot, or any vessel that you’re brewing in; I just
tend to brew more in Gai Wans. So if you fill up it might be 100 [milliliters], but once
you’ve put those leaves in it’s going to be less, right? Because obviously, the volume
of leaf is taking up volume in the vessel itself , and so you’re going to get less water.
And the volume that the leaf takes up – you can see this is going to take up less volume
than this one – will mean that if I take a 100 [milliliters] Gai Wan and I brew, and
I fill it to the brim with this Gyokuro compared to this Huang Pian, then when I pour out I
will have less liquor in this tea, because this takes up more volume in your Gai Wan,
teapot, etcetera. So it would be even more accurate if, instead of using the volume of
water, you used weight. Generally, there or thereabouts, 1 milliliter of water equals
1 gram of water. So when we’re doing these tests we are actually weighing the amount
of water that we are using. Now again, once you start to get into brewing you don’t have
to get so geeky. This is all about really just focusing in on those minor details – those
minute details – to see how they affect the overall experience. But once you get into
it, and you have your own experience, I’m not expecting you to pull out scales and weigh
the amount of water that you use. You can, of course, but I certainly don’t do that.
Right. So now we need to move on to our first experiment. What I’ve got here is a Gong Fu
amount that I would recommend for Green Coil. This is Bi Luo Chun. It’s a high quality green
tea. [It’s] really one of those amazing Chinese green teas [which is] full of complexity,
full of bright notes, full of dark notes, full of umami, [and] full of sweetness. It’s
a really fascinating tea. The reason why I’ve picked this tea is because, in my opinion,
if you don’t brew it Gong Fu style there’s not much point in your buying it – to be honest
with you. Really, you need to experience this Gong Fu style. Let me show you what I’m brewing
it up against. So this is 3.5 grams here, and this one here is 0.9 grams. So I’ve taken
a quarter of the amount – this is there or thereabouts a quarter of this amount. We’re
going to be brewing these up for the same amount of time, and then – in case you guys
out there are wondering what happens if you just brew it for four times as long? Is that
going to make an equivalent brew? We’re going to do just that. We’re going to brew this
0.9 grams of tea four times as long. So what I’m going to do is I’m going to rinse these
leaves, first of all, in 85 degrees [Celsius] water – that’s 185 [degrees] Fahrenheit. [I’ll]
give them a quick rinse just to open them up, and then I’m going to be taking the 3.5
grams of tea, [and] I’m going to be brewing that for 15 seconds. I’m going to be taking
one of the 0.9 grams of tea [and] I’m going to be brewing that for 15 seconds, so that
we can do a like-for-like comparison. Then I’m going to be taking the other 0.9 grams,
and I’m going to be brewing that for one minute. Then we’ll return, and we’ll give them a taste…
Here are the results. This one here is the 3.5 grams at 15 seconds with 100 grams of
water. All of these used 100 grams of water. I actually weighed the amount of water so
that it is accurate. So this is, there or thereabouts, Gong Fu style brewing. This one
here is the 0.9 grams for 15 seconds. So [it’s] the same brewing time. We’re keeping all the
parameters the same between these, except for the amount of leaf. And this one here
is our time-corrected brew. This is 0.9 grams, but for one minute – so four times the amount
of brewing time, because it is a quarter of the amount of leaf. Now I know that you can
say that that’s not a linear relationship, but that’s a whole other discussion, and a
whole other bit of experimentation. But you see the point here. I’m trying to back the
brews equivalent by extending the amount of brewing time. So this is the time-corrected.
All right, so let’s start off with talking about viscosity, [the] thickness of the tea
liquor. Let’s go with the 15 second 0.9 [gram brew]. [SIPS TEA] [It’s] very, very thin,
[and] very, very watery. [There] is some thickness, but it’s very, very thin. [SIPS TEA] Compared
to the Gong Fu [brew there’s] a world of difference. [It’s] much, much thicker, [with] a lot more
texture [and] body in the mouth. Let’s compare it to the time-corrected one. [SIPS TEA] [It’s]
in between. So what we’re establishing here is that when you increase the amount of leaf-to-water
ratio you are going to increase the viscosity of the tea, and when you time-correct it it’s
going to make a difference. So as we established in the last video, the longer you brew is
going to increase viscosity, but it didn’t even manage to match this one. This is a minute
brew versus 15 seconds. So you see the power of the amount of leaf. Let’s move on, and
let’s talk about the strength of flavor. That’s something we’re going to be talking about
