Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Advice: Chinese Iced tea

Summer is coming! It's getting hot in Taipei and I long for cool drinks again.

I remembered an advice from Teaparker, tea master Chih Jung Sien: buy tea branches and make iced tea ; it's cheap, sweet and refreshing. Last week I bought such tea branches from a street tea vendor on the market. The price was NTD 50 (1,7 USD) for 300 gr! Basically, these are the branches and leaves that are sorted out of regular loose tea. (Below is a picture of such a tea).

The trick for the brew is to use a lot of leaves and make several very short infusions. This will prevent the bitter taste to come out, while the large tea quantity ensures you get sufficient flavor. Actually, it tastes quite like a cold canned oolong tea sold in convenient stores around Taiwan. Just better! Up to you to add sugar or not. I didn't feel the need to do so.

There is another trendy way to prepare iced tea in Taiwan these days. It is called leung pao, or cold brew. Just put your regular loose tea in half a liter of cold water and wait approximately 5 hours. Et voilà! Even Wang De Chuan has a leaflet how to make cold brew.

But tea master Chih Jung Sien doesn't approve this trend. "Tea has been around for so long, if it were a good way to make tea, the Chinese would have invented it much earlier." My experience of cold brew is that you get good tasting cold tea, but it comes at a price. You would get more good taste and tea if you used gong fu cha to drink it warm. With cold brew, you don't extract all the flavor you could from your tea leaves. It's like throwing away half of your tea away.

I can understand tea vendors would like you to consume their good teas in summer, but a consumer with limited financial resources is probably better off following our first advice!

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