Sep 9th, '16, 15:31
Posts: 37
Joined: Aug 20th, '09, 12:01
Contact: moot

an intro to gongfu brewing - feedback, please

by moot » Sep 9th, '16, 15:31

So I've been talking about tea more in my classes and lectures, talking about the process and pleasures of gongfu brewing, and I often get requests for a guide to how to do it. I've occasionally pointed them to some of the stuff I've seen on the web, but I was always dissatisfied with it. Partially because it was mostly just about the physical technique, and not about what I always thought was really the important part.

I feel like I was lucky enough to learn how to brew sitting at the feet of really good brewers (especially with Imen, of Tea Habitat), and I feel like what I soaked up was not just the nitty gritty of time/temp/technique - although I learned plenty of that - but how to pay attention, how to listen to it, what to pay attention to - like I was slowly and gently clued in to the largeness of the emotional and aesthetic space of tea. And I've sometimes been able to convey that when brewing with a friend. But I wanted to kind of package that up into written form, because I'm taking this show on the road.

Quick biographical tangent: I used to be a food writer. Now I teach philosophy, and one of my specialty areas is, basically, weird corners of the philosophy of art. (Like: can video games be art? Can role playing games? Why do people respect tragedy more than comedy as 'fine art'?) I thought I'd given up food writing for good, but it's been sneaking back in, into my professional life. I've been talking about food and tea more and more when I teach philosophy of art. And I finally figured out a way to write about it professionally. I'm working now on a paper about the difference between tea appreciation and wine appreciation culture.

Anyway: I'm going to start teaching undergrad classes on it. The first one is coming up this spring, where I'm going to do a weird class comparing ancient culinary texts from East and West, and make my students read a bunch of old tea poetry, etc. (By the way: if anybody has suggestions for good translations, or any good teachable texts on tea, let me know. I have the basic classics, but...) And if all goes well, I'll be giving bigger talks on the subject someday

Which means I need to teach any interested students or audience members to brew. And I'm certainly not taking a hundred undergraduates home and making tea for them personally.

So my first attempt at a guide is this:

https://objectionable.net/2016/09/05/ti ... long-baby/

So, feedback please. I've written a lot of food reviews at some point in my past, but never, actually, any kind of instructional guide/recipe/whatever, so I kind of don't know what I'm doing. So some questions: do you think the basic instructions are clear, missing steps, or overloaded? Is there stuff that is so automatic to me that I forgot to put it in? Is all the other weird emotional/spiritual stuff clear? My first attempt was an attempt to do it all - green, white, oolong, puerh - and I decided it was so insane that it would be better to narrow it down and focus on a few exemplars.

Thoughts, before I inflict this on people who've never touched anything but a teabag before?

Thanks!

User avatar
Sep 10th, '16, 14:03
Posts: 253
Joined: Sep 26th, '13, 21:26
Location: Europe

Re: an intro to gongfu brewing - feedback, please

by miig » Sep 10th, '16, 14:03

Hi there,

what a lovely endeavor, I often find myself in this situation if some not-yet tea-addicted friends visit me, I brew some tea and they start asking questions. Overall, I really liked your introduction, I think that it really covers the most important stuff. Also, I find it great that you don't do what many people writing introductions do and what I consider a mistake: providing too precise parameters. Its really good that you emphasize that people should try out different things.

Obviously, one could say much more about every aspect, but I think we all agree that this would not help a beginner. Since praise isn't going to be all too helpful, I tried to put myself in the shoes of a beginner and see what would make this easier for me.

1) If all of this is new to someone, this still is a lot of information to process. Maybe it would help to sub-divide the text into basics and then write articles for advanced stuff. For example, one might reduce the info on tea types. Maybe just naming some of the Oolongs with a sentence or two would be enough, then you could provide a link to a separate text which will discuss things like fermentation vs oxidation, or what the difference between Yancha and Dan Cong is.
You also could move the part about Yancha being brewed intensely to the advanced text on tea varieties, because how many beginners will do that?

2) Are you addressing westerners? I found it wise that you didn't talk about Zisha pots, since this is a topic which harbors sooo much confusion. Still, many people struggle with a Gaiwan at first, I found small porcelain teapots (100ml or so) helpful for them, because they don't need to worry as much about handling them, and can start focus on the tea.