a bit later on. Let’s, again, start with the 15-second brew. [SIPS TEA] There is some flavor
there, [but] it’s very, very weak. [It’s] very, very weak indeed, compared to this one.
Well, I can already tell you, [SIPS TEA] [there’s] a lot more strength of flavor. [It’s] just
bursting with grassiness. I’m getting a little bit of umami, [and] I’m getting a bit [of]
brothiness in the taste. I’m also getting those high notes of elderflower, and cut grass,
and a little bit of spinach – [like] spinach pastries; the warm notes of baked spinach
pastries. [It’s] delicious. So [there’s] a lot more strength of flavor. Now, [this is]
interesting. Let’s see what the strength comparison is between this one here and this one here.
This is four times the brewing length, so you’d expect the strength to be there or thereabouts
similar. [SIPS TEA] What I’m trying not to focus on is the type of flavor- in other words,
the balance of the flavor; because that is going to be different – but just the overall
strength of the liquor. And I would say that this is not as strong as this one, but certainly,
that extra length of brewing has started to mimic it. I would say that they are similar,
but the Gong Fu still comes up trumps. Let’s talk about the taste, right? The actual EQ
balance of the taste. [SIPS TEA] [There’s] very little going on here, but it’s quite
bright. I taste a lot of the bright notes of it. I’m getting those cut grass notes,
much more in that one, just as a predominance. Compared to the Gong Fu, [SIPS TEA] I’m getting
tons and tons of those top notes – really bright aromatics. As I said, I’m getting some
of the warmth of those pastry notes, but [it’s] very, very bright, compared to this one here.
[SIPS TEA] So the extended brewing time has a definite marked difference in the EQ. This
is definitely more bassy. I get more of the woody notes. I get more of the papery notes
in the tea. It’s just less bright. It’s less zinging, which is why – as I said before – this
tea – this “Green Coil”, or Zhang Su Bi Luo Chen – I really think that if you don’t brew
it Gong Fu style yóu’re missing out so much, in terms of the flavor. Now, let’s move on
to the richness of the tea. How does that differ from strength? We’ll talk about that
a little bit later, but let’s just talk about richness. You can see the difference in the
color of the liquors. [There’s] definitely a lot more vibrancy of color, a lot richer
color, and a lot more saturated – the color – and certainly a different texture look in
the color of the liquor. [SIPS TEA] So what I get here is definition. I can taste everything.
It’s in my face. I get all of the flavor notes. It’s very rich, in terms of its experience.
Compare that to the 15 seconds, if I have to. [SIPS TEA] [There’s] next to no richness
to it at all. [There’s] just some vague flavor, but next to no richness. [SIPS TEA] This one
here is the same. This is the key part here: more leaf will mean richer tea. Again, we’ll
talk about that in a second. Let’s just keep going through this, because I’m concerned
that these teas are going to change as I talk, and the air reacts with them. So finally,
we’re going to talk about finish. I should start, actually, with this one here. [SIPS
TEA] [It’s] very, very short. As I said, [it’s] very thin in texture, [and] very short in
finish, [with] no structure. I’m not getting much coming out afterwards. [It’s] very, very
short [and] very, very clean – nothing to write home about. [SIPS TEA] [As for the]
extended brewing time [one], yes [there’s] a longer finish. I get more dryness. I’m getting
more astringency. I’m getting a little bit more juiciness coming out from the sides of
my tongue. [There’s] certainly more [of a] physical reaction going on with the extended
brewing time, compared with [SIPS TEA] the Gong Fu style, which the moment it hits my
tongue, I’m getting instance physicality. [There’s] a lot more finish on this one. So
even though [the] length of brewing time will extend the finish, it won’t be as much as
with the Gong Fu brewing. Okay, so let’s just try to come up with some quick conclusions
here. So if you compare the leaf-to-water ratio, and keep all of the variables the same
– in other words, the brewing time the same – then you’re going to create a tea which
is higher in viscosity, which is higher in strength, which is higher in richness, which
has a similar taste EQ but a longer finish. And if you time-correct the brewing so that
you extend the length of brewing for [a] smaller amount of leaves, the Gong Fu style brewing
– the larger leaf-to-water ratio still comes up trumps in terms of viscosity, in terms
of strength, in terms of richness, [and] in terms of finish. And the taste EQ is a lot
more brighter compared to that longer brewing time. So what is going on here? And how can
we apply these conclusions to a model of brewing that you can take forward? In my previous
