I just don't get this about brewing


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I just don't get this about brewing

Postby teageekah » Mar 25th, '11, 00:05

Hey, guys,

I'm very new to the Gong Fu way of tea drinking. I am from Europe, but currently living in Fujian, China for almost two years. I was drinking some green tea for many years back in Europe, was buying it from supermarket, just putting some leaves, very little amount, in to the mug, filling with some hot water and drinking. That was just fine for me.

Here in China I started to drink really good Chinese tea, for example Tie Guan Yin, only few months ago and doing it like Chinese people do - using gaiwan, small cups and brewing tea only for some seconds - 10-30 seconds. Steeping for 4-6 times. Also, all the time when I'm going to buy or to taste some tea to the shop , Chinese sellers always doing like the mentioned style as well.

But many times when I'm google something about tea and I read brewing guides it is really strange for me, because usually it is written like this - "For a 12oz pot of light oolong tea, use one to one and one half teaspoons of tea in 176˚-185˚ water for 30 seconds to 2 minutes". So what that means - that you don't wash the leaves at first? And the tea gets really to bitter if you brew it for 2 minutes. For example today I tried to do like that - to keep the tea for 2 minutes - it was not possible to drink.

What all that means? Why they are writing about that kind of style brewing? Why just not to do in Chinese way - use gaiwan and keep it only for some seconds, isn't just the best way to do?

I hope you understand my question :)
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Re: I just don't get this about brewing

Postby Herb_Master » Mar 25th, '11, 01:11

With many re-sellers of Chinese tea their instructions for brewing are given the way that they perceive their target market will want to enjoy their tea.

The 'Western' style of brewing uses less leaf to more water and all the goodness of the leaf is all but extracted in one infusion after which the drinker will abandon the teapot and leaves.

The resellers who sell online are presumably targeting the 'Western' market and thus give direction for that style of brewing. As you will see from the threads on Teachat, many of the online purchasers actually want to brew in a Chinese brewing style.

Not only Gong Fu, but other Chinese brewing styles such as 'Glass' brewing which on these boards is often described as 'Grandpa' style.

In fact though Gong Fu is popular in Guangdong and Fujian there are many parts of China where Gong Fu is not the 'common' go to style of brewing.

It would be nice for those of us who prefer 'Gong Fu' to have it described with a tea we are buying, but after gaining experience it becomes apparent to the 'Gong Fu' practitioner how to approach each tea that they open. So perhaps the retailers have got it right, for those who have only ever experienced the 'Western' style of brewing are more likely to need help with instructions.
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Re: I just don't get this about brewing

Postby tingjunkie » Mar 26th, '11, 01:02

Herb_Master wrote:...after gaining experience it becomes apparent to the 'Gong Fu' practitioner how to approach each tea that they open. So perhaps the retailers have got it right, for those who have only ever experienced the 'Western' style of brewing are more likely to need help with instructions.


Good point Herb.

Gongfu loosely means "with great skill." It takes lots of practice to be able to stuff a pot or gaiwan full of leaf, and use the hottest water to push a tea to it's limits and get the most out of it. Most people really don't have the skills to do it right and get good consistent results. Therefore, vendors will often give instructions that will allow most people to get half-decent results with the tea consistently.

Perhaps more to the point, gongfu preparation also requires very good quality tea. If a vendor is selling mediocre stuff, gongfu will highlight all the tea's flaws and it will be rather crappy. By lowering the temp of the water, and using a larger pot, the tea will even out and be pleasant, but it will never be great.
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Re: I just don't get this about brewing

Postby David R. » Mar 26th, '11, 07:51

tingjunkie wrote:By lowering the temp of the water, and using a larger pot, the tea will even out and be pleasant, but it will never be great.


It means that, for you, packing the pot/gaiwan will always give better results ?
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Re: I just don't get this about brewing

Postby AdamMY » Mar 26th, '11, 12:51

David R. wrote:
tingjunkie wrote:By lowering the temp of the water, and using a larger pot, the tea will even out and be pleasant, but it will never be great.


It means that, for you, packing the pot/gaiwan will always give better results ?



When I read what TingJunkie said, I read it more along the lines of a quality test. Packing the pot will not always give better results, but with the right teas and the right brewing it can give an absolutely amazing cup of tea. By not packing the pot and doing slightly longer infusions the tea is more diluted which makes it harder to pick up on specific traits the tea might have both good and bad.

