As a tea lover, you must hear about Gongfu Cha, which is a traditional Chinese style of brewing and can be literally translated to "highly skilled tea.There is no better way to enjoy tea than a gong fu tea ceremony. For some tea drinkers gong fu brewing may sound like something extremely complicated and reserved only for tea professionals. Although a proper gong fu tea brewing may take years to master, you can still incorporate the basic principles and start experiencing all those delicate flavor notes all tea connoisseurs are talking about.
How to brew Gongfu Tea?
The vessel you use to brew Gongfu tea should be made of either ceramic or glass. The material should be clean, and able to hold hot water without transferring any heat to the leaves. It should also be large enough to hold your tea leaves. A good rule of thumb is that it should have an opening at least 4 times as wide as your leaf size (this is especially important for puerh). Lastly, it needs to have a lid so that you can cover and expose your tea leaves at different points during brewing if needed.
Here are some kinds of vessels:
1. Teapot - A teapot is a tea leaf container. It is preferred for all gongfu teas, and 250ml is the best choice.
2. GaiWan - GaiWan has the same use as the teapot, but it's harder to use. It has 3 parts that are lid, saucer & bowl. They are representing heaven, earth, and the person in the middle respectively.
3. TeaCup - Compared to others, the gongfu teacup is really small. It is to emphasize the enjoyment of every drop of tea and to value quality over quantity when the temperature is perfect.
When you look at the proper setting for a gong fu brewing, you may see a lot of items. You don’t need all of them in the beginning. However, if you plan to always brew your tea this way, it pays to invest in additional utensils. Another valuable item is a strainer. Strainer may come in handy when you are still learning how to use gaiwan. It’s good at preventing any broken leaves from entering your cup. Tea spoon is another very useful utensil. You can use a regular teaspoon, but it may spoil a whole experience. Besides, having a special spoon for tea will reduce the risk of any dirt or moisture coming into your tea. There are other utensils that you could use, such as aroma cup and tongs. They will not be as important if you are just starting out.
When it comes to brewing temperature, the water is important, but not as much as the tea or the vessel in which you're brewing. The ideal temperature for water is somewhere below boiling—near 160°F/71°C—as this allows for a fast infusion without any risk of scorching your tea leaves.
Most of us have no qualms about using boiling water on occasion, but these higher temperatures can also rob your tea of flavor and aroma compounds. If you want to get more out of your tea and maximize its health benefits (and who doesn't?), use cooler water instead!
Brewing step by step
- Prepare all tools and teaware in front of you. Make sure they are clean and dry.
- Boil water in a kettle.
- Measure the right amount of tea leaves. Small digital scale may be very useful, but if you don’t have one, you can guess the amount too. For rolled oolongs try to cover the bottom of the teapot with tea leaves. If you are using long twisted leaves, add even more. With some teas your tea pot should be more than half full of dry leaves.
- Rinse and pre-heat your teaware and cups by pouring hot water into the teapot, then from the teapot into the pitcher and then into the cups. Finally, dispose of the water.
- Place the tea leaves into a teapot. Don’t forget to smell them as they will have a much more intense scent.
- Pour the water over the leaves. You may wash the tea leaves first. Add water and steep the leaves very short, then discard the infusion. This is a very usual step with pu’erh and oolong tea. This step is called awakening the leaves. It help the leaves to „awaken“ and cleans any potential dust or „dirt“
- Now you are ready to make your first infusion. Never use boiling water for any type of For black tea, allow it to cool for a few seconds. Once the water temperature is right for the tea you are using it into the teapot. Do it slowly and in circular movements. Cover it and let it steep.. Don’t forget to take a look at how the leaves are expanding. Steeping time in gong fu brewing are much shorter– from 10 seconds to only sometimes a minute for the first steep. Increase the time with every subsequent steep.
- Pour the tea into a pitcher and divide between cups. If you are using just one cup, make sure the pitcher is empty before re-steeping. You should drink your cup of tea immediately without letting it to cool down. Most cups will be enough for 1-3 slurps– yes, you should slurp and feel the tea in your mouth.
- Re-steep the leaves. Increase the steeping time and repeat until the flavor is completely gone.
- Once you are done, take a look at the leaves again. They may tell you a lot about the tea you were just brewing.
- Clean the teaware and utensils. Never use washing up liquid or washing machine for porous teaware.
So, now you know how to brew gongfu tea! But, remember that it’s not all about following the steps—you also need to find the right tea. And even if you do everything right, your tea might still end up tasting different than what you were expecting. That’s why it's important to experiment with different teas and brewing methods until you find something that feels right for you.