The Equalizer Loose Leaf Tea Brewing Strategy (Western Style)

I don’t know if this has a formal or common name in the tea world, but I’m calling it the “Equalizer” western-style loose-leaf brewing technique. This works best with teas that you can “finish” with an extended brewing session, such as genmaichas, dragonwell, herbal blends, and to a lesser extent flavored teas.

THE IDEA

The idea is this: instead of putting all your tea in your brewing vessel right away, you start with somewhere between 1/2 to 2/3rds of the tea. Then you brew the first session western-style for however many minutes. In the case of the example Genmaicha shown in the pictures, let’s say three minutes.

In brewing session #2, I add the remaining tea (1/3rd to 1/2). I do not remove the original leaves. Then I brew this for the recommended time, three minutes in this case.

Then the final brewing session lasts longer, how long it depends on the tea and your preference. With this genmaicha I can even forget about it for more than a few minutes, and it’s still okay.

If you don’t like measuring and weighing teas, there’s a simpler way to do this: use one heaping teaspoon/tablespoon for the first brewing session, and a flat teaspoon/tablespoon for the second session. Adjust to taste.

The volume of the water and the temperature and the other brewing parameters are also factors you can play with. Keeping the brewing temperate the same simplifies things a bit, eg you don’t have to keep changing the timer.

THE BENEFIT

The main benefit of this, as the name suggests, is to give you a more balanced flavor in all three brewing sessions. The green tea in genmaicha can be a bit too sharp in the first brewing session, and fade in the background in subsequent brewing sessions, especially if you are using more leaves. By adding some of the later in the second session, you take out some of the sharpness from session #1 and give it to session #2.

But that’s not all! By adding fresh leaves in session #2, you give session #3 fresher leaves than it would otherwise have, thus making the last brewing session more flavorful and less watery.

this is not an anti-gongfu technique

Context is key here. This is not an anti-gongfu (where you experience tea as it changes between sessions) technique. This “Equalizer” method is when you have blended teas where it is preferable (either to you, or considered so by consensus) to drink a balanced mix of all the flavors in each cup of the tea.

In the case of genmaicha, it’s a balance between the green tea and the heartiness/creaminess of the rice. Some may prefer more green, others may prefer more rice. Preferences here too vary, so, as with all things tea, it’s ultimately up to you 🙂

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