Steeping leaves with extra space in the pot

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Ethan Kurland
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Thu May 16, 2019 9:14 pm

Recently Victoria mentioned preparing tea in a pot that had was not full. Bok often mentions that he likes round vessels that give leaves enough room to expand fully out (not up). For a few days I've combined their wisdom, preparing all of my teas in a typical pot from Taiwan (glazed outside only) that is round and fat around its middle. I like the results. With only air in the top third of the pot (by height, not volume) it seems leaves are releasing much more flavor; and, all that is involved in preparation is easier. I can move leaves around while still using them and remove them when steeping is finished so easily.

I also find myself encouraged to pay more attention to detail. For some teas I have found using less water for the final infusion to be beneficial; however, before when wet leaves had expanded all the way to the top of pots and gaiwans, I had assumed those leaves took up so much more space that I was using less water because there was no choice. With space at the top I was encouraged to be deliberate. A measured reduction in water, has improved the last infusions greatly. (The amount of water before was only slightly less for later infusions than earlier ones.)

Drinking oriental beauty tonight made me laugh at myself. I had recently posted that the O.B. that I have now is much more subdued than what I used to drink. It is more subtle and refined in what Bok might call an adult-tasting way; but, it is now showing a lot more fruitiness & a touch of spice.

Thankfully, I can put smaller teaware on the shelf. I am a bit clumsy for it anyway. Cheers
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Bok
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Thu May 16, 2019 10:13 pm

Interesting observations Ethan. I know of at least one person who pushes it even further and always leaves 1/3 of the pot empty, no matter the size.
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Victoria
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Fri May 17, 2019 1:09 pm

Ethan Kurland wrote:
Thu May 16, 2019 9:14 pm
.....Drinking oriental beauty tonight made me laugh at myself. I had recently posted that the O.B. that I have now is much more subdued than what I used to drink. It is more subtle and refined in what Bok might call an adult-tasting way; but, it is now showing a lot more fruitiness & a touch of spice.
Ethan, Are you saying that using a larger pot, and leaving 1/3 empty at the top, resulted in more fruitless and spice? Maybe you used slightly more leaf or less water overall, making the steep richer?

Lately, I’ve been stopping the pour on all my pots at below 1/8” from the rim, to avoid over spill. I also make sure hole in lid is clear of air pockets for better flow. With larger kyusu, I leave much more space inside when steeping sencha; faster pour, less spillage, calibrated to how much I want to drink. Since sencha uses cooler water than say yancha, or Taiwan roasted oolong, this works very well. Yancha and Taiwan roasted oolong that I steep though prefer being coddled in a very hot pot, allowing slower unfolding of flavors through subsequent steeps. The exception for me is very large leaf oolong like FuShouShan that likes a bigger pot with plenty of room to unfurl. I’ll try your method with Oriental Beauty to see how it goes.
Ethan Kurland
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Fri May 17, 2019 3:55 pm

Victoria wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 1:09 pm
, Are you saying that using a larger pot, and leaving 1/3 empty at the top, resulted in more fruitless and spice? Maybe you used slightly more leaf or less water overall, making the steep richer?.....
To answer your ?, Victoria, I have drunk a lot of 2 of the same teas. I find the space at the top of the pot is bringing out the array of flavors for the O.B. & does the same for Championship Black. I think this goes hand & hand with shorter steeping time as the only change in preparation. I am still using about 1 gram of tea for about 60 ml of water, except I switched to 2 oz. which is about 3.__ml less water to 1 gram of leaves. (Finding out that when I talk to people outside of the forum that most don't really think in milliliters. Took me quite a while also.)

I am guessing that space allows water to get to the leaves better; and, I guess that some flavors overwhelm others but they need more time to get that powerful. I want to taste a lot of fruit and a hint of spice. I guess those flavors get buried if an infusion is not quick.

I used glass to duplicate testing to be sure it is not just one pot that this is true for. (Do prefer the brews from the pot for tea from Taiwan. Don't think it is fooling myself because I know that the pot was made in Taiwan because the clay is from Japan.)

Besides considering flavor, I am tired of spilling and working to remove leaves tightly filling pots. Cheers
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Rickpatbrown
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Mon May 27, 2019 9:04 am

This is an approach that I have recently been taking as well. At work, I always end up with small amounts of tea at the end of a bag (3-4 grams). I had about 6 of these in me desk drawer, not sure what to do with them since my work gaiwan is 150mL. Now, I do my first infusion only halfway full, then all the following infusions are enough water to get the leaves floating a bit (usually about 3/4 full). I find this a much easier way to get my leaf/water ratio right and it really lets my ball oolong open up better than being cramped inside the pot/gaiwan. This also give greater flexibility in subsequent infusions. If I want a little stronger or lighter, I have room to adjust my water level.

Now, I just have to be careful to not put too many leaves in in the first place. I love using a ton of leaf, but there is a point of diminishing return where they don't open up completely. Although, you do get almost unlimited infusions when you put 15grams of gaoshan in a 150mL gaiwan :lol:
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Victoria
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Mon May 27, 2019 12:26 pm

Thinking about this thread, I realized yesterday that with most blacks (without thinking about it) I am accustomed to filling pot 8/10th of the way up with more water/longer steeps than with other teas. This allows for upfront extraction during first two steeps, with leaves floating around freely. Although, with certain special blacks, like Oriental Beauty Grand and a handmade Nilgiri, I will gongfu to extend extraction over multiple steeps.
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Baisao
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Mon May 27, 2019 3:21 pm

I second the use of more spherical teapots. I leave room in my kyusu by necessity as they are larger than what I prepare and I don’t think they were intended to be filled beyond capacity. I still make oolongs at full capacity in small teapots.
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OCTO
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Mon May 27, 2019 7:39 pm

Interesting topic....

IMO, it comes back to our personal preference and taste buds. I personally prefer to brew my tea half full when I’m brewing PuErh and DanCong. At times I do so with roasted Oolongs too. But with YanCha, it’s almost certain it will be a full pot to the brim to bring out the full flavor profile of the tea.

On the other hand, my teapots for PuErh and DanCong are very often big in the eyes of many but is my daily drinking size.... Brewing them full also means I have a lot of tea to gulp down before it turns cold... 😂😂😂 hence half pot makes more sense.

Another factor is also the pots that I have on my shelve at that moment.... 😂😂

Cheers!
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Tue May 28, 2019 12:05 pm

Most of my teaware is pretty small now, under 150ml, but back in the day I would often brew with my 12oz kyusu about 3/4 of the way full. I found that it made for a sweeter tea than filing to capacity. My hypothesis is the extra air space at the top cools down the water temperature faster so the tea doesn't brew as strong as when the teapot is full.
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