Brewing "Western" style black teas Gongfu style? (e.g. Darjeeling, Assam)
Okay, so here’s an interesting topic. Have any of you tried brewing black teas that would conventionally be produced for a western brewing style using a Gongfu style instead?
For example… teas like Darjeeling, Assam, Ceylon… these teas are primarily meant for consumers that intend to brew them with small amounts of leaf for long periods of time. Is there a reliable method to steep this using Gongfu style? Also, is there a benefit to this, or do you sort of lose the full complexity of the flavor by breaking it down into several parts? For many teas, this is preferable, but as many of the better known black teas outside of China are more known for their robust flavor (which is what Western drinkers seem to prefer), are the flavors and notes really as good if you use a Gongfu style? Are you getting the most out of the tea this way?
If anyone has tried this, what steeping paramaters did you use? Leaf amount/temperature/water volume/time?
Can it be steeped just as you would steep a Chinese red tea like Bailin Gongfu or Yunnan Gold?
I’ve done this with a large leaf Ceylon I got at a Polish grocery store. It was a private label tea and higher quality than the ubiquitous hyley’s. It was really good. It really brought out the fruit and sugar tones in the tea and a little more spice and got me interested in Ceylon’s again.
Its been a while but I covered the bottom of my Gaiwan ( I think it was about 1.5 TSP in a 200 ml Gaiwan with water temperatures between 92-95°C. My first steep was 50s and went up from there. I hadn’t tried shorter steeps with black teas at that point but I might now. I really like thus particular tea this way.
I think an issue with chinese brewing style of western black teas is that western black teas brew at significantly hotter temperatures than the more popular green/oolong/white of popular Chinese teas. It might burn your hands trying to brew them with a gaiwan or similar.
That can be a concern, but my glass gongfu pots can handle the heat, and I have a couple thick walled gaiwan’s that are easier to handle when hot. I do have to be careful to not overfill the Gaiwan with water, that is the only time I have a problem when brewing black teas that way.
I don’t tend to drink green, white or oolong so I use my gaiwan with black and puerh, usually at or near boiling. It can be uncomfortable, but so far so good. I find leaving the cover off the leaves between steeps helps cool it down. When I forget and leave it covered, it can be too hot after putting more hot water.
I tend to brew Chinese red teas and puer tea in a gaiwan, so I am often brewing quite high temperatures in them.
I have never had a problem with water temperature with a gaiwan because the way I hold the gaiwan to pour I never touch the cup, just the lid and the saucer. After tilting the lid open a crack, you place your index finger on the knob on the gaiwan lid, then grasp the saucer between your thumb and ring finger. Keep the lid pulled tight against the cup and you can pick up the whole set without ever touching any hot parts. Your middle finger and pinky can just kind of “float” near the gaiwan and not touch anything.
I switched to this way of holding the gaiwan after several times burning my fingers while using a glass gaiwan and have never gone back to the older way of holding it, though I don’t know anyone else who holds it this way. You can see it in this video just after the 4:20 mark. I was a little shaky pouring in this video because it was only my second time pouring for a group.
Some may not prefer it, but it definitely prevents your fingers from ever getting hot. In my experience it works better with a short and wide gaiwan, instead of a tall thin one, but I can do it with any gaiwan.
It works well as long as the tea has big, full leaves. Problem is that many, even some of the better quality ones, have smaller cut/broken leaves which translates to a big mess when brewing gongfu style
Oh yes, the dust and fannings are always kind of a pain when trying to brew gongfu style. Not only do they get all over, but they release flavor so much more quickly they can make it overbrew fast even if you have measured out the proper amount of leaf by weight or volume.