For example I dislike Shu puerh in general, but I can drink a good bit of shu puerh if I brew it with very little leaf to water, but extra long steeps. If I try and brew shu stronger with shorter steeps, I just do not like the flavor. So really stick to the mantra of some on Teachat "Drink what you like, and like what you drink."
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Re: I just don't get this about brewing

Postby wyardley » Mar 26th, '11, 13:03

David R. wrote:
tingjunkie wrote:By lowering the temp of the water, and using a larger pot, the tea will even out and be pleasant, but it will never be great.


It means that, for you, packing the pot/gaiwan will always give better results ?


I think of it more that it's giving yourself more rope to hang yourself. You have more chance of bringing out a good tea's full potential, but, even with a good tea, you also open up more possibility of screwing things up.

my $0.02, reposted from answering the same question on teadrunk

...to me, it's not so much as that one way is the "best" way, but more that different methods are appropriate for different times, places, and teas.

When you did a 2 minute brew, did you use a very small amount of tea (like the 1.5 tsp figure given in your example, which is probably only a few grams, even of a rolled tea like tieguanyin) and use a pot as large as the one described (12 oz)? If you're getting an undrinkable result, you're probably doing it wrong, or need to adjust the parameters somewhat, though some teas will taste better than others brewed this way.

I do think that brewing with cooler water, less leaf, and a long infusion gives a different result. In some cases, especially with low to medium quality tea, you will get a better result this way. I do prefer brewing tea in smaller amounts [and with more leaf], but I have tried brewing many of the same teas I drink "Western" style, and I don't think they taste undrinkable. Also, it is harder to mess up - even after brewing gongfu style tea for several years, I brew tea that isn't to my own taste (or to others' taste) occasionally - by brewing tea in such a concentrated way -- inferior tea, mistakes in brewing technique, etc. are all magnified somewhat. Knowing how a tea tastes brewed different ways (including Western style) is very useful, because you can make adjustments to maximize the potential of a particular tea. With a tea that's just Ok, often I will back off somewhat in terms of both temperature and leaf quantity, because I know that I am bringing out the best qualities that this tea has to offer.

Why don't people do it the way you describe? Probably a few reasons.
1. Lots of people don't even know about this method, and don't have, or couldn't easily get, the equipment needed
2. Vendors know that non tea people are often intimidated by brewing looseleaf tea. So their instructions are based on equipment and methods that are familiar to people, and likely to come up with a drinkable, if not amazing, brew
3. Many people, even in China, don't want a lot of fuss about their tea, and they don't want to keep boiling water, re-infusing tea -- they just want something hot and not-bad tasting to drink.

Try brewing competition style sometime -- using those little tasting sets... boiling water, 3 grams for 5 minutes or 5 grams for 3 minutes. To me, gongfu and competition style brewing are two sides of the same coin - they both stress the tea. Adherents of each method will tell you that their method is the best, but to me, it's more about sticking to a method long enough that it allows you to judge whether a tea is good or not -- like using familiar monitor speakers for a recording engineer - the speakers don't have to have the most accurate sound reproduction, as long as your ears are attuned to the way they shape the sound.
Last edited by wyardley on Mar 26th, '11, 15:15, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: I just don't get this about brewing

Postby David R. » Mar 26th, '11, 13:19

That's more than what I could expect for an answer. Thank you very much wyardley.
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Re: I just don't get this about brewing

Postby tingjunkie » Mar 26th, '11, 17:56

AdamMY wrote:
David R. wrote:
tingjunkie wrote:By lowering the temp of the water, and using a larger pot, the tea will even out and be pleasant, but it will never be great.


It means that, for you, packing the pot/gaiwan will always give better results ?


When I read what TingJunkie said, I read it more along the lines of a quality test. Packing the pot will not always give better results, but with the right teas and the right brewing it can give an absolutely amazing cup of tea.


