The result of brewing any tea is mostly dependent on four factors: on the form of tea leaves, on dry tea to water volume ratio, on water temperature and duration of the infusion. Each of these factors can vary within a fairly wide range. The form of tea leaves — from rolled and compressed whole tea leaves to powder. Dry tea / water ratio — unlimited. Water temperature — from 0 to 100 degrees Celsius. The infusion time — from several seconds to several hours.
Of course, in addition to these four factors, other circumstances also affect the result of brewing tea: the characteristics of the water, the material of the teaware, its shape, and so on. But even if we discard all these trifles and take into account only the four main factors, the number of possible modes of brewing tea can be considered almost endless. Equally endless can be the number of variants of significant consumer characteristics obtainable from each tea by changing the brewing modes.
In real life, this infinity is certainly not that infinite. If only because in the overwhelming majority of cases the variability of the four listed parameters is much less than the possible one. As a rule, it looks like this:
1. The form of tea leaves is most often constant. Of course, tea can be prepared for brewing. At least grind it, roast or give it a rinse of hot water. But still, most often nothing is done — tea leaves are poured into the teapot just as they are. Or something standard is done — they are rinsed and warmed up a little, for example. In fact, this means that for each particular tea the “form factor” can be considered unchangeable.
2. Consumer-relevant influence of water temperature on the result of brewing tea, as a rule, is tied to several key values. For example, 4°C, 20°C, 60 °C, 70°C, 80°C, 90°C, 98°C. Again, for each tea, the set of such values may be different — but it will still have a limited number of reference points.
3. The situation with infusion time and dry tea / water ratio is similar to the situation with temperature. For each tea, one can determine a set of values for each parameter, which will adequately describe almost all reasonable brewing modes. For example, for infusion time it can be 10 seconds, 30 seconds, 1 minute, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes, 2 hours. For dry tea / water ratio — 1 g / 100 ml, 2 g / 100 ml, 3 g / 100 ml, 5 g / 100 ml.
Thus, after simplification, it turns out that the result of brewing tea, the form of tea leaves being a constant, depends on a combination of seven temperature values, eight infusion times and four values of the dry tea / water ratio. And this is not infinity at all, these are 224 combinations. The number of options can be further reduced by fixing the dry tea / water ratio — the simplest solution for real brewing. Then the number of different drinks that can be obtained from one tea by different brewing methods will decrease to 56.
Naturally, not all of the 224 (or 56) brewing results will be tasty or even interesting. Naturally, a significant portion of the brews will give very close results. But even after all these cuts, a significant number of teas will produce, under different brewing conditions, some very different and consumer-friendly results.
Now let’s digress from theory and see how this variability is reflected in tea descriptions. Obviously it is not reflected at all. If you look at the flavor-and-aroma description of any tea, you will see something like the following.
“Pale yet potent, this aromatic cup releases a full-bodied firework of fruity-floral aromas with a soft, cocoa butter finish”. And here’s another: “The amazing intensity of fresh, fragrant flavors in the honey-colored liquor and the lingering finish”. Or this: “Our tea also has a sweet, rounded flavor, perhaps reminiscent of freshly roasted white corn. Full, nutty and buttery texture, and pleasantly dry finish”.
Such descriptions accompany the sale of dry tea (roughly speaking, they are printed on the back label or are part of the product description in an online store) and describe the static state of the finished drink after one of the brewing options. If each tea could only be brewed a single way, such a static description would be appropriate. Such a static description would be even more pertinent if expensive professional equipment were used to make tea, only a specially trained person could brew tea and there would not be a single chance to brew tea well and tasty at home. Finally, such a description is perfect for tea that is sold ready-to-drink. But there are still few such situations in the real tea market.
Much more often we buy (or sell) tea, which, as mentioned above, can be brewed in 224 (well, albeit 56) different ways. Moreover, each of these methods, with the availability of cheap and affordable devices (scales, thermometers and timers), anyone can safely reproduce at home — and enjoy a significant part of the outcome. In such conditions, limiting the description of tea to one option is the same as engraving the piano with something like “Steinway Crown Jewels grand piano — lined with kevazingo bubinga veneer; press the keys on it in the described order and you will get Happy Birthday to You”…
The beauty of tea is in its variety — not only in the variety of assortments, but also in the variety of the results that can be obtained by brewing one tea in different ways. Therefore, in our opinion, the description of dry tea should be dynamic. It is not necessary to include the outcomes of all brews in this description, but the most interesting ones should be included there.