Ubacat said

Gong Fu brewing guide

I’ve been looking for a good guide that will work for me since I can never remember gong fu brewing times whenever I brew this style. I know this website has a good downloadable guide:


The downloadable file has a page you can just print out for quick reference. I don’t agree with some of the brew temperatures (I like my whites at a higher temperature, blacks too) but it’s a pretty good guide. I suppose I can use this to get started to create my own excel sheet that works better for me.

Anyone else do up their own gong fu brewing guide? I know someone on here was working on one but I don’t remember them posting more about it.

34 Replies

Green tea hotter than 176 degrees?

LuckyMe said

They give a maximum of 185 degrees for greens which is about right. Although I typically brew green tea somewhere between 170 to 175, often the temperature on subsequent infusions needs to be bumped up slightly.

yssah said


I’ve never used a temperature gauge, so admittedly it’s difficult to say what I really think about 180. For gentler heat, I wait until tiny bubbles (shrimp-eye) just begin to form; for more heat, I let the tiny bubbles and the steam increase. So, I really don’t know what that temperature is.

Basically, if the steam is rising straight up that’s too hot for my green tastes; I want the steam to roll and rise gently to and fro. For later steeps, I do not temper the heat while pouring, and if I need even more heat I partially cover the bowl.

I’d be really interested to test this temperature for social reasons, but I don’t know how I would go about that.

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I used to be very into exact brewing times/temps/etc, and I forced myself to completely let that go. I think starting with eyeballing the water temp, eyeballing the amount of leaves, and brewing for color is the best way to go…it causes you to learn the leaves better and eventually you’ll do a perfect steep every single time. One thing I’ve noticed is that it’s REALLY hard to mess up a gongfu style steep, and if you do, you’ve always got another try :-)

I generally use this:

1.5g leaf/30ml water
180 for green tea, 190 for young sheng and oolong, boiling for everything else

Also, probably the BIGGEST factor that makes a spreadsheet-like approach impossible is the amount of time the leaves sit between steepings. For instance:

First steep: 10s. Immediately serve and do the second steep at another 10s.

If you wait 20-30 seconds between the second and third steep, the third steep would probably be good at around 15s…but if you sit there and drink steep 1 and savor the tea and enjoy time with a friend, then go to do the third steep 2-3 minutes later, you’re probably looking at a 5s steep.

yssah said

so it really does help to let it rest huh

It doesn’t necessarily help but it does lessen the steep time. I prefer to let it sit for less time and do longer infusions over letting the water steep it while I drink. I think it tastes better that way :-)

Ubacat said

I agree about the time in between thing. I left my leaves sitting for about an hour this morning before I went back to them (green tea). No matter how short I kept the infusion it was bitter.

I see you generally use 1.5 g of leaf but some other places go up to 5 g. I thought 5 g is a lot but when having quick infusions maybe that’s the best? Whoops, I see their guide is for 150 ml of water and yours is 30 ml.

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yyz said

Tao Tea Leaf has one but he tends to advocate longer steep times. http://www.taotealeaf.com/blog/tea-steeping-guide/

I tend to flash steep certain Teas and use longer times for others.


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I completely agree. At the beginning of my gongfu journey of teas, I always had to rely on steam, bubbles, and sound to determine the right heat for the water. I never relied on a temperature gauge, at first because I REFUSED to spend money on that, and I retained that sentiment because I didn’t want to ever have to rely on a thermometer to brew good tea, no matter where I was. Now, I almost preternaturally sense how ready the water is by the time passing, being careful of course to double check. The fact that the electric kettle is glass is so important to me, because a dark closed kettle really only reveals steam, which isn’t a wide indicator.

As for using a scale, this really may limit your tea experience, in my opinion. Filling the bowl to the visibly preferred amount and pouring right in allows you to discover new flavors, prevents your steep times from becoming rigid and unsurprising, improves your sense of leaf-to-steep ratio for all teas over time, broadens your personal tastes, and most importantly keeps you brewing tea on your toes!

Like you said, you can always try again with the gaiwan. It’s freedom in a lidded bowl! Interesting about the varying steep pauses. If I’m not brewing consecutively, then I peek at the root and take a whiff to get a sense of how long the leaves want to be steeped after chilling out… ; )

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awilsondc said

I really like the guide you posted and I’ve referenced it several times, but I agree with Brenden from Whispering Pines. It’s good to understand the baseline parameters of gong fu brewing, the science so to speak… but it’s also good to have a FEEL for gong fu brewing, as it is an art as well. As you experiment with different brewing vessels, different serving cups, water temperature, leaf amount, etc you begin to experience the art of making tea and you see the effects of each element as it pertains to the finished product, the cup of tea.

