Water preparation

One of the perculiarities of Taiwan that I’ve noticed is that it runs a dual voltage. While most household sockets deliver 110v, some deliver 220v. I’ve noticed that it’s not just my apartment either — the subway station has clearly marked “110v” and “220v” sockets. Why any country would run two systems is beyond me…

But being mostly 110v, it means that I can’t use my water boiler from China. What I used to do was to heat up the water in the electric boiler, and then transfer it to my glass kettle with the alcohol burner. Since I couldn’t find the right fuel at first, I resorted to using the stove, which is basically a heating plate of sorts, with my glass kettle. It worked, but there was one problem — water was either not boiling, or boiling too quickly and reached a rolling boil in no time. I also couldn’t keep it on a constant heat easily, since it behaved strangely.

Thankfully, I finally located a place that sells the right kind of fuel. As an added bonus — it no longer smells at all, unlike the stuff they sold in Beijing. I wonder if there were some nasty impurities in the Beijing stuff.

What I do now is to use the stove to heat the water up sufficient so it’s close to boiling, and then let the boiling happen with the alcohol burner. I think this actually achieves a better boil — the water temp is kept high throughout a session easily, and I can also control the water temperature better by adding splashes of cold water throughout the session. With using the stove it was more like an all or nothing issue — since I don’t brew tea right next to the stove. Now I’m a happy man with the right water making equipment 🙂

I think I would recommend something similar (not necessarily glass, although glass is useful for letting you look at the water). I think a small flame is always preferable over a heating plate type thing, not necessarily because of contact with metal or any such thing, but rather because it lets the tea maker have a much better sense of the temperature of the water being used and to maintain a more or less constant temperature throughout a session.


Comments

Water preparation — 4 Comments

  1. Hi MarshalN . . . Can you please qualify “the right kind of fuel”? While in Yunnan this year my friends were using a clay pot with alcohol flame to slowly heat spent leaves of good pu’ers – I would presume you’ve seen this? Extended steeping (2-3 hours) of good leaves that seem to be spent produces a very sweet, mellow liquor with a beautiful red-amber color. The alcohol they were using came in bottles that looked like they came out of a pharmacy. I have such a clay pot on the way from them and need to determine my fuel.

    On another note, now that you are in Taiwan, I highly recommend checking out Chen Yuan Hao ??? cakes. The maker, Chen Huaiyuan ????is well-known in Taiwan (as well as China) and his cakes are quite good. He is also featured in Deng Shihai’s ??? first book and on p. 206 of Chan Kam Pong’s recent English-language book. I believe he has a very nice shop somewhere in Taiwan, but unfortunately haven’t been there. If you could review some of his teas that would be great – and most likely well worth your while!

    Thanks! Brian

  2. I’ve tried their teas once in Beijing, actually, since they’re sold there.  I didn’t like it too much, but it could be because of the Beijing climate.

    Their store, sadly, is in Tainan, and it’s going to be a bit of a trip to get down there.  I might make it there, but more likely, I might not.

    I did also try a cake from them from around 1997.  It was pretty decent.

  3. Oh you’re right, I forgot…

    It’s an “industrial use alcohol”, or that’s what they call it here.  The stuff I used in Beijing was medical use rubbing alcohol, although at 95% rather than the usual 75% (or even lower).  The current stuff is meant for burning in alcohol lamps and that kind of thing — and don’t smell, which is nice.  It also leaves no soot (whereas the Beijing stuff did) so it’s even nicer.

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