Suggestions for Cupping

I want to address the issue where cupping results are different, for example, when Grace and Virginia cupped the Lotus Heart Dragon Well in the US, they had a very different result compared to my cupping here in China. I think I know why: first off, the amount of tea used per volume of water is vastly different. I used a tall glass with may be 3-4 grams of tea and used rather hot water for this tea, I guessed around 70 degrees C for a quick cupping test in the farm. Grace and Virgina used 5 grams or more in a cupping set with 3-4 ounces of water. In truth, the volume of water is even less due to the space taken up by the tea and the fact that the cup is not filled completely to the rim, therefore, the volume of water is much more with my cupping here in China. I merely mention the temperature as a reference.

I also cupped the tea later in a professional cupping set using 3 grams of tea with around 3-4 ounces of water and cupped with near boiling water for 5 minutes (usual cupping technique employed by professionals) and find it not excessively bitter under the circumstances. However, it is understandable Grace and Virginia had results of a much more aggressive cupping, as the volume of water is far less with more tea used. In the scenario of 5 grams in a standard 6 ounce gaiwan you would want to use low temperature water to avoid excessive astringency and to bring out the sweetness. In fact, I cupped it today in a small gaiwan using water that is just starting to steam. I used a short steeping for the first two cups (less than a minute), and prolonged the steeping time over the next 4 cuppings (ranging from 1-2 minutes to 2-3 minutes) and found the tea sweet and flavorful with no excessive astringency and good finish and mouth feel.

Another issue they asked about is a dark coloration of the liquor after it cools. This can be due to over aggressive brewing (although unintentional but that was exactly what would have happened in the cuppings description above), water quality (water with excessive metal or mineral content can darken the liquor) and finally, the light source can cause the liquor to look dark. In fact, this morning my cupping results of white teas had to be discarded because I did them in my hotel room and the lights in the room made everything look dirty. I redid my cupping under natural light and poof, perfectly bright and clear liquor!

This is another lesson where measuring and timing don't always work if you are not sensitive to what the tea is doing. One should look deeply and respond to the activities created by the tea. Look at how it is developing (color of liquor, speed of the rising steam from hot water--faster steam = hotter temperature) and react accordingly. Use a measuring technique to get a reference point, then go with your instinct works best for me.

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