We love this method of tea brewing as it forces us to slow down the pace of our daily lives, not only savour and enjoy the different characteristics of great quality loose-leaf teas but also to give us a moment of reflection. It’s also a great way to share tea with friends and family and makes you look like a real tea pro.
Gongfu cha forms the basis for traditional Chinese tea ceremonies and these can get pretty elaborate. Fortunately, brewing tea the gongfu way doesn't have to be complex. In fact, the essence of gongfu cha is quite simple and requires only a few simple tools (most of which can be substituted with regular household items).
- Brewing vessel (like a gaiwan, yixing or any kind of small teapot)
- Tea pitcher/Decanting vessel (or you can use any cup you have on hand, as long as its a similar size to the brewing vessel)
- Small tea cups (traditionally, 3 cups are used)
- Loose-leaf tea (obviously)
Additional tools may be used to make the whole experience a little less messy (e.g. brewing tray to hold spills, tea pick to clear the spout of a teapot, tea strainer) but the tools above are the absolute essentials.
1. Put the kettle on and bring the water to temperature.
2. While kettle is boiling, place your tealeaves into the brewing vessel.
3. Once water is to temperature, pour into the brewing vessel and let the tea steep for 3 – 5secs.
4. Tip out the liquid.
Steps 3 and 4 is known as "awakening the tea leaves" and the resulting liquid isn't drunk. The purpose is two-fold: first is to rinse the leaves of any dust and fannings that may be clinging on to the leaves, which will result in a cleaner tasting beverage; the other is to soften and open up the leaves so that subsequent steeps will be able to cover more surface area and extract more flavour.
5. Pour water into the brewing vessel and let tea steep for 10 – 30secs depending on the type of tea you're drinking.
6. Decant into the tea pitcher then pour tea into the tea cups.
8. Repeat steps 5 – 7, allowing the tea to steep for a few seconds longer with each infusion.
Different teas will yield a different number of infusions. For example, green teas may only give you 3 – 5 infusions while a ripe pu-er could give you up to 20 infusions. Each infusion brings out a different characteristic of the tea and with each subsequent infusion, you're taken on this journey that allows you to fully explore everything the tea has to offer.
Click here for a general guide to brewing different types of teas.
Click here for a guide to brewing using a gaiwan