master class I introduced you to a model to help you to visualize the brewing process
in action. And if you can visualize this model it’s going to really help you through future
master classes. I’m going to give you a quick recap, and I have to say that there has been
one change to the model, so if you watched the previous master class then please pay
attention, because I have made a change. Right, here it is. This is the model. Imagine a ramp,
and imagine that ramp is divided up into lanes, and those lanes are divided by a small wall
– so anything rolling down each lane cannot cross over into other lanes. Imagine halfway
up that ramp is a set of gates running across all of the lanes. At the bottom of the ramp
is another set of gates running across all of those lanes. Below the bottom gates is
a collecting trough. Right. The collecting trough represents the collection of all of
the compounds that you’re going to extract, and is going to result in your final tea that
you’re drinking. Right. Whenever you load up your tea vessel – Gai Wan, teapot, [or]
whatever – with leaves, you’re loading the vessel up with chemical compounds that are
ready to be extracted. These chemical compounds – in this model – I’m making the analogy that
these are marbles. So if you image [that] when you load up your vessel you’re loading
above the top gate. In the lanes you’re loading them up with marbles, right? Each chemical
compound is a different marble. You can imagine it like color-coded: red, green, blue, etcetera.
And each lane is reserved for an individual type. So let’s say the red marbles are in
lane one, the green marbles are in lane two, the blue marbles are in lane three, etcetera,
etcetera. So they’re sitting, waiting – in dry leaf – waiting to be extracted. So when
you hit the leaves with water what you’re doing is you’re opening the gates. Okay? So
these marbles are going to start to move down the ramp, and eventually be collected in the
water – extracted in the water – which is represented by the tea liquor that is your
collecting trough below the bottom gate. Now, different chemical compounds have different
rates of extraction. So what I’m asking you to do is imagine that the marbles have different
shapes. Some of the marbles are spherical, so they’re very easily extracted. They’re
going to roll down that ramp. No matter what the angle, they’re going to roll down that
ramp very, very easily. Others are going to be a little bit more irregular, and there
are going to be some that are very irregular, that take a lot of time, and a lot of inclination,
angle, in order for them to make it into the collecting trough. Okay. I hope you’re with
me so far. So the brewing time is represented by how long you leave the gates open. So how
long [the] collecting of those marbles takes, that is your brewing time. The temperature
– here’s the difference, guys, from the previous model – the temperature is related to the
inclination. In the previous model I said it was related to the friction of the surface,
and I was going to do something else for inclination – which will be in future master classes – but
the more I think about it the more I think it’s going to be simpler for you to think
of temperature in terms of inclination. So obviously, if you have a very shallow inclination
that’s going to extract much more slowly, and that is if you are brewing cooler. The
hotter you brew the steeper the inclination. So even if you have marbles that are quite
irregular they are going to still make it through the bottom gate into the collecting
through below, right? So the temperature is the inclination – the angle of inclination
of the ramp. So you’ve got: brewing time – how long the gates are open for, and temperature
is inclination. What is leaf-to-water ratio? So how can we now bring this master class
and apply it to that model? Well, if you imagine – just for simplicity sake – that one tea
leaf has 10 lanes. So there’s 10 different marbles; 10 different compounds that need
to be extracted, okay? If you double the amount of leaves then you are adding more lanes onto
the ramp. So instead of just one lane of red marbles, now you have two lanes of red marbles,
two lanes of green marbles, two lanes of yellow marbles, etcetera. So as you increase the
leaf-to-water ratio you are increasing the amount of lanes. Right. How does that apply
to what we’ve come up with here, in terms of: richness, strength, viscosity, etcetera.
Okay, so when you are opening those gates, and the marbles are coming down, assuming
you are keeping the same temperature – which means [the] same inclination – and you are
keeping the same brewing time, then obviously – if, let’s say the brewing time is 10 seconds;
so you’re opening the gates for 10 seconds, and then closing them after 10 seconds. If
you have more lanes you are going to extract more marbles. More marbles are going to end
up in that collecting trough, right? More marbles means more chemical compounds in your
