Is there a wrong way to brew tea?

In the matters of personal preference, there is no right or wrong, isn’t it?

The only thing that is absolutely wrong is telling someone they are wrong.

Hence, when it comes to brewing tea, nothing is wrong.

What do you feel about that statement?

At first glance, that seems to be right, how can you tell anyone they are absolutely wrong? They are free to enjoy tea the way they want.

If you see someone adding Coke- either Coca Cola or Pepsi it matters not- to a glass of Chateau Lafite of 50 year vintage, would you not be horrified?

If that person is your friend would you not stop him from wasting it?

What happened to respect for personal preference and what not?

Now brewing tea is a lot like that.

Firstly, I would be horrified if someone adds milk and sugar to genuine Xihu Longjing for example.

Absolutely mortified.

But drinking tea differs from drinking wine in that you don’t pop open a bottle and drink away- you infuse the tea leaves (with a host of variables) and then drink away.

Hence, sometimes you look at some brewing methods and think- that is a waste of good tea.

Of course there is a fine line.

People ask me: do you think your method is the best?

Of course, that’s why I use it- with certain caveats and limitations of course but it is almost certainly always what I feel to be the best given those circumstances.

That’s why I use it.

Of course this is a moving goalpost.

However, I don’t see the point in debating the finer points of pouring- chest height, shoulder height, wrist height, circular, upward and so forth.

Nor do I quibble over 5 degrees temperature or 20 seconds infusion time and the like.

Honestly you may be making tea in Alaska and by the time your water hits the leaves, it may have dropped by 5 degrees or more, who knows.

Or type of Tieguanyin you are using or the thickness of your gaiwan.

However there are times when you look at the article/photo and think, that is a freakin’ waste of good tea.

My pet peeves:

– Machine brewing- why? Brewing tea is a integral part of the enjoyment

– Monstrously big (>250ml) vessels for oolong- what are you brewing for an army? You want to cook your leaves?

Ludicrously low ratios  Scratch that, basically not gongfu brewing oolong tea. I don’t gongfu brew everything but I do for oolong, always. It makes a world of difference, really. Seeing someone use mug brewing (low leaf to water ratio + long infusion + low temperatures) for good quality oolong makes me want to weep. Just like how you would look at Kobe beef covered with Heinz tomato sauce.


Don’t think you can truly look at every single brewing method and say- hey you’re free to do what you like.

If you truly think that way, go to a Michelin star restaurant and insist on adding Heinz tomato sauce to everything. Tell the chef there is no right or wrong way.


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