There is no doubt that water temperature plays a critical role in the tea making process. Water temperature impacts the taste and aroma of what you experience in the cup. Water that is too hot results in an unpleasant, bitter tasting tea. Too cool and you end up with a listless, thin tea.
Whilst every tea enthusiast will have an opinion about the correct temperature for brewing specific teas this post explores the practical side, how to get the water to the desired temperature for brewing tea. We use some ancient Chinese wisdom to avoid the endless raging torrent of boiling water that does not make a good cup of tea!
These days modern day kettles (I admit I have one!) and tea brewing equipment make it easy to guarantee specific water temperatures. However, it is easy to achieve your desired brewing temperature by observing water temperatures through visual cues: bubbles and steam, using a kettle or pot of water on the stove. Here's what to look for.
Shrimp eyes, or tiny bubbles, form over the bottom of the pan or kettle. You may also notice a slow and gentle movement of vapour starting to appear. The water is between 68˚C – 78˚C. This is the perfect temperature to brew delicate green teas such as matcha
Next, crab eyes begin to form. These bubbles get slightly larger and steam will begin to rise from the pan or kettle. The temperature is around 79˚C. This temperature would be suitable for brewing white tea
, green tea
and yellow teas
Fish eyes shortly follow creating bubbles that are a little larger than previously. The temperature is around 85˚C. Thicker columns of steam will start to rise from your pot or kettle. This temperature would be suitable for brewing oolong teas
Rope of Pearls
This appears as a very slow boil, bubbles begin to rise in streams from the bottom of the pan, but the surface is still calm. At this point, the water is between 90˚C – 96˚C. This temperature would suit some black teas
This appears as a full rolling boil and is referred to as a raging torrent in the Chinese tradition. The water is bubbling ferociously and the surface is rolling. Thick streams of vertical tea will appear and the temperature has hit 100˚C.
Whilst water boiled for a short period would be suitable to brew tisanes, some dark and black teas you need to ensure that you allow the water to cool if you wish to use the water to brew other types of tea. This leads into my topic for the next post, cooling boiling water down for tea.