Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What is the "Agony of the Leaves?"

If you are into loose teas, you have probably heard the term "the agony of the leaves."  What does that really mean?

This refers to the hydrating of lfull-leaf tea.  It only actually occurs in tea that has been twisted or rolled, but the term is often used in relation to any loose tea.  As the leaves unfurl, they twist and writhe, almost as though they are in pain (although some tea drinker prefer to think of the leaves as dancing in joy).  This is most noticible in fine oolongs, which expand the most.  If you want to watch it happen, brew your tea in a glass teapot.

Look at how much leaves from a basic Chinese green tea expand in this infuser.

Sure it is poetic and beautiful to watch, but what is the practicality to you as a tea drinker?  For one thing, you never want to overfill your tea ball or infuser (I try not to go over 1/3 full with the dry tea).  The leaves need room to expand.  If you don't give them that room, they won't release as much of the plant oils, producing an inferior cup from often very expensive tea.

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