Learn to Steep: Western Style

The western style of steeping is one of the better known methods of steeping tea, especially if you grew up drinking tea outside of Asia, but it’s also the steeping method that I’m starting off with in a mini series of steeping methods.

Traditionally, the western style of steeping utilizes a tea pot (or cup), and generally a small amount of tea to large amount of water. Think a tea bag with a mug of hot water, or a teapot with a teaspoon or two of tea into a strainer. In contrast, a tea pot of Chinese or Japanese origin is typically smaller in size, and the method of steeping uses more leaves and less water in comparison to steeping in a western style method.

Teapots that originate from Europe or North America tend to hold much larger volumes of water in comparison to teapots from China or Japan. For instance, some tea pots can hold 2 to 4 cups of water (or more!). There is a wide variation from western style teapots in terms of style, shapes, and designs. These teapots can come with strainers (or not), but you can also use a strainer over your cup of tea to catch errant tea leaves that might escape.

Western style teapots are typically ceramic, porcelain, metal (think silver!), or glass. The cost of a western style tea pot, depending on where you live, may be fairly inexpensive. I’ve seen teapots priced anywhere from $5 to over $50, and I have purchased teapots anywhere from specialty tea shops, thrift stores, and stores that sell home goods. This also holds true from tea cups/mugs – there’s a variety of materials that are used, styles and sizes. I personally like cups that fit well in my hands, and have a wide selection in my personal collection ranging from vintage tea cup and saucers to double walled borosilicate glass. I’m also a fan of ceramic/porcelain, as I find that they retain the heat decently well enough for me to finish the tea.

Using the tea pot is fairly easy. All you need to do is place leaves inside of the tea pot, add the appropriate temperature water, remove the leaves at the appropriate time and pour a cup of tea. some people do an extra step by pouring water into the teapot first and then pour it out, to warm the vessel prior to steeping the tea. If you are choosing the option of steeping directly in a tea cup or mug instead, the leaves are contained in a tea bag or a tea strainer. Tea strainers come in many options as well – from metal baskets or novelty plastic/silicone designs. I like the basket strainers the best because it allows space for the leaves to expand and unfurl, a fact that is particularly important when it comes to steeping compressed teas like oolong or pu’erh.

Teas steeped western style will likely be successfully resteeped a lower number of times compared to teas that are steeped gongfu style, if only because of the length of time the leaves are steeped in its entirety. Western style of tea steeping is one of my preferred styles of steeping, primarily due to the ease of steeping. The majority of steeping instructions for most teas, blends and tisanes that I have come across is for a western style of steeping (typically minutes instead of seconds).

What’s your preferred style for steeping your tea?

Naoki Matcha’s Wazuka Hilltop

Wazuka Hilltop by Naoki Matcha
Green Tea (Matcha) / Straight
$50.00USD for 60g

Wazuka Hilltop is part of Naoki Matcha’s Masters Collection Matcha Set, a collection of three different ceremonial grade matcha. Wazuka Hilltop makes up 20g of the 60g set. Naoki Matcha has provided me with Wazuka Hilltop for the purposes of writing an honest review.

First Impressions

Being asked if I was interested in trying out a new collection of ceremonial grade matcha was a pretty easy question to answer. Naoki Matcha reached out to me and I wholeheartedly said yes. This is part of a collection called the Masters Collection Matcha Set, and I’ll be splitting up the reviews individually because that’s just how I’m rolling these days – plus it just allows me the opportunity to focus on each one individually.

To start off with, this is Wazuka Hilltop – the name comes from the location of origin (the village of Wazuka in the Kyoto Prefecture in Japan). The packaging is an almost plastic-feeling pouch that is sealed and resealable. The front mentions the collection and weight, while the back has the name of the tea hand written with a reference to the website for information how to prepare the matcha itself.

The vibrancy in this matcha is pretty outstanding. If I had to name the colour, I’d be tempted to call it chartreuse or even lime. It’s fluorescent in some lighting, and screams spring to me. Wazuka Hilltop smells grassy and very lightly sweet to me.

Preparation

I decided to check out Naoki Matcha’s website to see how they recommended to prepare their matcha – and there were quite a few methods mentioned!

