There are two major camps in the tea-making world: one that loves tea made with boiling water, and another that says that boiling water is a sacrilege. Tea connoisseurs from the second camp carefully watch (or listen) to tea kettles, waiting for the perfect time to cut the flame off. It's true, every tea type has the ideal temperature that allows the tea leaves to open up to us in all their beauty. The perfect aroma, perfect taste – balanced brew. It is crucial to learn this.
However, during the Tang Dynasty (618 ~ 907), tea was brewed very differently from what we are used to today. People boiled tea!
It wasn't until Song Dynasty (960–1279) that farmers categorized tea types and discovered the perfect temperature for each particular type of tea.
Nowadays, there are still some tea types that we can boil. Better yet, they are more nutritious and delicious when boiled.
Boiling tea can improve the taste of tea and raise its antioxidant content. Tea boiled for at least 5 minutes has a noticeably higher amount of antioxidants.
Hundreds of years ago, in China tea was not processed. Fresh tea leaves were boiled as is. Read more.
Which Tea Is Suitable For Boiling?
White tea is split into three categories, according to the processing method. These are Bai Hao Yin Zhen, Bai Mu Dan, and Shou Mei. The first two are very delicate teas, made primarily of fresh tea buds, and should only be brewed with low water temperatures (about 185℉ ). The latter, however, can be boiled.
Shou Mei is a white tea that is usually aged. It often contains stems and has a very different consistency, flavor profile, and processing method than other white teas. The stems are very rich in nutrients and healthy fibers. White tea can be boiled using both ways — either after several gong fu infusions, or right away.
You will notice an exceptionally rich yet mellow taste after boiling white tea, with a pleasant floral fragrance. The added nutrients make the boiling method quite popular across China with older generations. White tea is often boiled when people have colds or viruses.
While light oolongs are not suitable for boiling, dark oolongs develop excellent characteristics when boiled! However, we don't recommend boiling these teas right away. When enjoying gong fu style tea, after about five brews or so, you can try boiling the tea leaves for a few minutes. This will help extract additional nutrients and taste that would otherwise not have been extracted after many brews. It's also a great way not to waste tea leaves after you are finished enjoying your tea, but the tea still has some brews to go! Read more.
We recommend trying this with Yancha – Wuyi Oolong, and Dan Cong Oolongs.
Pu-erh is split into two categories: raw pu-erh and ripe pu-erh. We do not recommend boiling raw pu-erh, as it is a fairly strong tea. Boiling raw pu-erh (or steeping it longer than usual) may cause stomach irritations and may also leave people overly energized.
Ripe pu-erh, on the other hand, is delicious when boiled, especially the longer it has been aged. After boiling, the tea will be sweet and mellow; the subtleties of the aroma will surface.
Chen-pi pu-erh, in particular, has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, where it is usually boiled. Since the tea leaves are quite packed and congested from storage, boiling the tea will help thoroughly release all the nutrients and tea oils.
Hei cha is one of the tea types which has always benefited from boiling. Boiling this tea will help rid it of strong and unwanted fermentation notes while extracting all the tea leaves' nutrients and natural sweetness.
How To Boil Tea: Tips
For non-brewed tea:
- Prepare 10-15g of tea per 1 litter of water.
- Rinse the tea leaves using cold water. Let the leaves soak in cold water while heating up the kettle.
- Once you hear the water crackling and see small bubbles starting to appear, swirl the water in the kettle and decant the cold water with tea into the whirlpool. The whirlpool will help create an even brew.
- Turn off the fire once the water reaches boiling point.
- Separate the brew from the leaves (one way is to decant tea into an empty vessel) to prevent over-brewing.
- Alternatively, you can quickly pour tea in your teacup, using a strainer to catch the tea leaves and continue brewing the rest of the leaves, adding water along the way and gradually increasing the brewing time.
For tea that has already been brewed:
- Place the tea leaves in warm water
- Once you see hear water crackling and small bubbles starting to appear at the bottom of the teapot, swirl the water in the pot and place the tea into the whirlpool. You can also add a bit of cold water.
- Boil the tea for 3-5 minutes
Clay tea kettles that are suitable for fire are the best vessels for boiling tea.