So what’s the Best Way To Measure My Tea?...Ditch the teaspoon for the Three Finger Pinch!
How much tea do I use when steeping my tea?
When I talk with people that are interested in using more loose-leaf tea, the two questions they always want the answers to are How many teaspoons of tea do I use? and How many minutes do I steep it for?
They are always slightly shocked when I tell them not to do either of those things…
The tricky thing about tea is that it comes in so many shapes and sizes that there is wide variation in the density of teas…
What this comes down to is that you cannot rely on a volume measure like a teaspoon for portioning out your loose-leaf tea. In some cases, a teaspoon is too much, and in others, a teaspoon is nowhere near enough.
So where did the teaspoon come from you ask…and what is it for?
The history of the teaspoon is rather amazing and its genesis lies somewhere between the 13 and 17th centuries. Somewhere in the 12th and 13th century small spoons became common in Europe. Early-on what came to be the teaspoon of today began as something quite special, highly valued…almost rare initially. They were adorned with decorative knobs which are said to have been also known as Knops. These knops gained the specialized spoons the title of Knop-tops.
As far back as 1686 there is advertising mention in London newspapers of an actual teaspoon. Somewhere along the way the specialized small spoons of the 13th century evolved into the precursor of today’s teaspoon.
And the Reason for the Teaspoon?
One lump or two?
Although I don’t readily see it in the history it seems to me that it cannot be a coincidence that the appearance of the teaspoon in London advertising came less than 20 years after the marriage of King Charles II of England to Catherine of Portugal in 1662 who is credited validating tea in tea in England by introducing tea at court. Then too is the presentation of the by the English East India Company to the British King & Queen in 1664 making tea fashionable with aristocracy and further validating tea to the broader population.
These events began the adoption of tea in England in a way the King and Queen could have never imagined. As tea gained popularity, at some point something was needed to stir-in possibly some milk and who knows, sugar? Of course, for such a task one would need just the right device…what better than a teaspoon?
Taking it just one more step, we know from the records that it was in 1670 that the British began making silver teapots…seems so easy to have a special spoon to go along with them, right?
And then there is the literal growth of the teaspoon…
Drinking tea in the 1660’s was pretty much restricted to wealthy individuals that could afford the very pricy rare leaves from China. All that started to change after 1784 when the Commutation Act reduced the tax or tea from 119% to 12.5%,,,Gee I wonder if that had anything to do with the Boston Tea Party?...
As the cost of tea dropped, the popularity took off, teacup sizes increased, and the teaspoon grew from a volume of about one fluid dram to 1/3 of a tablespoon. This increase from the original apothecary measure of one fluid dram or ¼ of a tablespoon likely increased to the 1/3 of a tablespoon out of necessity for portioning sugar or other things into a somewhat larger teacup, and to distinguish the teaspoon from other smaller spoons.
So back to the tea, and how much to use when preparing your ideal steep…
Welcome to the Three-Finger Pinch…
To get the best results when steeping tea, selecting the appropriate portion is key to success in the cup. We must take into account the variation in leaf size and density when portioning the tea.
The most reliable way I have found of doing this without going to the extent of weighing the tea every time I am ready to steep, is to go with my experienced Three-Finger Pinch. With a very little trial, error and practice, in no time you can master the art of selecting the correct amount of tea utilizing your index finger, middle finger and thumb…i.e. the Three-Finger Pinch.
Like riding a bike…
You will be surprised how quickly you become intuitive in managing your Three-Finger Pinches. Your tea will taste better, you will enjoy it more and get more mileage from your tea…honestly,
If you were to weigh your Three-Finger Pinch of tea, you would probably find that it will be about 2 grams.
When steeping, the number of infusions you will get from your Three-Finger Pinch will vary based on the size of the steeping vessel. For a tea that would yield 3-5 infusions in a 15-ounce infuser pot you may only get 2-3 infusions in a 25-ounce infuser pot.
What may seem as a process that you might be uncertain of, just give it a try. You will find it comes easily and you will become more connected to the tea, more precise in your steeping and get more value from the process.
Using the Three Finger Pinch and Finding Your Sweet Spot By Steeping To Color will yield a marvelous cup of tea...every time.
Don’t feel bad for your Teaspoon…
No need to feel as though your teaspoon has been diminished in any way.
The teaspoon of today has endless uses from eating ice cream to taking cough syrup and stirring honey into your tea. The beloved teaspoon is not going anywhere…just don’t measure your tea with it.