Friday, March 27, 2015

Does a flat teapot can brew better tasting tea?


Why Flat Shape Is Good

You might have heard different opinions regarding the ideal shape of a teapot. Here is one of the opinions. Some people says that flat pots can brew good tasting tea. I’ve heard two reasons about it. First, people tend to put a lot of tea leaves in a flat pot because it has a large bottom and it makes the leaves inside look few. It’s a visual deception, so people put more leaves than usual and it helps to make delicious tea. The other reason is that the leaves can be laid widespread, not piled up like in an ordinary pot. So, when it is brewed, the leaves can smoothly absorb water with less stress. If you measure the leaves, the first reason won’t matter. I wonder how much impact to the taste the second reason has.

Experiment

I did a test in brewing gyokuro with a flat and tall vessels (Tea: 3g, Water: 15ml, Time: 2 min). I tried several rounds of tests. As a result, I found a slight advantage in taste on the flat vessel even though the difference is not significant. The tea brewed in the flat one has mellow and rich flavor. The one in the tall vessel was dull with washy body. I also found a slightly rough and bitter flavor. But again, it has very little difference. 



Unexpected Outcome

In the series of tests, I found an interesting result. The tea within the flat vessel has slightly more amount of extract. This is also a very slight difference. But why? If a flat pot helps with smooth absorption of water, it should have had less extract. This happening doesn’t support the aforementioned idea. Only the assumption that I have is that when you pour tea with the flat pot, less water might remain in between the leaves. If so, it has a good impact on the taste of the second or later brewing. I could not come up with a convincing explanation on this issue. I’m sorry.



Try Flat

To conclude this topic, I have to say that the advantage is not that significant. It could be within accidental error. In gyokuro brewing, slight difference of conditions can affect tastes. Quality and amount of ingredients, water temperature and brewing time has much more impact. If you want to enjoy tea casually, you don’t have to be picky about the shape of the pot. 
However, it is also fact that I kind of find the tea brewed in the flat vessel tastes slightly better than the other one. I can’t explain the reason scientifically. A flat pot might encourage smooth draining. Water calmly flows off through the leaves and it doesn’t tumble the leaves around. It is good to brew tea slowly and carefully without damaging fine leaves. I could not clear everything up regarding this topic, please try it yourself to see how you like it. For people who are fond of gyokuro and premium sencha, the flat pot is definitely worth a try.

14 comments:

  1. A flat one will also enhance oxidation since the leaves, when unravelled, have more surface that will be in contact with the air...plus the flat one will probably cause the temperature to drop just a little so that the warmth of the water is radiated away before it is able to draw out the bitterness of the tea leaves. I find that when I brew tea I like it to be in a open strainer and not a portable, closed spoon shaped one, exactly for the reason you listed above (the tea leaves have access to more water). It significantly change the flavor of the tea. I'd love to brew mine in a teapot but as a student I don't have that kind of time...plus a kyusu teapot is expensive and I'd never drag it around with me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, AngerinDoll-san,
      I agree. I have experienced the temperature drop in my experiment, too. I didn’t mention about it in this article, but when I tried the test with high temperature water, I found certain difference in taste. The tea brewed in the tall vessel had stronger bitterness. I assumed the same reason that you’ve mentioned. Surface area has a lot to do with it. Thanks for leaving your comment!

      Delete
  2. I am curious now to compare the teapots myself. It makes sense the flat teapot might make a more flavorful tea. I also want to get one o those tea mugs with a strainer. Two items to add to my shopping list.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, you have two different types of pot? Let me know if you find interesting result! Thank you for visiting my blgo!

      Delete
  3. This is interesting. I am always happier with the flavor when I use a one cup flat kyusu compared to a 2cup or a little more rounded teapot with a smaller basket strainer.I think you are correct.. it IS because I follow directions and use more tea leaves and the basket in the small kyusu is flatter and broader. It is always a dilemna as from the old days of drinking black tea,and even coffee, it is nice to have a fuller or bigger cup of tea.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Lin-san, Oh, you found that the tea brewed in a flat basket is more flavorful than a small basket. That’s interesting! Thank you for sharing your experience.

      Delete
  4. Nice topic.
    I just got my first hohin in Japan last week and had exactly the same thoughts!
    Being a chemist, who wonders about the shape (height/width ratio) of my vessels for ion-exchange experiments, I think the same principles apply here. I agree with AngeringDoll on the temperature and air exposure.
    Also - on your observation: it will be much easier to dewater the same amount of leaves if they are in a flat vessel. The liquid has more surface of the bottom to collect on and less of a "bed height" to get "re-adsorbed" while being poured out.
    At work I use a tiny, but wide and flat bottom teapot - works great for different teas.
    Getting good quality water is the more important and tough problem for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your keen observations! I appreciate a chemist’s opinion. I agree that getting good water is also important. You must be very excited with getting a hohin! Enjoy.

      Delete
  5. Wow, good experiment, btw, do you want to add your posts here? http://tea-weekly.com

    ReplyDelete
  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
  7. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.
    matcha

    ReplyDelete
  8. Don't know how but I managed to delete my comment. Anyway I fully agree that sencha taste better out of a flat vessel. A flat vessel allows the tea leaves to remain calm. You can pour the water in and out without disturbing the leaves too much. I find when the leaves are tumbled round in a kyusu an element of bitterness comes out. I got rid of some very fine kyusu-s recently and have switched to using a Shiboridashi for all sencha. I find the taste smoother and richer. The difference to me is actually quite large. And I noticed there's a bit of a rise for very flat Kyusu recently. But having used those they don't work as well, the Shiboridashi is just a far more elegant solution. With a slow gentle pour and flat shape even Fuka is fine.

    ReplyDelete