THE ART OF GONGFU BREWING
Chinese method of tea drinking and true appreciation for flavor, aroma, and texture. Gongfu brewing is an entrancing experience you have to try for yourself.
What is Gongfu Brewing?
Gongfu style brewing is a traditional Chinese method of preparing tea that allows you to truly experience the tea’s flavors, aromas, and textures. It is characterized by brewing multiple infusions and steeping for short amounts of time. Gongfu, or “Kung-Fu” literally translates into, “Making tea with Skill,” as it takes more of a hands-on approach than modern Western brewing. Smaller drinking vessels are used in order to appreciate the flavor more and it’s not hard to learn!
Simply put, Gongfu style tea is really an art. It allows your palate to reach a higher level because the tea is well balanced and the flavors are enhanced. You become part of the experience and have the power to play around with water temperature, amount of tea leaves, and steep time as the flavors change through infusions.
While it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where Gongfu began, many believe it originated in the city of Chaozhou in Guangdong Province while others credit the Fujian Province in China. Since its birth in the 18th century, Gongfu style tea has maintained its popularity due to its ability to produce a strong and rich brew without any unpleasant bitterness or astringency. In the far east, it’s common for households to have a traditional tea set to prepare Gongfu Tea and it’s common to bring it out for guests as well.
There are many optional pieces that are part of Gongfu brewing that are nice to have, but not a must.
The parts you will most likely need though include a brewing vessel like a Gawian or Yixing teapot, a tea pitcher or any decanting vessel for the consistency of flavor before pouring into cups, and tea cups of matching sizes.
Fun optional teaware include a brewing tray, a tea strainer, tea knife for separating tea cakes, a wooden tea spoon for measuring tea, tongs for picking up cups, or a scent cup for smelling the tea before sipping from the tasting cup.
Another optional tea piece that is nice to have is a tea pet. Tea pets are usually Chinese figurines like a dragon, turtle, toad, or lion made of clay that may be placed on top of the tea tray. Tea pets are usually used during Gongfu ceremonies for wasted water to be poured upon.
How to Brew Gongfu Style
Brewing Gongfu style is actually pretty easy and doesn’t require too much. It can seem complicated because of all the different equipment, but the steps are easy to follow. If you have a tea set with a tea pet, then great for you! Go ahead and immerse yourself in the full experience.
The most important tea pieces for Gongfu are a Gawian or Yixing pot, small tasting cups, and a tea pitcher (or vessel to pour tea into the small cups). A Gawian is a small bowl with a lid while a Yixing teapot is made of clay and meant to absorb tea flavor. Yixing pots should be dedicated to only 1 type of tea so as to not mix flavors.
Step 1: Warm the Tea Ware
- Pour boiling water, 210 ℉ (100℃), into the Gaiwan/Yixing pots, cups, and pitcher
- Discard the water
Step 2: Measure the Tea
- Green tea (3 – 3.5g) per 100 ml pot
- White Tea (3.5-4g) per 100 ml pot
- Black Tea (4-4.5g) per 100 ml pot
- Oolong Tea (4.5-5g ) per 100 ml pot
- Pu-Erh Tea (5g) per 100 ml pot
- The measurements are simply a guideline for you to start off with, but you can increase or decrease the leaf amount to make your tea weaker or stronger.
Step 3: Wash the Tea
- Fill your Gaiwan with water and cover. Discard water immediately. (You can pour over your tea pet or tea tray if you have it)
- This step allows the tea leaf to begin expanding and rinses off tiny tea fragments
Step 4: Brewing
- Add boiling water to the pot and steep it for 20-30 sec.
- The steeping amount depends on the type of tea used, so feel free to experiment what works for you
Step 5: Pour into your Tea Pitcher or Vessel
- If you have a strainer, you can use it here to filter out unwanted particles
- Make sure to keep the leaves in your Gaiwan with the lid open so the leaves stop brewing
Step 6: Pour Tea in Tasting Cups
- It’s polite and customary to serve guests first
- If you have a reserved smelling cup, pour the tea into the cup first and then into the tasting cup. Then smell the tea and gather all the fragrances before taking a sip.
Step 7 : Drink Up!
- As unusual as this may sound, loudly slurping actually helps you enjoy the tea and allows you to taste all the flavors.
- Repeat Steps 4-7 until the tea begins to lose flavor.
How many tea leaves to use?
Today, this method is popular with tea shops and tea connoisseurs as they can extract more flavor and make multiple infusions on higher quality teas. When it comes to Gongfu brewing, the higher quality leaf you use, the better it will be. Higher quality leaves allow you to prepare many infusions full of flavor, you can make up to about 11 or 12! On the other hand, lower quality tea will lose flavor much sooner, forcing you to use more leaves in the long run.
Gongfu brewing has a higher leaf to water ratio meaning you use more tea leaves per oz or ml of water. Traditionally, Western brewing uses about 1 tsp per 8 oz of water. Gongfu style uses 5-6 times as much tea with less water.
A good rule of thumb is to fill about ⅓ of your vessel with tea leaves, or adding a heaping teaspoon, and fill the rest with water.
Gongfu Method VS Western Brewing
Western brewing is easy and convenient allowing us to leave tea steeping in hot water for a few minutes and then enjoy. There are many flavors and infusions to play with and we have sweeteners we can add. Gongfu style lets us taste each brew slightly different as the tea continues to unfurl so every layer is unique. Gongfu style brewing invites you to use more of your senses as you actively go through all the steps.