The method that I opted to use for Wazuka Matcha was the cold brew method. Simply put, I mixed the matcha with cold water into a shaker bottle and shook it up until it was fully suspended into water and then drank it. So I used room temperature water and matcha together. I’ll use different methods of preparation for the other two ceremonial matcha in this set.

First Taste

Wazuka Hilltop mixes up to a pretty vibrant green. Because I didn’t opt to use a whisk, there isn’t that traditional layer of foam over the top – just a thin layer of micro bubbles across the top. The vibrancy in the colour is beautiful – I would describe it as a similar green to say petite peas or edamame. Just a very familiar green colour, that’s not quite as bright as the dry powder. The aroma is grassy, lightly vegetal.  The flavour is a bit different. I found it had a crispness to it that blended with umami notes, strong grassy notes, and then it lingered on the tongue with a nutty finish that reminded me a lot of hemlock needles. There’s just something about it that reminds me of the hemlock needles that I used to nibble on during camping trips.

A Second Cup?

Like other matcha, Wazuka Hilltop cannot be resteeped since it’s a suspension. But here’s another photo of that bright green powder for further appreciation:

My Overall Impression

I loved Naoki Matcha’s Wazuka Hilltop. I think it has a beautiful flavour to it, and it really makes me nostalgic for simpler times. I had a fun time shaking up the bottle to get this cold brew method going, and found that the flavour was just really fun. I appreciate the experience from start to finish, and found that the colour was just really enticing and inviting that made me want to try this matcha. Of course, I do have to touch on the price a bit – right now this is only available on the Naoki Matcha website as part of the trio set so it’s a bit of an investment if you don’t end up liking one of the three – but it’s also a typical pricing for a single origin or premium matcha (approximately $1 per gram), but it’s also a bit of a want type of tea pricing, versus a need.

Curious about the cup rating system? Click here to learn more.

Teakan’s Rizhao Green

Rizhao Green by Teakan
Green Tea / Straight
$30.00 for 60g

Rizhao Green is part of Teakan’s Volume 4 Exploration Kit, a collection of five single origin teas. Rizhao Green makes up 15g of the 60g kit.

First Impressions

Packaged in a sealed, resealable pouch, Rizhao Green came as part of the Volume 4 Exploration Kit from Teakan. Another green tea, this one comes from Rizhao, Shandong, China. As with the other teas, Rizhao Green is in a kraft paper pouch with a white label with black print. This particular green tea is harvested in spring 2021.

The leaves appear to be short, wiry, with a varying green colour from spring green to a deep, dark forest green. The aroma is grassy, vegetal, and sweet. Rizhao Green is really quite pretty though – as you can see for yourself:

Preparation

Teakan recommends steeping Rizhao Green in 80°C (176°F) water for 2 minutes (western style) or 15-20 seconds (gongfu style). I opted to do an initial steep of 2 minutes.

First Taste

Rizhao Green steeps to a light yellow colour – it’s cheerful and inviting. The aroma is grassy, lightly vegetal, with a hint of something sweet. The flavour of this green tea is crisp – vegetal, sweet, grassy, with hints of a roasted nuttiness that lingers at the back of the tongue. As a full disclaimer, the first time I tried this tea, I accidentally set my timer for 3 minutes instead of 2 minutes and was met with a cup of very bitter tea… I would highly recommend not going over 2 minutes for the initial steep. Save your taste buds.

A Second Cup?

I resteeped Rizhao Green a total of seven times (eight steeps total), and used the same water temperature but adding an additional 30 seconds for each subsequent steep – and found that the flavour stayed pretty consistent throughout. It got a bit more nutty and less sweet as I went, but overall stayed very similar to the initial steep. Plus, check out the leaves! They’re definitely not short or small, and have a beautiful spring green colour.

My Overall Impression

I loved Teakan’s Rizhao Green. This Chinese green tea was a treat for the senses throughout the process of steeping it. The look of the dry leaf, and the taste of the steeped tea – just a nice cup of tea. And it doesn’t hurt that it resteeps very well (something that I will recommend!). I would just recommend minding your steeping times and temperature, as this would be one of those green teas that I would consider to be sensitive.

Curious about the cup rating system? Click here to learn more.