tea, which means that you’re going to have a stronger-tasting tea, right? More marbles
equals stronger [tea]. Okay. Now, what happens in the case of this one here, where I have
less leaf but I have brewed it for longer? Okay, so imagine the model now. So in this
Gong Fu style I have, let’s say, 100 lanes, [and] the brewing time was 15 seconds. So
I’ve collected “x” amount of marbles – let’s call it a thousand marbles, just for simplicity.
With this one here I have less lanes. I’ve got 25 lanes, instead of 100 lanes, right?
But I’m leaving the gates open for four times the amount of time, okay? So I’m leaving them
open for a minute. My estimation here is that I will still collect there or thereabouts
1,000 marbles, [but] they are going to be different marbles, okay? Because now you’ve
given more time for those irregular marbles to make it out of the gate. Right? So this
is how the same amount of marbles – let’s say we collected 1,000 marbles in the Gong
Fu style, and 1,000 marbles in this extended brewing time [marbles] – then those 1,000
marbles will equate to similar – there or thereabouts – strength, but the EQ will be
different, and the richness will be different. What do I mean by richness? For me, richness
means that I get more of a particular type of marble, right? So I’m getting more of those
red marbles, and that means that I have more likelihood that I can taste, and discern,
the taste of those red marbles in my tea. So richness is different from strength. “Strength”
is just the total amount of marbles that you’re collecting. “Richness” is how much of each
variety of marble are you collecting. Right? So if I’m collecting 1,000 marbles here, and
1,000 marbles here, I’ll have similar strength – in terms of the overall amount of chemical
compounds that I’m tasting. But I’m going to get a much more pronounced character with
the Gong Fu [brew] because I’m getting more of a particular type of marble, because i’ve
got more lanes. So in that 50 seconds – [and] let’s assume those red marbles are easily
extracted – I’m getting a lot more red marbles. The balance is difference, so therefore the
EQ is going to be different – in terms of the taste – but also the richness is going
to be different too. So that’s how the leaf-to-water ratio affects the richness. In other words,
richness, for me, is being able to taste in higher definition. Right? Because what I am
doing is tasting more of a particular compound, or a particular set of compounds, and that
means that I can discern them more clearly – that they’re much more clearly defined when
I’m tasting them – which is why when I drink I can really taste individual flavors and
aromas much more clearly when I have a larger leaf-to-water ratio. Okay, so I hope that
this has given you a clearer understanding of what I mean by the differences between
strength and richness – that richness is much more about definition. And if you think about
it, then because you’re going to be collecting a different set of marbles with the extended
brewing time, because the gates are open longer, so some of the more irregular marbles are
going to be crossing that finish line compared to this one. Because remember, the inclination
is the same. We’re brewing with the same temperature here. So with this one here you’re going to
get a different set of compounds coming out compared to this one. So what’s happening
is that the EQ of the taste changes, and also, you’re getting a kind of blurring of multiple
infusions into one tea. Right? Whereas with this one, because you’re doing much shorter
infusions you’re kind of taking a snapshot of the taste of the tea as the water enters
the leaf. As that extraction process happens you’re getting more of a kind of stop-motion
effect where you’re taking a much clearer, high-definition snapshot of the character
of the tea, versus this one here which is like a long shutter speed, more blurred picture,
because of the fact that you are keeping the gates open for longer, and it’s extracting
a whole mix of different things. So you’re getting more of a blurred, long shutter-speed
taste of the tea. So [HOLDS UP FASTER BREWED TEA CUP] high definition, stop motion, very
quick shutter speed; so very, very clear images, [HOLDS UP LONGER BREWED TEA CUP] versus this
one here [which is] much more blurry, [and] a little bit more of a kind of blended infusion,
which is a lot less clear. So let’s run through how leaf-to-water ratio affects the experience
of the tea. So what we’ve said is that given the same parameters – in other words, the
same brewing time and the same temperature – more leaf is going to make stronger tea,
that more leaf is going to make thicker tea, with greater viscosity. It’s going to make
tea with longer finish. It’s going to make tea which is richer in terms of its high definition
of flavors. And even if you try to extend the brewing time [by] using less leaf, then
