Corrib House Tea Rooms – Galway

This was my second lunch stop in Galway. It is situated overlooking the corrib river just a few minutes walk out of town. From the outside it looks like a regular residential house but inside it is a beautifully restored, high-ceilined, bright cafe that is split over two rooms.

Corrib House Tea Rooms

Corrib House Tea Rooms (Source)

The views over the weir and the lack of traffic make it very peaceful and just to add to the ambience, the fire was lighting the day that I was there. Most tables were taken at three o’clock and it seemed to be mostly locals having late lunches.

Corrib House Cake Selection

Corrib House Cake Selection

I had the tomato, roast mushroom, hummus and goats cheese on brown bread (they love their brown bread in Galway). The thick, heavy, homemade bread was tasty and went well with the toasted mushrooms, hummus and salad but I think it would have been a nicer lunch without the goats cheese on top of it all. I was too full to try the baked goods/scones but they looked delicious. If I had looked more carefully on the way in I might have skipped lunch and gone straight for desert.

The tea menu had nine choices of tea but the selection of teas was carefully thought out to accomodate all tastes so that it didn’t feel like a limiting menu. There were three black teas (two assam/darjeeling blends and an earl grey), a green tea, a jasmine, a rooibos chai, a peppermint, a fruit blend and a herbal relax tea (which was probably a chamomile though it didn’t say). I had  the “afternoon tea” which is a assam/darjeeling blend. The loose tea came in a large teapot and after a minute or so, gave a lovely crisp, light tea. Then I proceeded to tie myself up in the usual knot: I’ve waited a few minutes for the tea to steep, I’m enjoying my first cup of the lovely tea but all the while I’m drinking all I can think about is that the rest of the pot of tea is still steeping and starting to get bitter. I try to work out the volume per second that I’ll need to drink to get all the tea out of the pot in the next two minutes. It does not involve sipping lazily. My other option is to start fishing the tea leaves out of the pot but I probably won’t get half of them out and stirring and fishing isn’t going to help the situation. So I enjoy the first and second cup and add milk to the rest to mask the bitterness.

I went for a walk by the river after lunch and noticed that the departure point for the Galway river cruise is just one minute away which makes the Corrib House Tea Rooms  ideal  for a quick lunch or afternoon tea if you are taking a cruise. Even if you are not, this tea room is well worth a visit.

Location on Google maps.

 

Steeping tea

I realise that my last post where I describe the preparation of Tieguanyin was probably confusing (my readership of two lodged their complaints!) so I’m going to try to clear things up today. The preparation of tea is called steeping and involves soaking the tea leaves in water to extract the flavour.

Yellow teapot

Traditional style teapot used here in Ireland

Here in Ireland (and in all Western countries that I have been to) steeping involves putting tea leaves (or tea bag) into a large teapot and then adding in boiling water. The tea is served from the teapot into cups after around two minutes if you like ‘weak’ tea and or after several minutes if you like ‘strong’ tea. After about five minutes, the tea leaves and the liquid need to be separated or it will over-steep and becomes bitter. If this happens, it is usually addressed by either adding more water to dilute or starting over and making a ‘fresh pot’. I’ve seen variations on this process where people add the tea leaves, add the water and then heat up the teapot on a gas hob. The teabag-in-a-cup is a another variation – the teabag  is put in the cup, water is added and the teabag is removed and discarded once the tea looks strong enough.  There are lots of variations but the basic process is consistent – the flavour of the tea is extracted by steeping the tea once (i.e single steeping).

Yixing Clay Teapot [Source]

Yixing clay teapot [Source]

However, in China, Taiwan and other parts of Asia, there is a different way to prepare good quality tea that involves several short steepings rather than one long steeping. To do this we add the tea to the teapot (usually a very small teapot) and add the water but instead of steeping for ~five minutes, we steep for maybe 30 seconds (it depends on the tea). After the 30 seconds, we separate completely the leaves and the water by pouring off all the tea from the tea pot into cups. It may seem like a short time at first but don’t worry, it works. When we are ready for more tea, we re-steep the tea by adding water to the teapot again (with the same leaves). This time we will wait a little longer – maybe 40 seconds before pouring off all the tea. This is the second steeping and will taste and look different to the first steeping. We can repeat this several times, increasing the duration of steeping each time. During each steeping the water opens the leaf a little more and the colour, smell and taste of the tea will vary. Eventually, it will start to loose taste and colour and then we know to stop. Using this method we get smaller cups of tea but more of them with a variety of flavours and the tea does not over-steep. It is not unusual for a good quality Pu-erh to have ten steepings and it can go to 20 steepings or more.

Brew basket

Brew basket

The re-steeping technique does not need a teapot. The same result can be achieved if we put a brew basket in a cup, add the leaves and water and then wait thirty seconds before removing the brew basket. When we are finished drinking the first cup we put brew basket back in the cup, add water again and wait say 40 seconds for the second steeping. Again, this can continue for multiple steepings, increasing the duration with each steeping.

I hope that helps to clear up the difference between single-steeping and re-steeping. When I post about individual teas I’ll describe the steeping preparation that I’ve used, including timings. I have deliberately left out factors like water-type, temperature, rinsing, utensils and volume of tea. I’ll come back to those in future posts.With all that said, tea is meant to be enjoyed so don’t feel under pressure to prepare your tea a certain way. Experiment and see what you think!