There's an art to tea. There is intricate detail in the way it is grown and processed, and also in the brewing and serving.
Taiwanese tea master Hsien-Tang Lin and his wife, Mei-Yen Lin, shared their knowledge of tea at The Tea Grotto on Thursday as part of an ongoing Taiwan Cultural Festival, which ends Saturday.
"We like to get the local people out to get exposed to a little bit of a different flavor, a different lifestyle," says Ming Chen, member of the Taiwanese Association of Greater Salt Lake.
Thursday's event brought two tea masters to Salt Lake to showcase the Dong Ding Oolong tea, which is grown in Taiwan at 600 to 1,000 meters above sea level.
Tea growing is not only an art form but also a serious business in the town of Lugu, where twice each year some 5,000 teas are judged by their quality of leaves, fragrance and taste, says Hsien-Tang Lin.
"Each team will judge 300 different samples each day," he says. "So we do not swallow. We just sip, then spit it out."
Formally, however, there is a process involved in tea tasting, says Hsien-Tang Lin, who grew up on a tea farm and now helps farmers perfect their tea growing and processing through the Lugu Farmers' Association. He explains the process as Mei-Yen Lin demonstrates.
Rolled teas, including Oolong, should be brewed at 90 to 100 degrees Celsius, Hsien-Tang Lin says. Loose-leaf teas, such as green tea, should be brewed at 80 degrees.
It's important, he adds, to brew the right amount of tea. Rolled tea should take up no more than one-fifth the capacity of the teapot. Timing is also critical, he says, noting that tea should be steeped for only about a minute, at Utah's altitude, for the first brew.
The serving technique involves a teapot, a serving cup, tea cups and whiffing cups, explains Hsien-Tang Lin.
The teapot should be filled with hot water, which is then poured into tea cups to warm them. Then, for the warming brew, the leaves should be placed in the teapot. Water should be added, and then the water immediately should be poured into the serving cup, then to whiffing cups.
It is then, Hsien-Tang Lin says, that it's time for the first brew. Water from the whiffing cups should be poured over the teapot, he says, adding, "We rinse the teapot to cure the teapot."
Then, after water is again added to the teapot, the tea should be brewed, and the tea cups should be emptied of water and placed with whiffing cups on a tray.
The tea should be served into the whiffing cups. Once served, the tea should be poured from that cup, into the tea cup. The taster then sniffs the aroma in the empty whiffing cup before drinking the tea.
"That's for the tea ceremony," he says. "We like to enjoy with our family or some kind of party, like this."Another, easier way to enjoy tea, he says, is a cold-brewed tea, steeped in a water bottle for about two hours. He adds with a smile, "This is not the formal way."