3) Maybe you could add some more structuring and make it easier for beginners to take one part at a time. For example, you could add a headline "rinsing", so this could be processed as a separate step.

4) You might put a photo of a basic setup in the part after the introduction, accompanied by some info about that. E.g. a Gaiwan / small porcelain teapot, 2-3 porcelain cups and a pitcher. This could help people to imagine what it is they're handling.

Please don't get this the wrong way, I think that it is a really good text, this is just the things I came up with.

Oh, one more thing: So, you talk about an unfortunately excessive number of teapots, and then you post a photo with two of them? :lol: Thats cute :)

User avatar
Sep 11th, '16, 13:04
Posts: 5916
Joined: Jan 10th, '10, 16:04
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Contact: debunix

Re: an intro to gongfu brewing - feedback, please

by debunix » Sep 11th, '16, 13:04

One thing you don't mention, that is a huge factor in my own brewing: if you overbrew and get an infusion that is too intense, you don't have to feel obligated to drink it or else, or to toss it out . Just get a larger cup or bowl, and dilute it with additional hot water from the kettle (temp is much less important now, because you're not brewing, but simply correcting the concentration to your taste preference). This has saved me from wasting a lot of tea (and gave me an excuse to acquire some much larger teacups and bowls!).

I also do this deliberately, especially in hot weather, in a lot of variations. I often brew up in a small gaiwan or pot, deliberately 'overbrew' to make a very concentrated tea liquor, pour into a large chawan, and then add cooled water from the kettle or fresh water from the pitcher to make a lukewarm cooler but still very tasty brew. I don't know if this deliberate brew-from-concentrate is something you want to put into your article, because it is not traditional gong-fu (although it's not that far off from what I've read of a traditional Russian samovar...).

Letting the new user know that it''s ok to dilute the too-strong tea, however, can be another way to reassure the newbie how forgiving and flexible tea can be.

Sep 12th, '16, 07:16
Posts: 36
Joined: Aug 31st, '14, 06:38

Re: an intro to gongfu brewing - feedback, please

by ahasja » Sep 12th, '16, 07:16

debunix wrote:One thing you don't mention, that is a huge factor in my own brewing: if you overbrew and get an infusion that is too intense, you don't have to feel obligated to drink it or else, or to toss it out . Just get a larger cup or bowl, and dilute it with additional hot water from the kettle (temp is much less important now, because you're not brewing, but simply correcting the concentration to your taste preference). This has saved me from wasting a lot of tea (and gave me an excuse to acquire some much larger teacups and bowls!).

I also do this deliberately, especially in hot weather, in a lot of variations. I often brew up in a small gaiwan or pot, deliberately 'overbrew' to make a very concentrated tea liquor, pour into a large chawan, and then add cooled water from the kettle or fresh water from the pitcher to make a lukewarm cooler but still very tasty brew. I don't know if this deliberate brew-from-concentrate is something you want to put into your article, because it is not traditional gong-fu (although it's not that far off from what I've read of a traditional Russian samovar...).

Letting the new user know that it''s ok to dilute the too-strong tea, however, can be another way to reassure the newbie how forgiving and flexible tea can be.
Thanks for this "trick"! I never thought about it!

User avatar
Sep 12th, '16, 11:31
Vendor Member
Posts: 3124
Joined: Aug 28th, '12, 08:12
Location: Hong Kong
Contact: jayinhk

Re: an intro to gongfu brewing - feedback, please

by jayinhk » Sep 12th, '16, 11:31

Hundreds of millions of people in Asia use that trick every day! Here in HK we get a pot of tea and a pot of hot water at Chinese restaurants. If you overbrew, you simply add water to the pot or cup as needed. With real gongfucha, under or overbrewing is considered a lack of skill, but most people in China aren't brewing gongfu style every day. I'd put the percentage of daily gongfucha brewers at well under 1% of the population.

Sep 13th, '16, 20:04
Posts: 37
Joined: Aug 20th, '09, 12:01
Contact: moot

Re: an intro to gongfu brewing - feedback, please

by moot » Sep 13th, '16, 20:04

Thanks all, this is excellent advice. I'm going to do a rewrite before the class starts.

+ Post Reply