The steeping time is also varied to illicit the most flavour. Similar to water temperature, the steeping time also increases as the number of infusions increase. The steeping time for the second infusion is longer than the first and the steeping time for the third infusion is long than the second, and so on. It is very important that all the water is removed from the leaves after each infusion.
The grade of tea based on picking season is generally used as a rough guide or as a starting point as to what the temperature of the water should be (link to explanation of Korean grades).
Ujeon: 60 degrees
Sejak: 70 degrees
Jungjak: 80 degrees
Deajak: 90 degrees
The temperature should only increase in subsequent infusions by just a few degrees each time. The time of infusion should also not exceed one minute. For one to truly make a full flavored cup of Korean green tea, one must rely on experience and intuition and not on a formula.
Steeping a tea too long with water that is too hot brings out the bitter elements in the infusion that overpower the other finer tastes of the tea. Steeping a tea for too short a time with water that is too cold makes the brew weak and watery. Finding the optimal steeping time and temperature resolves these issues.
Some Koreans use a longer first steep with warmer water and a shorter second steep with cooler water before adhering to an escalating pattern of increasing temperature and steeping time from the second infusion. This softens up the leaf considerably during the first infusion which also allows the leaf to be more receptive to subsequent infusions.
Making tea the Korean way means that one will infuse the same leaves until they are absolutely exhausted. This may have developed in Korea because throughout some periods of Korea's history tea was a delicacy only afforded by the rich and affluent. Or, perhaps this tradition comes from the Buddhist philosophy of economy, thrift, and full appreciation of the gifts of all living things. Either way, tea is respectfully pushed beyond its capabilities until it is spent. And so I push this tea...
Nok Ya Won is the name of a tea shop in Daegu that sells their own tea. The name Nok Ya Won is Korean for Buddha's Enlightenment. The shop offers a little of this as does its traditionally-made green tea from the valley surrounding the wild tea fields of Hadong.
Opening the new foil bag, opening the mind, reveals an intoxicating aroma.
Nutty, Woody, Pine Needles, Seaweed.
The smell would make any tea lover drool all over the place. Rich and complex it stirs ones mind, excited about what is to come.
In the first infusion, a saltiness and woodiness can be detected. Sweet, but more flavored than sweet.
The second round, the peak brew, reveals a full spectrum of tastes- sweet, salty, bitter, and a tat sour. Nutty and woody flavours break away from the pack and throw a real party with ones taste buds.
The later infusions become sweeter and noticeably lighter before the subtle woody pine tones and sweetness give way to dry astringency, and simple woody taste.
By the sixth infusion the tea is pushed past its limit, exhausted, it gives birth to only colourful, hardly sweet water.
Giving thanks I make just one more infusion.