Friday, November 2, 2012

Great tip: Steep and sip

The Washington Post yesterday published an interesting Q&A with Robert Rex-Waller, the tea sommelier (also referred to as the space's "curator") at the Tea Cellar in D.C.'s Park Hyatt Washington. At the end, he's asked for his tea-making tips and gives a few of the basics about loose-leaf and good water, but then he adds this:

Sip as you steep. When he’s steeping a tea for himself, Rex-Waller doesn’t usually look at the clock; he tastes as he goes, until he feels “it hits the spot.” “Most people will know once they’ve gotten to a certain point, when there are flavors that they enjoy.”

This is such excellent advice. Tea time is supposed to be a moment of freedom from our usual slavery to timers and clocks. Also, each spoonful of tea is hardly uniform.

So if it's not difficult to do with the pot you're using, steep the tea with a teaspoon handy. A minute goes by — stir and taste. Another minute, stir and taste. Steep until it tastes right (or the way you want it), not until an arbitrary time — and they're all arbitrary — dictates. Fewer surprises, more satisfaction.

Plus, if you're like me, you forget the timer anyway, walk away — just to do something real quick — and return seven minutes later cursing the ruined brew. Tasting as you go means you stay with the tea, you're part of the process. It's more meditative than you think.

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