When we evaluate tea, it is essential to have systems in place that focus specifically on the quality of the tea rather than pure preference. Drinking tea for evaluation is very different than drinking tea to enjoy. One way we do this is by using a method of evaluation called the “Kill Brew.” This method is called Zuo Bei in Chinese terminology, which means "sitting cup” or “let the tea sit for a little bit." And to use this method, we do just that - let the tea sit in water for a longer time. This will force all the flaws out of the tea, allowing us to push the tea to its absolute limit for evaluation.
The Kill Brew step in tea evaluation takes the variables of the brewing out of the equation. It doesn’t matter what skill level someone is at brewing when we forcefully brew everything out of the tea and focus on which tea is the least unpleasant. This method is also used in tea competitions, where we award the winner to the “least unpleasant” tea. When we brew tea for enjoyment, we want to brew to show its best performance. But, when we’re evaluating tea, we want to push it to its worst to acknowledge its flaws.
Doing A Kill Brew At Home
This is a fun activity to try at home to elevate your relationship to a particular tea. To do a Kill Brew, we recommend brewing your tea in a Gai Wan for a full session, so around 9 brews. Then, once your tea is finished (but not totally exhausted), add more water to your Gai Wan and let it sit for around three minutes. If you decide to do a Kill Brew at an earlier stage, you can let it sit for around one minute.
We feel once the tea is complete, and we’ve enjoyed a full round of it and then performs a kill brew step, it gives us a sense of pride that the tea still performs well even with being pushed that far. It’s a way to connect deeper to the leaves and the brewing experience at home.
You can learn more about tea evaluation in our Virtual Tea Trip To Wu Yi Shan, where we visit a Mao Cha evaluation session with one of our heritage tea farmers.