The thermodynamics of tannic extraction are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you may find yourself despairing that your water wasn't quite hot enough to brew that cup of green as quickly as you like. The flip side? That tea is smoother and sweeter with little-to-none of the bitter astringency you might have otherwise found. Your cup of Assam black tea may be too hot to drink for quite awhile due to brewing at a full boil, but on the other hand, dat full body and bracing texture.
Temperature has a remarkable influence on the astringency of your cuppa, with a higher temp. brew leaning toward greater tannic pull and lower temp brew leaning toward lesser tannic pull. Let's take a closer look through examination of tasting notes across three different brews of the same leaf.
A note about Teaneer's Nilgiri Black Tea, which we will be exploring today: the Teaneer estate in South India’s fertile Nilgiri region, a region vital to India’s booming tea industry. While most of this region predominantly focuses on commodity tea (mass-produced, mid-grade leaf ideal for bagging and blending), there are a few farms in the region cultivating specialty styles. Teaneer (aka Vijayalakshmi Natural Farm) is one of these farms. This particular black tea may not have a fancy name or flashy marketing attached, but every sip highlights the ayurvedic farming commitment and hands-on care applied to every pick on this farm. The owners, brothers Suresh and Prabhu Nanjan, are true masters of unusual and thoughtful leaf styles. The black tea we are sampling today is an elegant example of their practice.
We cupped this leaf at three different temperatures and took notes to illustrate the shift in flavor, aroma and body. Each brew round used five grams of dried leaf, twelve ounces of water, and was brewed in an identical French press for exactly two minutes. My notes on each round can be found below, along with a photo of the brew in front of a white wall with good lighting so you can see the subtle shift in color as well.
Brew One - 175°F:
Texture: Medium-bodied with a smooth finish, this round has no obvious tannic dryness of which to speak.
Aroma: Smooth black tea with notes of aloe and plu.
Flavor: Soft black tea flavor meets field flowers and clean river water.
Brew Two - 185°F:
Texture: A bit drier around the edges of the mouth, but still a relatively smooth medium bodied brew.
Aroma: Clean black tea and wildflowers, hint of young fig.
Flavor: A bit grassier, but not assertively so. Bright and floral.
Brew Three - 205°F:
Texture: Still medium-bodied, but a touch brassier on the edges.
Aroma: Sea water dominates my nose, delicately algal-briney.
Flavor: Seaweed presence carries through here, paired fascinatingly with notes of coriander.
Each palate is unique, so your tasting notes will likely be somewhat different from mine. That being said, let this breakdown serve as an example of how dramatically a tea can change purely from brewing at different temperatures!
I highly encourage you to perform your own experiments with your favorite teas, as well as those you haven’t particularly enjoyed in the past. Try different temperatures, different times, different methods. Tea is an incredibly sensitive creature. I think you’ll be fascinated by all the new layers you discover!
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