After I discovered the Shangri-La Diet (2000), I started drinking lots of tea. Tea has smell without calories, which complemented the calories without smell of the diet. Mostly I drink black tea — more complexity than green or oolong tea. Until recently, I made it the usual (Western) way. 1. Add hot water to tea. 2. Wait 3-4 minutes. 3. Add cream and sweetener. 4. Drink. 5. Throw away tea.
Now I do this: 1. Rinse tea with hot water, discard rinse water. 2. Add hot water. 3. Wait short time (e.g., 30 seconds). 4. Taste the results in a certain way. 5. Drink. 6. Reinfuse tea for longer time (e.g., 45 seconds). And so on. From 2.5 g of tea leaves I make 3 cups of tea (200 ml each), with infusion times of 35, 55 and 90 seconds. I drink the first two cups straight (no additions), then add sweetener (xylitol), salt and cream to the third cup. It’s like three different sorts of tea. The first cup is a little sweet, the second cup is slightly bitter with more complexity, the third cup has bitterness, complexity, fat (cream) and sweetness. I use a Polder timer that, at the end of the interval, resets to the length of the interval. For example, if you time 30 seconds, it ends up reset to 30 seconds. This makes it easy to remember the length of the last infusion.
What interests me is Step #4: “Taste the results in a certain way.” After brewing the tea, I pour a little of it into a small glass. I have four of them. I pour the tea from #1 to #2 to #3 to #4. This greatly cools it, making it much easier to assess the taste. If you drink the tea before cooling, the heat is distracting. As soon as I started doing this, it was easy to see that short infusion times (e.g., 30 seconds) gave better results than long infusion times (e.g., 3 minutes) and that the tea could be used several times. I could easily distinguish between a brewing time of 30 seconds and 40 seconds.
Without Step #4, you (or at least me) are in very bad shape. Soon after brewing, the tea is too hot to taste clearly. The heat is distracting. Within a few sips, however, taste adaptation is so strong you cannot taste it clearly either. This is why I drank tea for 13 years without understanding what is going on.
With the particular black tea I am drinking now, the first 30 seconds or so of infusion releases a slightly-sweet tasting chemical. If I cold-brew tea, this is what it will taste like. After that comes more complexity but also more bitterness. All in all, I like more bitterness (not too much) and complexity, so I reduced the amount of tea from 2.5 g to 2.0 g and increased the first infusion time to 60 seconds. That produced better results.
For many years, in other words, (a) I brewed it wrong then added cream and sweetener to fix my mistake and (b) due to poor feedback I had no idea what I was doing. Does that remind you of anything?