The Scoop on the Rinse


Let the water wash over me.


Greetings, friends! 

When I am preparing tea for others, I am often asked what the deal is with the "rinse" of the tea leaves. It would appear to the uninitiated that I am dumping perfectly good tea.  So what is the rinse and is it necessary?

Think about this: The more processed a tea leaf, the higher temperature the water needs to be in order to coax the full flavor out. If I am preparing a black tea with water at 208 and pour it into a cold pot over the dry leaf, my water temp can drop by 40 or 50 degrees and my first steep would not be as good as it could be.

How to counter that instant cooling of the water? The rinse! Pour the same temperature water you would use to brew the tea into the pot with the leaf in it and let it sit for 5 to 10 seconds. Pour off. A couple of things happen in that process. One, the pot is getting warmed and two, the leaf is getting primed and ready to give you its best. Following the rinse is also a great time to smell the warmed leaf and this will also enhance your tea experience. After the rinse, steep your tea as usual.

I do one rinse with whites, greens, yellows, oolongs, blacks and raw pu'ers and two short rinses with ripe pu'er as I like to really prime that more highly processed leaf for fullest flavor. Some would say the rinse is not as necessary with green and yellow tea but I tend to do this step nonetheless as that smelling of the leaf post-rinse can really deepen my understanding of the tea.

I would also advise that if your leaf and pot has time to cool down in between steeps to do what I call a "flash rinse" prior to resteeping. Just pour hot water in the pot and dump off immediately before steeping.

Enjoy the ride. Tea can be such a joyful exploration and practice brings us closer to the perfect.

With gratitude,