Tea at Altitude

by Chikashi

Smiths bakelite timer  

At high altitude, such as in the Engadin, the atmospheric pressure can be somewhat lower than at close to sea level.  As such, water boils at a lower temperature which gives rise to complications when preparing a pot of tea.

Boiling an egg to one’s preference takes an additional couple of minutes, which is simple enough.  However, brewing tea is another matter.

One would want to brew black Darjeeling using water at close to 100°C.  So, in order to compensate for the lower water temperature, does one increase the steeping time, increase the amount of tea being steeped or do both?  I have not been able to figure out the right method yet…

Certain kinds of tea, such as green and white tea, the latter being tea leaves harvested as unopened buds rather than tea-with-milk, are best when brewed at a lower temperature.  Therefore, it does make me wonder whether I should opt for green or white tea up there.  That said, Darjeeling has an average elevation of 2,000m; the tea estates tend to be located between 900 and 1,800m.  They are in the Himalayas after all.  It would be reasonable to guess that they have the same water temperature issues in Darjeeling as one does in the Engadin.  So what’s their secret, I wonder.