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In case you lose your thermometer while brewing tea, you can rely on these five states of bringing water to a boil, based on Chinese practice.

  1. Shrimp Eyes: Small Pinhead Bubbles

The point where you first start seeing bubbles in the water. This means that the water is around 155-165 degrees, making it perfect for delicate green teas.

  1. Crab Eyes: Large Pinhead Bubbles

These are slightly larger bubbles. The important thing to note is that small wisps of steam will start to rise from the hot water. The temperature is roughly 165-175 degrees.

  1. Fish Eyes: Small Pearls

In this stage, the water bubbles will be the size of small pearls. The rising steam will be strong. This water is roughly 175-185 degrees.

  1. String of Pearls: Streaming Pearl

This water is around 185-200 degrees. The bubbles should be streaming to the top and it should be almost boiling.

  1. Dragon Eyes: Raging Torrent

This water looks like rapids in a raging river. It is bubbling violently with swirling and rolling bubbles. The temperature is 200-212 degrees, which is the boiling point of water.


Sommelier’s Note: More and more, tea masters are becoming a bit more flexible when giving brewing instructions, though admittedly one cannot stray too far from traditional brewing times/amounts for each individual for fear of not being able to appreciate or  glean properly the notes and aromas inherent in the tea, if the water, for example, is too hot or if the tea is steeped for too long. A little  play with the rules “ is in order, however, and can vary  per individual taste: a little  more tea in the pot/cup, a few seconds more steep time are usually what is played with.   Taste is subjective and quite dependent on particular habits. We invite experimentation since each tea drinker, connoisseur or not, has his or her personal taste. Each change in criteria will produce a tea that is slightly different. As an example: lower temperatures produce a lighter, sweeter, smoother profile; higher temperatures produce more body and is more robust. If you want a strong flavor, consider increasing the amount of leaf, rather than brew time, since excessive brew time can produce bitterness, making your tea “harsh.” Here we see “the art” of tea drinking in practice! One criterion for which one should remain vigilant is the quality of water: spring water is always recommended, the fresher the better.  Water like food can also become stale greatly impinging on the flavor of the tea.  Great tea deserves good quality water in which to express itself fully.

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