I went to a tea shop for Chinese New Year and the owner was incredible adamant about rinsing, sponging and reusing the tea. Is this a normal thing? Should I be doing it? What teas should I be doing this with and what shouldn't I?

Sponging tea to my observation seemed to be like steeping but more for the refreshing and "waking up" the leaves rather than steeping which is more focused on the water and to flavour the water.

How many times should I wash my tea and should I sponge it before washing it, before drinking it or both?

How long should I "sponge" it?

How do I determine when to do this and when not too

When should I stop reusing tea?

  • I've no idea, I've never heard of rinsing tea before, I'm curious to see the answer. – GdD Feb 5 '19 at 9:41
  • Tea preparation is basic an extraction. Without going to taste and quality of the prepared drink, I, as a chemist, would be able to exhaust the tea . This might require repeating steps or a continuous process. If the quality of the tea is considered I guess that if one knows you can reuse partially the initial tea. It really depends on what one is accustomed to. I have saw continuous tea preparation too, it wasn't clear what the new and the old tea was (turkish style I guess). – Alchimista Feb 5 '19 at 10:00
  • @rumtscho♦ I fixed my question and tried to make the emphasis of the sponging part more apparent. I'm more curious about the sponging rather than the steeping and washing. I'd like to reopen this if possible instead of just asking the it as a new question. – Jade So Feb 6 '19 at 23:11
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    indeed, it is no longer a duplicate. Thank you for taking the time to improve it. – rumtscho Feb 6 '19 at 23:23
  • My father-in-law is an avid tea drinker (his hobby in retirement is literally drink and discuss tea with his friends). He has shown me how to rinse tea (a few different ways), however he and I don't speak the same dialect of Chinese (I speak Mandarin, with a heavy western accent - he doesn't speak Mandarin at all). So I can't speak to the difference between rinsing (discussed at length below) and sponging. Does anyone know the difference? – J Crosby Jul 4 '19 at 16:24

Rinsing tea is normal in a ceremonial preparation of tea. There can be several reasons for rinsing:

  1. To wake up the leaves: Especially with tightly rolled teas, the infusion is more optimal when you let them unfurl a bit during a short rinse.
  2. Remove unpleasant flavor on the surface: With some roasted oolong teas or pile fermented teas, the earthy or smokey flavor on the surface can be unpleasant. So people like to rinse the first layer of flavour away.
  3. Remove impurities: There's a lot of processing steps involved to produce a tea. And when the environment isn't kept clean, the final tea may not be clean. I personally always rinse ripe pu erh tea and oolong tea. These teas have the most chance of being 'dirty'. I don't rinse green, black, raw pu erh and white teas.
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  • How long do you let them unfurl and soak? When you say "rinse" how long, with flowing or still water? This is more focused on rinsing rather than sponging and not really answering the question unless you are saying rinsing and sponging are the same. To my knowledge rinsing and sponging are different. Sponging also seems closer to soaking than rising unless you are soaking when you rinse. – Jade So Feb 10 '19 at 10:11
  • Generally 'rinsing' is the term used in a ceremonial preparation. With loosely compressed/rolled teas, this is just a matter of seconds. With tightly compressed (e.g. a pu erh tuocha) or tightly rolled teas (e.g. Tie Guan Yin oolong), the rinsing time is longer, maybe 30 seconds, so I think this would be closer to what you mean by 'soaking'. No matter the time, the purpose is the same as described above in my answer. Is this clear? – Lisa at Teasenz.com Feb 20 '19 at 7:57

Back in the day my grandfather would prepare for us "功夫茶" as a closing part of a meal. He would add near boiling water to the tea leaves and then discard all the water through the teapot. The second time adding water is for brewing the tea. This process takes about 2-3 minutes. Reusing the tea leaves is up to personal preference and the type of tea leaves used, but usually the tea is only good for up to 3 uses.

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