A Tea Addict's Journal

Taking a break from brewing

October 6, 2012 · 12 Comments

No, not me. The tea.

Some of you already know this or have experienced this first hand. Sometimes when you are drinking a tea, you reach a point where you feel the tea is no longer capable of giving you much of anything. At this point, the instinctive thing to do is to dump it, and then start over, or just call it a day.

However, one way to deal with this is to actually let the tea rest – not for a few minutes, but for a few hours, or maybe even overnight. You can just leave it in your gaiwan or yixing. I’m not sure what the mechanism is, but it does seem to me sometimes a tea will get pushed and pushed, and it seems to run out of juice and you get nothing other than slightly sweet water. However, I suspect what’s going on is that as the leaves are still wet, something in the leaves break down during the resting time, and the tea therefore yields some more to you. Moreover, your tastebuds might be getting a rest too, so all of a sudden you’re fresher, and the tea, in some ways, also seems fresher.

I grandpa a lot of teas these days, as my workplace is not very gongfu friendly. I was drinking my usual aged tieguanyin the other day at work, and at the end of the day, drained the cup and left the leaves in there, lid open. The next morning, I came in, poured the cup full of hot water, put the lid on, and “baked” the tea for probably half an hour. The result was a pretty flavourful tea that was surprisingly interesting – even more than normal, with a good minty feeling that normally isn’t very obvious in this aged tieguanyin. I ended up having another cup of this tea before finally giving up on it and throwing the leaves out.

I’m not sure what happened, but I’m pretty certain the flavours I got the next morning was a little different from the usual, as I drink this tea pretty often. I suspect something happened overnight that made it taste a little different – possibly some kind of chemical breakdown, possibly the effect of it drying, or maybe the morning sun shining on the leaves did something. Regardless, something happened, so I got a different flavour profile than if I had just poured another cup. It’s as if I was drinking a different, but somewhat related tea.

I know others who do this too, but in different ways. Some will keep long-brewing the tea for hours, others will let the tea rest for a few hours and return to it half a day later. Regardless, resting the tea, somehow, seems to revive it a bit, just enough to give you a few more interesting cups. Of course, that may not necessarily be what you want all the time – a crappy tea isn’t going to magically transform into something amazing with this technique, but if you think a good tea is about to die on you, let it go and come back later. You could be surprised, though, I should caveat, not always pleasantly.

Categories: Teas
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12 responses so far ↓

  • JakubT // October 6, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Reply

    I often do this too, leaving the almost exhausted leaves in a pot for a few hours.

    It sometimes leads to awful tea – for example the 2003 Xiaguans I’m drinking now have a sort of smokiness which is rather under control when I do normal “gongfu”, but once they are few hours without water, the smoke gets quite nasty.

    Nevertheless, I often find it enjoyable – with Jingmai tea the most I guess. And it helps to bring out the better of some boring Bulangs I guess. For example the Menghai Peacock of Bulang is quite an unattractive tea in my opinion – but if I leave it to rest a few hours after main drinking session, it gets fruitier and nicer. In extreme, I just give it a long rinse, pour the water out and leave it for few hours to acquire that fruity goodness which it has, but hides it well.


  • Su // October 6, 2012 at 8:51 pm | Reply

    I thinks it’s oxidation. I do the same too , to very good teas /old teas and some times I will boil a pot of water in a yixing kettle , chuck the leftover tea in when the water is boiling , bring it up to a boil once more before pouring. it yields a different kind of brew.

  • Rist // October 7, 2012 at 5:41 am | Reply

    As someone mentioned aboved I think once the tea has been steeped multiple of times the leaf gets ‘boiled’ and is more prone to oxidize. This effect will result in a darker brew with more fruity flavors, or atleast this is the effect I experienced with oolong.

  • GN // October 7, 2012 at 10:41 am | Reply

    With young sheng teas left overnite tend to become more fruity. I recently left a old shu in the pot for about 24 hrs. It developed an interesting berry flavor.
    Another recent session I Brewed a 35-40 year old sheng up to around 25 infusions . At this point it felt as if the tea was giving out. I left it overnite the next day I started brewing it again. The tea was much more flavorful than the nite before with the same infusion time. I went on to drink this tea for another five days.

  • theistanbulletin // October 7, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Reply

    Hello, I am also a tea lover. I am really enjoying your blog. Some great posts. I wonder if you have ever tried Turkish tea?? All this reading about tea inspired me to write a post on my own blog about tea here in Turkey.

  • Billabongk Charlotte // October 8, 2012 at 1:55 am | Reply

    Keeping brewed leaves for a long time is not always a good idea for the simple reason that germs develop on them (which changes color and taste). Some microorganisms are ok, but some are not (and can poison oneself). Human eyes, and senses cannot really tell the difference… Personally, i’m not to keen on keeping the leaves more than about 12 hours. I still stay quite puzzled about all this.

  • Hster // October 8, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Reply

    I’ve been drinking second day brews for years without noticeable ill effects and perhaps the boiling hot water kills germs enough?

    The smoky Tailan Youle had the most startling transformation into a floral lovely tea the second day.

  • Nick (ImmortaliTEA) // October 11, 2012 at 11:52 am | Reply

    I do this quite often and notice that Yan Cha’s seem to have the best results when rested for me. When I let some of my Shui Xian’s and even some cheaper Da Hong Pao’s rest in the yixing for about 4-6 hours or even overnight, the result when I re-taste is a very particular character that was not in the original tasting at all. It seems to be very similar to the “Granny Face Powder” often tasted in certain other teas (a lot in aged Sheng), but at the same time that flavor melds with the Yan Yun so it tastes like mineraly talcum powder for lack of a better term, which is often quite enjoyable and unexpected. Great post!


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