Will Wertheim, the son of my dear friends Carol and Les, took an unexpected path when he branched out into the study of tea after finishing college majoring in environmental science. Will began studying with tea master Michael Wong of China Town in 2010. He went on to work at Chelsea Market & Tea, helped open the Harney & Son’s New York store, and was a wholesale rep for Ito En, a Japanese tea company. Will decided to go into the tea business and created an online site to sell fine teas Therein the founding of, Goldsmith Teas, named after his maternal grandparents. Will now lives in Brooklyn and travels the world in search of excellent teas.
How to Brew Hot Tea
Here’s a primer on properly brewing tea. Temperature is important to a well-brewed cup of tea. Bring the water to a boil, pour a cupful and let the water cool slightly to 208ºF for black teas, slightly more, 195ºF, for oolong teas and 175ºF for green teas, before infusing. Will suggests using an unbleached tea filter for brewing, such as these sold by arborteas.com. Measure the tea, fill the tea filter and steep, also known as the “agony of the leaf,” for 30 to 60 seconds for most green teas; a longer brew adds caffeine, not flavor. Steep black teas for three to five minutes; longer brewing only increases unpleasant tannins.
Will recommends reinfusing the same tea filter two or three times. Though the tea may not be as strong, good flavor remains.
Two Methods to Brew Iced Tea
Hot Brewed Iced Tea
Brew the teas as instructed above doubling the amount of tea to two ounces for every eight ounces of water and then pour over ice.
Cold Brewed Iced Tea
Use one heaping teaspoon for every eight ounces of cold water and let sit eight hours.
Green Tea Tasting
Tea #1 Jade Oolong
Oolong teas originated in China and are also grown in Taiwan. Will purchased this batch of tea leaves while on tour directly from the Taiwanese farmer!
Once the tea is harvested it’s left one day to wither, but not dry. The leaves must retain moisture as each leaf is raveled and unraveled up to 30 times. Notice how finely the leaves are raveled and rolled into these small balls. Each infusion, continues to unfurl the leaves.
Will used a Yixing Pottery teapot to brew the Jade Oolong, which contributes flavor to the tea.
He placed the tea leaves in the pot, poured hot water into the pitcher and let it sit for to cool slightly before adding to the pot and let it brew for 30 seconds.
The first thing I noticed was an aroma I didn’t immediately recognize. After a couple of sips and a few more sniffs, I finally identified a clove-like flavor with a slight tongue numbing effect. The tea is grown at the top of mountains with lots of cloud coverage and lack of sunshine and the struggle for sunshine produces more chlorophyll and polyphenols resulting in the numbing sensation.
This is the tealeaf after the first steeping; the leaf is unrolled, but still raveled.
Will opened the leaf for viewing (those are Mom Carol’s scrumptious orange butter cookies in the corner).
The Jade Oolong was brewed four separate times, the clove aroma faded quickly, but the numbing quality was still apparent.
(On the bottom is the tealeaf before brewing, right above, the first brew and
above that the second brew – notice how the leaf has expanded.)
The fourth and final brew was tannic, something that doesn’t appeal to me, but look at how the tealeaves have completely opened.
Jade Oolong speeds up your metabolism and creates a “tea drunk” affecting both the mind and the body. Drink enough and you reach a meditative state of awareness and tranquility. Too much, however, can upset the stomach. A little nosh with the Jade Oolong is recommended. Those cookies did the trick!
Tea #2 Amber Oolong
This green tea is briefly fired, which “singes” the edges of the leaf but doesn’t completely dry the tea. The firing creates the Maillard Reaction, a reaction caused by the heating process and the reaction of the sugar and amino acids in the leaves. The easiest way to describe this reaction is to think of the color and flavor created when you toast bread.
(Bottom leaf is Jade Oolong. Top leaf is Amber Oolong –
notice the slightly browned edges.)
The firing process gives the tea an earthier taste than the Jade Oolong (same tea leaves, just a different treatment). This tea also creates a numbness of the tongue due to the same growing conditions. Will uses a Gaiwan pot to make the Amber Oolong.
After a couple of infusions, there was an interesting caramel flavor, brought on by the Maillard Reaction, and slightly floral aroma in the bottom of the empty cup.
Tea #3 Jasmine Pearl
This tea is from China and is rolled into pretty little orbs of green and white. The stems and buds, the white portion of the tea plant, are included. The harvested tea leaves are placed on a shirt lined with jasmine petals and rolled to infuse the jasmine perfume into the leaves. The jasmine petals are then removed; the remaining pollen contributes added flavor.
Brew for three minutes. The first infusion is very fragrant and the jasmine taste is strong. With multiple infusions, the color of the water gets lighter but the jasmine flavor is still apparent.
We had a lovely and informative two-hour tasting party. It was a pleasure to talk with Will about tea. He’s very passionate and knowledgeable about the topic.
Contact Will at: http://goldsmithteas.com/contact/