Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The importance of water temperature (again)

Water temperature is crucial in enjoying the flavor and aroma of a fine tea. Too cool is usually better than too hot: never use just-boiled water. Water that's too hot will "cook" the tea and ruin its aroma and flavor. But since it's not practical to use a thermometer to measure water temperature every time, a better way is to simply transfer the boiled water to another cup, wait a few seconds so it can absorb some of the heat, then transfer the cooled water to the pot or cup with the tea leaves in it. Or, you can simply "walk the kettle to the pot," as the British say. (In other words, after the water's boiled and you've turned off the heat, wait 5 to 10 minutes before pouring.)

At tea-judging competitions in Japan, the tea is actually brewed at very low water temperatures -- as low as 158 deg. F (70 deg. C), which is more than 50 deg. below boiling. Water this cool is said to be needed to judge the true flavor of a tea. But as these low water temperatures, a high ratio of tea leaves to water is used.

—Mellow Monk

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