what you’re doing is essentially creating a more blurred image of the tea, versus the
high-definition, short shutter-speed of the larger leaf-to-water ratio. Also, obviously,
more leaf means more lanes, means more marbles, which means that you can get many more extractions
out of your tea leaves. So you can get lots more infusions out of larger leaf-to-water
ratio. You’ll also, obviously, require shorter brewing times. Now that is advantageous, and
one of the key advantages of Gong Fu brewing is the shorter brewing times. So if we look
back at the conclusions that we made from the previous video, you can see that some
of the, let’s say, more “undesirable” characteristics, potentially, of shorter brewing time is negated
with larger leaf-to-water ratio. So, for example, the thinness of the tea, the fact that you’ve
got a shorter finish of the tea, the fact that it’s weaker, in terms of its taste. All
of those are negated by larger leaf-to-water ratio. So you can take away those potentially
undesirable characteristics of shorter brewing time, and you can keep all of the desirable
aspects – in other words, the maintenance of high aromatics, the control of bitterness
and astringency. Because aromatics is related specifically to how long it’s brewing, because
those high aromatics will dissipate much quicker. Also, bitterness and astringency is related
to which compounds are released, and if you keep the gate open for a short period of time
you are going to get less of those bitter, astringent compounds. So you can control the
bitterness, [and] you can control the astringency. You can hold onto those high notes whilst
making thicker, stronger, richer tea with a longer finish. So you get the best of all
worlds if you increase the leaf-to-water ratio. Are there any downsides to increasing the
leaf-to-water ratio? And is there a point where it is too much tea? Of course there
is. One of the downsides of larger leaf-to-water ratio is that your brewing times need to be
a little bit more accurate. You need to pay more attention. Because of the fact that you
have many, many more lanes there, you can over-extract tea a lot easier, right? So you’ve
got to have more intention – have a little bit more focus when you’re brewing – because
five seconds [or] ten seconds, either way, is going to make more difference than if you
have a less amount of leaf and smaller amount of lanes. You can have too much leaf so that
there’s not enough water to actually surround the leaf and extract it evenly. This is often
the case with ball-rolled Oolongs. If you put too much leaf in, because it’s deceptive,
they all open up, and suddenly you open the lid of the Gai Wan and when you’re pouring
the water over the water doesn’t even reach the top of the leaves. This happens often
with me, because I load up my Gai Wan. Again, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It means
that you’re not going to get an even extraction, but sometimes that’s quite nice – halfway
through the session you can kind of turn your leaves over so that you’re moving them around
so that they’re extracting at different rates. It’s not ideal when you are really trying
to get to know a tea. Another downside is simply having so much leaf that you can’t
actually physically pour the tea out quickly enough, and you are going to have over-extracted
tea. So if you have so much leaf that the time it takes after you’ve filled up the pot,
or Gai Wan, put the kettle down, put the lid on [and] poured it out, if there’s too much
leaf that even in that short period of time of flash-brewing it’s over-extracting, then
obviously that’s too much leaf. Similarly, because of the fact that these gates are open
for very short periods of time, you want some of those irregular compounds to come out.
You want to taste some of that sometimes, right? And so, if you have too short a brewing
time then the EQ balance [can] be undesirable. You can want a little bit more bitterness.
You can want a little bit more astringency. So sometimes you can have too much leaf [which]
means that you are brewing for such short periods of time that you’re not getting the
EQ balance that you want. Obviously, there are practical considerations to think about
as well. Using more leaf is going to cost more, so yoú’ve got to think about how much
leaf you want to use, and the expense of that tea. And also, because a large amount of leaf
means you’re going to get lots of infusions, if you don’t have the time to have all those
infusions – let’s say you’re having tea first thing in the morning, and the you need to
rush off to work; so you don’t have time for a full session – then it’s not really cost-effective.
It’s not really getting the most out of the leaves by using a high leaf-to-water ratio,
because you’re not going to get all the infusions that you can out of them. Now, you can come
back to them afterwards. I’ve done a video about how to store your leaves in between
