I wrote an article a long time ago on how to do Gongfu Cha Tea Brewing but I have decided to write another updated version.
- small brewing vessels (teapot) – 75ml (2.5oz) is about the right size for one person, 150ml (5oz) for two etc.
- correspondingly small teacups
- high leaf to water ratio
- short brewing times
- repeated infusions using the same tea leaves
If the teapot is too big, each person will drink more than one cup per infusion, too small and they will drink less than a cup per infusion. Gongfu cha works best if you have one or two cups per infusion.
In effect, it is drinking many small cups of tea, and tasting how the infusions develop over time. Drinking in this method, you will also drink a larger quantity of the tea liquor or tea soup as it is sometimes called, than if you were to drink the tea in a mug. It shows you how the leaves release their flavours gradually rather than all at once.
The minimum equipment that you will need:
- high quality loose leaf tea
- hot water
- small tea brewing vessel: teapot, gaiwan – Chinese lidded cup with a saucer, something that is small, heatproof and that preferably has a lid.
- small teacups: Chinese teacups, espresso cups
- a bowl to dispose waste water into
- a serving jug, called a chahai in Chinese
- optional: sieve if the teapot does not have a filter. This is placed onto the chahai.
Gongfu cha can be done in many different ways, and made quite elaborate, decorative, and precise, by adding more equipment, decorations and steps. I am presenting here what I consider to be basic brewing technique, using minimal teaware.
Step 1: Preheat all the teaware. Pour hot water into the teapot, then from the teapot to the chahai, then into the cups, and finally dispose of it into the bowl.
Step 2: Put the tea into the preheated teapot. The quantity of tea that you use will depend on the category of tea and how strong you like your tea. I used about 1/6 of the capacity of the teapot, you can use more or less if you wish. A smaller teapot will allow you to drink stronger tea using less leaf. As this point, you can give it a shake and smell the aroma. I used our Roasted Honey Black Tea, and the aroma was dark chocolate and baking spices.
Step 3 (Optional): Rinse the tea. I did not rinse this tea because it is organic but if you wish to rinse your tea: pour hot water into the teapot and immediately discard into the bowl. You can use this to preheat the chahai and cups again if you wish, before discarding.
Step 4: Brew the tea: put fresh water into the teapot, and brew the tea. The temperature of the water and the time to wait for will again depend on the category of tea. In this case, a relatively long brewing time is recommended, around a minute or so for the first brew.
Step 5: Pour out and enjoy your first cup. Pour the tea out into the chahai, and then into the cups, and enjoy your tea. A sieve will catch any small fragments of tea leaves. The taste of this tea is toasty at first with the flavour of the roast, which then is replaced by a complex and fruity tastes as the infusions progress.
Step 6: Repeat steps 4 and 5 as many times as you wish, adding 30 seconds to a minute to the brewing time. If you find the tea too strong, you can reduce brewing time for the next infusion, and likewise if you find it too weak, you can increase brewing time, or even add more leaf.