Another vital parameter in brewing tea is steeping time. As tea steeps for longer, more of the flavor compounds will be extracted. For some teas, even just five seconds can drastically alter the taste of the tea! Unlike leaf-to-water ratio and temperature, this parameter is highly subjective.
This parameter can be compared to cooking a steak. The doneness of a steak is a matter of preference, but the steak can definitely be undercooked or overcooked. Similarly, how concentrated and extracted your brews are will be ultimately up to your preference; however, tea can definitely be under- or over-extracted, leading to flat or unpleasant tastes.
To determine how best to steep a new tea, we recommend steeping the tea for a shorter period of time first to understand the lighter, fleeting, gentle notes of the tea. Afterwards, you may still increase the steeping time to experience the deeper flavors and determine your preference. Also note that smaller, crushed leaves will extract more quickly than tightly-rolled, whole leaves; as such, the steeping time can differ depending on the composition of your tea leaves.
Since quality teas can be brewed more than once, especially with Gong Fu brewing, it is also worth noting that the steep time usually increases per infusion. For example, the first steeping may be 20 seconds long, the second may be 25 seconds, the third may be 30 seconds, and so on. This increment will differ between teas, so it is also worth experimenting in order to determine your preference for each tea. Here at We, Tea, we provide these details on our labels for your convenience.
Lastly, it is also common to rinse the tea leaves before drinking. This is done by discarding the very first infusion of the tea, which is usually only steeped for 5 to 10 seconds at the same temperature at which the tea will be brewed. This process is not done to “clean” the leaves or because they are “dirty” or tainted; the tea farms we source from at We, Tea do not use pesticides.
Instead, rinsing is done to “wake up” and prepare the leaves, which will allow them to release their full flavor into the tea. Because of this, you don’t have to worry about “wasting” tea or losing the flavor — the flavor of the tea will start to peak after the first infusion! Aside from this, rinsing releases the full aroma of the tea, and removes impurities like small tea particles. Rinsing your tea is an important (though often overlooked) step that will allow you to experience the full potential of your tea, right from your first infusion.