infusions, so you can do that. Whenever I brew – being a tea seller, I have the luxury
to just always brew Gong Fu style – but that is a consideration for all of you guys out
there. So this is how leaf-to-water ratio affects the quality of tea, but overall, more
leaf-to-water ratio is pretty much always going to result in higher quality tea. You’re
going to taste with higher definition, [and] much more character in the tea than if you
brew with less leaf, even if you brew for longer periods of time. That, I promise you,
is one of the biggest changes you can make in your brewing that will radically improve
your tea-tasting experience. Right. Before I go, I’m very conscious of the fact that
I promised you – in [my] previous episode – that I was going to show you a way to brew
“Sip Spring” Oolong – or any green Oolong – in a different way that I think brings out
different characters in the tea. I call this method of brewing “arc brewing”. I am not
going to go through the theory of arc brewing in this video, because this video is too long.
I will be doing it in future master classes, but I’m going to be leaving you guys with
some homework. You can practice arc brewing yourself, so that you can get your own opinion
about the differences that it makes, so that when you watch that video you are already
armed with your own experience. What is “arc brewing”? Well, what I’d like you to do is
to take three brewing vessels that are identical, if you have them. If not, you’re going to
have to separate these out, and do each brew differently, which is possible. But try to
do them very quickly, one after the other, because the time that the tea is left sitting
is going to affect your ability to discern the differences. So ideally, take three brewing
vessels of the same shape, size, and material. And then take Sip Spring – or any green Oolong
will do; but Sip Spring is what we’ve been practicing on – and you put the amount of
leaf that you would like. We always recommend something in the region of about 6 grams per
100 [milliliters] of water for these kinds of ball-rolled Oolongs. Give them a quick
rinse in 95 degree [Celsius] water – that’s 205 [degrees] Fahrenheit. [Give them a] quick
rinse just to open up the leaves. Right, so now you’ve got three vessels that are ready
for brewing. What I would like for you to do is to brew one of them at standard Gong
Fu setting – which means 95 degree [Celsius] water – again, 205 [degrees] Fahrenheit – for
20 seconds. Right? Then I would like you to brew another one at 85 degrees Celsius – which
is 185 [degrees] Fahrenheit – brew that one for 50 seconds. So 20 seconds and 50 seconds.
And for your last vessel – this is the one we’re brewing “arc brewing” style – what I’d
like you to do is get a bowl, and fill that bowl with ice. Put that brewing vessel in
the ice. Now, I’ve tested this many times [and] I’ve never had any breakages, right?
But I’m not going to be responsible for any breakages that happen in your house through
the temperature difference. But I’ve never had any issue with porcelain Gai Wans, so
I don’t think any of you will either. So if you take your Gai Wan, or [other] brewing
vessel, you put it in the ice, so it’s surrounded by ice. Then you hit that leaf with 95 degree
[Celsius] water – so the same temperature water as your Gong Fu brew – and you leave
it in there to brew for 35 seconds; so halfway in between. So 20 seconds, 35 seconds, and
50 seconds. Okay? So 20 seconds [with 95 degree [Celsius] water, 35 second [with] 95 degree
[Celsius] water – but submerged in ice; or surrounded by ice – and finally, 85 degrees
[Celsius] for 50 seconds. If you do that, and taste the [differences] between them,
make sure that you [write] them down so that you remember the differences between them,
[now] you’ve experienced arc brewing”; something that I’ve been experimenting with for quite
a while. I think it’s a very interesting way of brewing. You can try it with other teas.
We’re going to regroup in future master classes. and we’re going to do a whole episode all
about arc brewing and how it affects that conceptual model. You can think about it yourself.
How would that affect that conceptual model that we’ve started to create? That’s it teaheads!
I hope that this video has given you more in-depth knowledge about leaf-to-water ratio,
and has spurred you to experiment further. If you made it to the end of this vide then
make sure you hit it with a “like”. Follow us on all of our socials so that you don’t
miss out on any news and videos from Mei Leaf HQ. If you’re ever in London then come visit
us in Camden to say “Hi.” and taste our wares. If you have any questions, comments, or video
ideas then please fire them over. Other than that, I’m Don from Mei Leaf. Thank you for
being a part of the revelation of true tea. Stay away from those tea bags, keep drinking
the good stuff, and spread the word, because nobody deserves bad tea. Bye [WAVING]