I don’t really measure anything anymore, but I have a feel for how much tea I need for the pot I’m brewing in and how long I need to steep it each time. This artistry is probably the thing I enjoy most about gong fu brewing. So… get to know the basics, then play around, experiment, have fun, and enjoy your tea! :)

Exactly, it is an art. Gongfu cha translates to essentially “tea with great skill and patience”, and I think that the most beautiful thing about the art of brewing tea is to truly learn the tea…to understand all of the parameters for brewing and how they will all affect the final brew. If you learn the tea, you can brew any tea without ever measuring a thing, allowing you to focus attention on the experience rather than the preparation.

I used to be bad…I’d be having tea with friends, and I’d be in the middle of a conversation and had to ask them to hold their thoughts while I timed each steep.

I do often use my scale though because I limit my tea consumption to 10g/day.

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boychik said

I cannot eyeball long fluffy leaves. Why? I love my scale.
Also I don’t like to be overwhelmed or underwhelmed with my Sheng. I have my parameters which work pretty much all the time.

yssah said

what are your parameters? im guessing theyre different per tea but in general?

I stopped weighing tea, but sometimes it yields interesting results because of the variations in compression. :)

boychik said

1g /15ml for sheng. Shou is different . I like to go heavy it lasts longer. Yancha 6g for 100ml. Hong cha is the same. Of course it’s not written in stone.
I tend to brew my sheng @ 200F . Even young one. I don’t want it to taste like green tea. Don’t care abt bitterness much lately

I understand insisting on measuring sheng, especially if it’s compressed. An overwhelming bowl of sheng is similar to drinking a soup made from an entire tree… Yehk!

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I think that using a guide like that is a great way to learn and get a feel when starting out…you know, like the Pirate Code, it is just guidelines ;)

I tend to be on the same boat as the peeps who go by instinct, though I have been told it makes me a bad blogger since I do not use super strict rules and just kinda yolo it.

I think that both methods are fine though, whatever works for you works best!

If you want a super detailed chart, ping Lion, he was working on one at one point and might still have it available.

They’re more like guidelines, anyway. Arr!

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Ubacat said

I guess if I did gong fu everyday I’d have a feel for it but I don’t. Most often it’s Western brew because I’m always in a hurry. I’m not particular about how much tea I put it. I’ve always eyeballed that. As for temperature I have a variable temperature kettle. So today I was brewing an oolong I’ve never had before and I didn’t know the amount of time for each infusion. I agree, that it’s better to go with your own feeling on it instead of sticking to a rigid brewing parameter. However, when dealing with a new tea and not doing gong fu enough all I wanted was a basic guide. The one on the website helped me out.

I had a perfect little go-to tea chart while I was starting out, whenever a tea wouldn’t turn out for me. New teas can change everything you thought you were confident of in your brewing, absolutely. A carefully and insightfully made tea chart is invaluable in that case. I used to know a wonderful go-to tea chart for those occasions… I found it!


This always got me out of my steeping ruts!

yssah said

haha imagine a newbie trying out lots of new teas! haha that def threw all rules out of the window and i just played safe on the greens/darjeelings

Ubacat said

That’s a good one. Thanks. I’m usually not adding quite enough tea and then don’t know where to start with the infusion time. As long as I have a start time I can adjust it from there.

Yeah. My method is, unless it’s a rolled leaf or balled, I use more or less the fullest amount of leaf, for a consistently strong and successful instantaneous steep. A few seconds and the tea is strong but not bitter. If bitter, I know I should use a little less, and never go above that amount. That way, the first two or three infusions will display to me how long I should start to further dwell out the latter steeps. Seems to work very well for all teas beside rolled ones, which just need a little extra attention due to the unfurling factor.

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Psyck said

As a beginner, I found using brewing guides, variable temperature digital kettle, electronic scale, etc. to be very helpful. I think of these as tools that in due course of time make a person experienced enough to brew well without the aid of any of them.

There are definitely two different ways to learn.

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LuckyMe said

I’m still somewhat anal retentive about brewing green tea only because it’s so finicky. A 5-degree temperature variation can sometimes make a noticeable difference. So I use an instant read thermometer, measure my water, weight my tea, use a kitchen timer, etc for the sake of consistency. Ditto for white tea. I do find though that Chinese greens are more forgiving than Japanese teas.

It’s the opposite when it comes to oolong tea especially when gongfu brewing. I go by feel and generally don’t fuss too much.

Now that I’m very familiar with brewing green teas gaiwan-style, my feelings on that have changed. I think they’re really no more finicky than other more oxidized teas, generally. Rather, I feel that when mistreated, they simply yield more distasteful results than more processed teas.

Ergo, more bitterness if over-steeped, more astringency if too much leaf, or even less flavor/more sourness if too hot. That doesn’t mean they’re finicky, per se, only more unpleasant than when a more processed tea has too little leaf, cool water, or short of steeping.

You see, there is a much wider margin for green tea to become distasteful and undrinkable, but not actually any more tendency for it to become so. Even with fully oxidized tea, they react the same way to water that is too hot, or too long of a steep, but just not as intensely.

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