When learning how to brew loose leaf tea, we often hear one thing: — dump out the first brew! We do this by pouring hot water over the tea leaves we are about to brew. Then, immediately pouring it out. We also refer to it as “rinsing” your tea, “washing,” or “blanching” it. But do we always need to rinse our tea?
How To Brew Loose Leaf Tea: Why Do We Rinse Tea?
Some believe that dumping out the first brew is something that we should do with all loose leaf teas. However, this is not quite the case. Rinsing the tea leaves isn’t a necessary part of gong fu cha. Only some tea leaves should undergo a rinse, while others left untouched. It is a matter of purely getting the best possible taste out of each tea.
While certain Chinese teas can benefit significantly from blanching, we wouldn’t consider or recommend blanching most Japanese teas. For example — sencha, with its small broken-up leaves, is better left un-rinsed.
When washing a tea, don’t infuse it for any more than a few seconds. It is better to keep the infusion time short to preserve most of the flavor. On the other hand, you can rinse post-fermented or aged teas up to two times. This only improves the quality of the brew to come.
Which Tea Varieties Should I Rinse?
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have rolled or even torn/broken teas. Generally, when the surface of the tea leaf has been punctured more, it is easier for the tea leaves to infuse in the water quickly.
Comparing a rinsed pu-erh side to side with a non-rinsed one, it is easier to see the benefit of the rinse. Both the tea’s aroma and flavor will open up.
• Heavy Baked Oolongs. Certain heavy baked oolongs, like Wuyi oolongs benefit from a rinse. The taste becomes cleaner and sharper.
What Other Teas Should We Rinse?
When brewing teas you don’t plan on rinsing, it is essential to preheat the brewing vessel beforehand. We can otherwise skip this step, as the rinse acts as preheating itself.
How To Brew Tea GongFu Style