46 thoughts on “Why Does MORE LEAF MAKE BETTER TEA – Brewing MASTERCLASS

  1. I've been binge-watching your videos and am completely new to (good) tea. Thank you for spreading tea education!

  2. I had wished that there was a Live Session last night, but that’s okay-this will do! Brewing Little Tong Mu and Amber GABA today. CHEERS

  3. Hi Don, excellent video again! Just a question, because I’m playing with Japanese Senchas at the moment: I’m not quite sure whether the Japanese teas would behave differently as they were designed for longer steeps to start with. I know you mentioned it a little in your Chinese vs Japanese tea video – but would you really increase leaf water ratio on the Japanese teas like you recommend here, or were you referring to Gongfu vs western brewing only? Thanks!

  4. Funny enough I did my own experiment last night. Used some Eastern beauty testing between Western and gong fu style. Night and day, Western brewing you barely got any flavor but gongfu brewing you get a noseful and mouthful of grapes, peaches and roses.

  5. Another great lesson! I prefer Gong Fu style but I rarely do it because of the practical consideration you mention. I rarely have time to go thru a lot of infusions (some teas seem like they can be infused 10 times or more and who wants 10 cups of tea even though 100ml is a tiny amount in each cup) so I end up probably wasting tea when I brew Gong Fu style even though it is a much better way to brew most tea. Many times I just want perhaps two (200 ml) cups of tea after work and so I try to put in enough leaf to get two infusions but hitting that mark correctly is not easy either.

  6. Dear Don
    I might have an idea where that supposedly "Western" technique of least amount of tea + hottest water + longest brewing time comes from, as well as the widesprad myth that "tea was expensive so Europeans always tried to use least amount of leaf and compensate the lack of taste with longer hotter brewing, milk and sweets" I did quite a bit of crazy experiments and research in original European 17-18th century sources, and can confirm one thing – Fujianese/Guandonese dark oolong blends, known to the Dutch and British as Bohea, green teas such as Huang Shan Mao Feng (closest to historical Singlo), were and still are teas that need a minimum amount of tea to deliver a brew that will taste somewhat different to plain water. My best example is my attempt to make traditional East Frisian tea (greetings to Axel!!!) with a classic and inexpensive Shui Xian oolong, only to see all of my other findings to be confirmed.
    The only tea I know which, in fact, will compensate small amounts of tea leaf with higher water temperature and longer brewing without a massive sacrifice of taste and aroma is CTC Assam tea – which is due to its superior extractivity and its rather pungent flavour! That might be the reason why neither green tea, nor oolong or pu-erh have ever been as popular in form of teabags as CTC Assam dust, because CTC Assam is very different to any traditional Chinese camellia sinensis/assamica/taliensis cultivars.
    Now, the CTC process was invented in the early 1930'sm and the first time we see advices how to be very economic with tea your typical "Western style", is the WW2 and the post-war time, when even Assam black tea (what the whole West was essentially drinking at that point) was rationed, expensive and scarce:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnvYymrCn4g
    That kind of wartime poor man's brewing finally became the norm after CTC Assam dominated the market entirley since the 1950's, to a such degree it is now (falsely) regarded as the very definition of "Western tea". As of teamaking in 1915, only 30 years earlier:
    https://comestepbackintime.wordpress.com/2011/08/17/afternoon-tea-with-mrs-beeton/
    … it appears quite different with its 3-4 minute brewing time as compared to full 10 min in 1941, for the sake of preservation of the delicate aroma of tea. As for tea-to-water ratio, "Mrs. Beeton" (an extremely popular series of books reflecting taste and habits of its era quite accurately) recommends, quote: "One good teaspoonful of tea will be found sufficient for two small cups, if made with boiling water and allowed to stand 3 to 4 minutes." As for 19th century measurements:
    http://www.raggedsoldier.com/measurments.pdf
    Page 21, quote: "1 small tea-cup = 1/2 cup or 4 ounces" (= 120ml) and quote: "1 fluid drachm (dram) = 1/8 oz. or 1 teaspoon, or 60 grains 1 scruple = 20 grains, or 1/24 ounce, or a generous 1/4 teaspoon" (60 to 80 grains ~70 grains on average or 4,5 grams). So, we're looking down to appr. 4,5g per 2x120ml (1,9g/100ml or 1g per 53ml ) as compared to modern day 1,75 grams of teabag dust per 250ml mug (0,7g/100ml or 1g per 143ml ). That's almost 3 times as much tea leaf per cup in Victorian & Edwardian times as typical modern day "builder's brew."
    Why tl;dr full dostoyievsky again???
    I'd argue you could greatly increase the efficiency of your explanation why more leaf makes better tea, if you frame the message like this: The method of brewing tea 'everyone knows' only suits Assam/Celyon black teas, whereas Gongfu method is the method of brewing Chinese teas!
    Cheers!

  7. Thank you don for making this channel you really got me into the different aromas of tea and your happiness and expression for this type of liquor is contagious I've just ordered 5 different teas and a bit of tea were items from your shop keep up the good work !!!!!