Precisely. Go big, or go home! :lol: This attitude usually requires high end teas, though I occasionally get good results with mediocre or even cheap teas, but it's rare. Keep in mind, unless we're talking high fired Wuyi or TGY, I'm not suggesting packing the pot up full of dry leaf. I aim to have the leaf start to push the lid up slightly after expanding for 3-4 infusions. For gao shan, this might be 1/5 full of dry leaf because it expands so much.
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Re: I just don't get this about brewing

Postby Oni » Mar 27th, '11, 12:10

There are some teas that can be made using less leaf and long infusion time, those are the teas that do not get bitter, and there are some teas that can be made only using gong fu method, like puerh or Dancong.
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Re: I just don't get this about brewing

Postby tingjunkie » Mar 27th, '11, 23:29

Oni wrote:There are some teas that can be made using less leaf and long infusion time, those are the teas that do not get bitter, and there are some teas that can be made only using gong fu method, like puerh or Dancong.


I think cooked puerh lends itself to western brewing very well. Also, try cold brewing DC sometime. It comes out quite well I think.
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Re: I just don't get this about brewing

Postby Tead Off » Mar 28th, '11, 05:53

Oni wrote:There are some teas that can be made using less leaf and long infusion time, those are the teas that do not get bitter, and there are some teas that can be made only using gong fu method, like puerh or Dancong.

If your definition of gongfu brewing is to pack the pot and use hot water, I'm not ready to do this with my $800 bing of Shou Puerh or 50g/$150 Dancong tea. :D
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Re: I just don't get this about brewing

Postby edkrueger » Mar 28th, '11, 12:43

Maybe you need some gong fu. (and a smaller pot)
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Re: I just don't get this about brewing

Postby TIM » Mar 28th, '11, 12:50

Tead Off wrote:
Oni wrote:There are some teas that can be made using less leaf and long infusion time, those are the teas that do not get bitter, and there are some teas that can be made only using gong fu method, like puerh or Dancong.

If your definition of gongfu brewing is to pack the pot and use hot water, I'm not ready to do this with my $800 bing of Shou Puerh or 50g/$150 Dancong tea. :D


Sorry to said this Tead, but you are really wasting your $800 bing or $3/g DC then.... I know we kind of know each other for a wait here on the chat... but its not to late to see the light 8)
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Re: I just don't get this about brewing

Postby Tead Off » Mar 28th, '11, 13:12

TIM wrote:
Tead Off wrote:
Oni wrote:There are some teas that can be made using less leaf and long infusion time, those are the teas that do not get bitter, and there are some teas that can be made only using gong fu method, like puerh or Dancong.

If your definition of gongfu brewing is to pack the pot and use hot water, I'm not ready to do this with my $800 bing of Shou Puerh or 50g/$150 Dancong tea. :D


Sorry to said this Tead, but you are really wasting your $800 bing or $3/g DC then.... I know we kind of know each other for a wait here on the chat... but its not to late to see the light 8)

I'm cheap, Tim :roll:
Believe me, I'm not wasting my good tea. Do you really think I've never tried packing the pot in over 20 years of drinking good teas? C'mon now. If you think that this technique is used by every knowledgeable tea drinker you might be mistaken. I don't think this is a case of the 'only' way to do it. I also think we all don't taste the same. Body chemistry, sensitivity, and, many other variables.
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Re: I just don't get this about brewing

Postby TIM » Mar 28th, '11, 13:44

Tead Off wrote:
TIM wrote:
Tead Off wrote:
Oni wrote:There are some teas that can be made using less leaf and long infusion time, those are the teas that do not get bitter, and there are some teas that can be made only using gong fu method, like puerh or Dancong.

If your definition of gongfu brewing is to pack the pot and use hot water, I'm not ready to do this with my $800 bing of Shou Puerh or 50g/$150 Dancong tea. :D


Sorry to said this Tead, but you are really wasting your $800 bing or $3/g DC then.... I know we kind of know each other for a wait here on the chat... but its not to late to see the light 8)

I'm cheap, Tim :roll:
Believe me, I'm not wasting my good tea. Do you really think I've never tried packing the pot in over 20 years of drinking good teas? C'mon now. If you think that this technique is used by every knowledgeable tea drinker you might be mistaken. I don't think this is a case of the 'only' way to do it. I also think we all don't taste the same. Body chemistry, sensitivity, and, many other variables.


You are not cheap, Tead... no way :D just conservative :lol:
What is absolute or 'The' only way.... And 'knowledgeable' tea drinker anyway? Nothing is impossible... there are many ways and one Clear way :wink:
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