Why re-steep tea?
Why not? Re-steeping tea really brings out the value of a tea, you can get many servings of tea from just one serving of leaves. More bang for your buck, and you get to taste the tea as it develops from steep to steep.
Before you re-steep…
If you are going to be re-steeping your tea, you don’t want to oversteep it. Re-steeping your tea means that you are going to be steeping the leaves multiple times which means that each time you steep it, you must remove the leaves from your tea and set them aside until you are ready to re-steep. If you are using a mesh strainer, take it out and sit it on a saucer or something. Using a gaiwan will alleviate this as gaiwans are built for resteeping – when using one, you just pour out all of the tea into a separate drinking vessel after each steep. Simply add water for the next steep.
How many times can you re-steep a tea?
If you keep getting an enjoyable flavor out of the leaves, keep re-steeping. Everyone will have their own personal preference as to “how many times you can re-steep an anxi tieguanyin” etc. Once you reach a point where you aren’t getting much flavor out of your tea, stop. It’s that simple.
How to re-steep tea?
I usually increase the steeping time slightly with each subsequent steep. some people increase the temperature as well. As long as your first few steeps weren’t too long and there are soluble solids left in the leaves, you’ll get some flavor out of them.
A Last Word
I’ve gotten some pu-erhs up to 15-20 steepings, its amazing. re-steeping justifies buying a more expensive full-leaf tea. If you aren’t doing it with a high quality, full-leaf tea, you are throwing money away and not experiencing the tea from steep to steep. I’ll add that there are generally 2 schools of thought for steep times… one school likes to steep longer and not as many times, the other school likes to steep shorter and many times. The first school is usually associated with larger steeping vessels like large teapots, etc. The second school is usually associated with yixing, gaiwans, and smaller vessels. Note: this is a generalization. If you’d like to delve deeper into the process of steeping tea, be sure to check out the Engineer’s Guide to Tea Preparation as well as The Kinetics of Steeping Tea.
Final Note: this is GENERALLY for whole leaf tea, OR bagged tea only if the leaves inside are whole leaves. it is a matter of surface area – a finely chopped tea is going to have more surface area and the flavors will come out in fewer steeps, sometimes only 1. if the tea is whole leaves, the flavor will come out slowly with each subsequent steep.