  8. A great video, indeed! I love the ramp metaphor, it is a very useful way of visualising it. However, I've noticed a major flaw in your arc brewing technique. How could you compare the 95 C 20 sec tea to the 95 C 35 sec tea brewed in ice, not knowing whether the differences are caused by the fact that the latter was brewed in ice or whether it was the difference in brewing time? I suggest you experiment with only one factor in tea brewing at a time, so that you know what influences the infusion in what way.

  9. More good stuff. Bringing back memories of university studies and concepts like solubility, saturated solutions, size of molecules, vapor pressure, temperature curves, etc. Little did I know then that someday I'd find a use for all that!

  10. Its interesting that in Japan their is also a Kind of gong fu Style. I heard that japanese tea Masters sometimes use extreme amounds of leaf compared to water. Sometimes their use 3 to 4 teaspoons for just one tiney cup, so in fact even more that gong fu Cha. Peace to all 🙂

  11. Hi Don! Always great content. Are you saying “naught point 9”? this must be a UK thing. Just trying to understand! Thanks! Love to you all at ML!

  12. I like the analogy with the ramps and the marbles but it breaks down when brewing multiple times with the same leaf. You would assume then that either you extract all the slow marbles that were left behind and your tea tastes completely different or the different speeds of marbles don't correlate to their taste. In the latter case longer brewing doesn't necessarily mean different taste from that model.

  13. I like your teas and respect your work, but I'd argue that your "Western style" recommendations regarding leaf amount are so low that it is in fact impossible to make decent tea if you stick to them. One of the other sellers I trust recommends to brew Chinese green tea for one minute, using 2 g per 100 ml, and this for me produces a more interesting infusion than gong fu.

  14. I absolutely LOVE it when that tea-HUNK "Dodgy-Don" let's his 'STACHE grow out a bit. Really transformed into the PROPER "Godfather Of Tea"….

  15. Don, do you think the arc brewing should be done with the brewing vessel in a bowl of just ice? or a bowl with ice and water to increase the vessel's exposure to cold temperature?

  16. Gong Fu question for Don or other fellow tea head:  Is there any advantage to quickly cooling the leaves between brewings, for example, to briefly dip them in cold water?  Could this improve the taste of the later infusions of the leaves during a session?  I am concerned that the warm, wet leaves are still "stewing" while waiting for the next extraction, even though they are not in hot water.Any thoughts?  Perhaps a future tea experiment?

  17. When I do comparisons like these, I also like to have a glass of water around and take a sip to clear my mouth. After drinking many teas in a short amount of time, the differences between them become less and less noticeable as your mouth and tongue gets coated with it. This works especially well when you are considering a purchase and have to try the candidates in a short time span.

  18. Is there a way to convert from western to gong fu? For example 2.5gr 250ml at 80ºc for 4 minutes how much would it be in gong fu or is it not possible to make a conversion like that?

  19. One question about gong fu brewing….do I have to rinse the leaves every time I do my infusions? Or is it only once, at the beginning?

  20. Sometimes when I have water and I don't want to get up, I will brew a little bit hot, then as it cools down, and then at a lower temperature for quite a while and mix them in the gong dao bei. It's kind of cool blending it all together. Just a fun experiment

  21. Excellent experiment, honorable tea guide! A question? Following your example on other videos where you steep over two dozen times the question is why not use 1 gram of my expensive teas or less with 50 ml and just have which 500 ml of tea which is more than most can hold comfortably in one sitting or even 20 steeps if sharing? The proportion is then the same as your favored ratio, but less leaf and more tea. Most gong fu tea sets I found have tiny pots and cups to accommodate this method so one wonders if that is the expected method. A 50 ml size cupful is just right for a few reasons too. Also, according to some research a 30 second steep only extracts 10 percent of the caffeine, and if we use that as an index of the others "marbles" that constitute the taste factors then there is much more taste to be had and we are wasting good tea without getting the max number of brews from the leaf we use. I actually prefer the taste of the subsequent brews, and by then I am buzzing anyway! Using scales is probably a good idea for consisteny and a graduated measure to get the bearings, and then color and experience can be the guide with different teas. Thank you for your teachings and guidance that we value very much!

  22. wish i subscribed or knew about your channel much earlier. I only started doing this recently and really started paying attention to the ratio and water temperature.

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