Gongfu Cha Tea Brewing

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.

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This setup includes a clay teapot, glass serving jug with metal sieve and two teacups. Not shown is the bowl for discarding waste water. You can use anything that will work.

Basic principles:

  • 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

Tasting tea from bowls

The Northern Teaist wrote a great post fairly recently on brewing tea in bowls.

This is another kind of bowl brewing technique that works well to drink and evaluate teas against each other, and can be adapted for several people drinking together.

As it is easy and effective, I recommend this technique for people who may want a simpler “tea ceremony” that requires no special equipment. I highly recommend this method.

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This is all you need – a spoon, a drinking cup and a bowl for each tea that you are drinking. If you have more people, increase the number of drinking cups to ideally one cup per person per tea (so two people drinking three teas would have six cups in total).

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Here I have measured out 5g of the Honey Black Tea, and roughly 5.5g of the High Mountain Oolong.

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I filled up the bowls to roughly the same level with hot water.

If serving more people, you can use larger bowls and more tea. The amount of tea is just a guide, please adjust to personal preference, and you can also add more water if it gets bitter.

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Use the spoons to pour the tea into the cups, and you can smell both sides of the spoon to appreciate the aroma. This worked exceptionally well with both of these teas.

All that is left is to enjoy the tea, refill the bowls with more water, and drink as much as you want with the same tea leaves. I found this method very easy and also very effective. The flavours of both the teas come out in all their complexity and richness, in aroma and taste.

For a more advanced technique, have a look at my post on gong fu cha.