We’ve all heard the conventional wisdom before: to brew a pot of tea, throw in one teaspoon for each cup and then add one “for the pot.” Others might say to use a level teaspoon for black tea, but use more (say 1.5 teaspoons) for green and white teas, because they’re more delicate than black.
Here’s the problem with that way of thinking: a teaspoon is a measure of “volume.” Tea comes in so many shapes and sizes that measuring it by volume may not be the best approach. Take Chinese gunpowder for example – this is a charred green tea that is tightly rolled into small pellets (that resemble musket shot). Chinese gunpowder is so densely packed that a teaspoon of it is going to weigh significantly more than a teaspoon of a large, full-leaf tea. By using the teaspoon as your yardstick, inconsistent tea brewing is pretty much “baked in the cake.”
To determine how to measure out the perfect amount of tea for brewing, let me explain what the pros do. Representatives of the tea industry taste thousands of teas each year before they buy for their customers. They can’t afford to get it wrong – crucial decisions are made based on these tastings, so they demand that a consistent approach be adopted. Do you think that they are throwing in one teaspoon for each cup and one for the pot? Not by a long shot.
Before I get into the correct amount of tea to use, there are a few other things to consider when brewing that perfect cup. Proper temperature of the water and the length of brewing time are also very important, but those will be subjects of future articles. As for the correct amount of tea to use, I recommend you rely on a measure of weight, not volume. For every 8 ounces of water, use .079 ounces or 2.2 grams of loose tea. This applies to all teas – black, green, white, etc. and is the industry standard for tasting tea.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that all of this can easily get in the way of enjoying a simple cup of tea. In 16th Century Japan, Sen Rikyu (the father of the Japanese “Way of Tea” or Tea Ceremony) stated that “tea is nothing more than boiling water, making tea and drinking it.” If you stop and think about it, the simplicity of this statement can be quite profound.
I’m certainly not advocating that we all go out and buy an expensive laboratory scale to precisely measure out the correct amount of tea to use. Let’s face it, there’s no substitute for the experience you gain by brewing your own tea each day. You come to know fairly quickly how much tea to use and how long to brew it, so that it comes out just the way you like it – and, in the end, isn’t that what counts the most?