Monday, November 23, 2009

"The Root"

I have recently heard about an interesting, although somewhat uncommon, tea brewing technique. The technique is called "the root" and refers to the practice of leaving a little bit of tea (usually less than an ounce) in the chahai* after each infusion. This remaining tea will end up mixing with all of the following infusions.

J-tea's 1992 Wuyi Oolong (武夷烏龍)
& "the root" left in the glass chahai.

Some people may do this already without even thinking about it, while others like myself have always thought it best to not mix infusions. Each infusion is special and should be tasted in its purest form, not mixed with all the previous infusions... right? Well, at least that's what I thought before I started experimenting with "the root."

Mixing a new infusion with "the root."

Believers claim that "the root" acts as a solid foundation for each infusion, which they say can add character and depth to one's tea. I have found this to sometimes be true for me, especially while drinking aged puer and aged oolong.

Any perceived advantages or disadvantages to "the root" are debatable and, like taste itself, entirely subjective. I will never claim that there is only one correct way to do anything. Experienced tea brewers accept that every tea is different and will behave differently each time it is brewed. Sometimes I'll feel like using "the root" and other times I'll avoid mixing infusions. That said, I would really love to hear from any other tea brewers out there regarding your own experiences using "the root."

* Chahai (tea ocean) (茶海) is the name I use for a tea pitcher. These pitchers are also sometimes called "decanters" or "fairness cups".


Ian said...

Hmm what an interesting idea, thanks I will have to try that sometime.

Unknown said...

Thats interesting, I've not heard of leaving the root in the faircup. I've only heard about the root pertaining to Chinese Greens being consumed straight from the gaiwan.

Where you drink the top two thirds, and leave the bottom third in the gaiwan, and add water as necessary.

Anonymous said...

I'm also only familiar with leaving the root when brewing Chinese green tea in a gaiwan. And I do recommend it.

Margaret Studer said...

I have actually heard of this years ago from a friend whose significant other was Thai. He told her not to pour out the last of the tea in the teapot. Since he was, aside from drinking tea, a jerk, I didn't believe it and told her he was nuts.

But if you always brew the same type of tea it makes sense. Each brewing would have more character because of the extra flavor left in the pot. It's rather like those teapots that you never was the inside of, the name escapes me, so that each time you use it the flavor of the tea is richer.

I would suppose it would depend on what you wanted your tea to taste like, wouldn't it? If you want the taste to stay pure, then you don't use a root, but if you want an experience that will be truly unique, then you might try using the root.

Very intersting. Thank you

Brett said...

It was interesting to hear from 3 tea friends about leaving some water "on-the-leaves" to continue steeping in the bottom of one's gaiwan or teapot. That is quite different from the technique I wrote about and perhaps it is also more well-known, so I'm very glad that you mentioned it!

Both of these techniques would qualify as "the root" because the idea behind both of them is to build a foundation for future infusions.

Monika - White Valley said...

hello :) I have just found your blog and I think it's great :) have just started with the tea-art and will be your guest quite often :D best regards, keep up this great work :)