Continued from Combined Tea Sample Tasting – Part 1
One special concern is that even if teas are brewed in exactly the same way (using identical proportion, devices, water source and temperature, and timing), not every tea will be at its best using any one set of parameters. A typical Western-style standardized approach offsets that by using parameters that aren’t necessarily ideal for any: Over-brewing teas slightly in relation to that metric. This allows for greater detection of flaws and to adjust evaluation process (judgment) related to that preparation style becoming familiar. ISO 3103 — a brewing standard — covers one such approach and the main theme. I’m going to part ways with discussing that general approach in favor of discussing how to brew tea in the most preference-optimum form using a Gong Fu approach instead. This is only because that’s how I approach tea tasting, and is not intended as a claim that it’s better.
I use identical gaiwans to taste multiple teas. Most often I compare only two versions, but have used this approach for up to four. It gets to be too much tea over a short number of rounds for any more than two versions; and even for two using a small gaiwan works better – in the general range of 90 ml. Using tiny gaiwans would also work: 60-ml or so versions. Proportion should be whatever seems most familiar – what would seem to work best related to single type tasting. I have made an adjustment to brew a lower proportion in order to make it through a complete sequence of rounds in tastings, but most often that’s related to being short on time. Adding any unfamiliarity to the process adds difficultly.
It can come up that one tea brews faster for whatever reason, or is more intense; so that the same timing doesn’t work well as an optimum for both. In such a case I tend to brew both in the middle of what would be ideal for either. It is possible to brew one version twice as long as the other and throw off a parallel brewing structure, but observations comparing transition cycles wouldn’t be as meaningful. Any of these factors end up tying back to the intent: If brewing is intended to objectively and completely compare two versions for review, that might be a different goal requiring different processes related to the approach serving an informal training function.
It works well for me to adjust infusion strength, going with what I see as a typical optimum for most rounds and brewing one or more faster or slower instead to experience the teas in a slightly different form. It’s possible to guess what that would change from the “more optimum” infusions / rounds, but results aren’t always what you would expect. Brewing a tea slightly stronger tends to make flaws or imbalances show up better, and brewing it very lightly can make it easier to distinguish individual flavors – even though that’s a bit counter-intuitive.
To be concluded Combined Tea Sample Tasting – Part 3
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