Grandpa Style Brewing
Hi gang. A wee bit of background for this post. I got really into loose leaf teas about 2.5 years ago and the entirety of that time I’ve dove headfirst into Gongfu style brewing pretty much everything besides tisanes and Japanese teas (which I brew using Japanese teawares and methods).
I have until very recently thought very little about Grandpa style brewing. Mostly, the idea sounded too much to me like your usual Western style brewing and I like the stripping away of layers of flavor that Gongfu style gives, revealing the subtleties I might not otherwise detect. I recall trying Grandpa style once a long time ago and getting frustrated that I kept sucking up leaves. Haha.
But I’ve hit a (perhaps natural) point in my tea enthusiasm where I’ve finally got enough experience with my preferred brewing method, in this case, Gongfu style brewing, to feel I can do it well without measuring things out, and I feel I don’t need to practice it as regularly anymore. While a large amount of the appeal of it for me is how focused and ritualized it feels (gets my mind off other things), there is the downside that it requires more setup and cleanup and doesn’t always fit alongside my daily schedule. So I got curious a couple weeks ago and started trying Grandpa style in a really pretty hand-thrown tea bowl I’ve had for a while.
So far I’ve really enjoyed the simple experience of it. It can be beautiful and quite attention-focusing on its own if using a pretty enough tea (greens and Sheng come to mind), and the problem with leaves in the mouth is easily avoided with some technique, either using the right kind of tea, letting the leaves sink or simply blowing away the floating bits before drinking. Grandpa style is also, as many others have said, a good way of getting the rest of the flavor out of some tea if you’ve started a Gongfu session but don’t want to continue doing several steeps that way. It’s also a nice way to get a full, round flavor from teas that might not offer that brewed Gongfu style (as can be really apparent sometimes with green teas and some others).
I do have a couple questions about it though. A big one is about the name. I’ve always heard it and thought “Grandpa style” was a Chinese colloquial term. Only in the past weeks did I see a blog post by tea blogger Marshal N about it where he says he coined the term and it caught on in the tea community.
So if that’s right, then it is a fairly recent term, and I wonder if there is a term for this style of brewing in China or other Asian countries? I know of “Tall Glass Brewing” for green teas, but that only really refers to when you’re using a glass, not a cup, mug, bowl, etc.
Of course, my other reason for starting this thread was just to get some general discussion going on this style of brewing and offer a few questions.
What are your favorite teas to brew Grandpa style, and are there any that just don’t work well for you?
What vessel(s) do you like to use the most for it?
What do you like about this brewing style and what situations do you find it the most fitting?
Is there a more traditional term for this style of brewing than “Grandpa style”? Or is it just common tea drinking practice enough in China and other Asian cultures that it’s basically just called “drinking tea”?
I love it as well, I did see someone else use another name, like cup brewing or something..
yeah some dont work out right. darjeeling comes to mind. Stuff with the biggest leaf works best for me, teas that unfold, like tie guan yin & milk oolong I like.
If its a tea that you have a specific brew point (like white tea and dan cong) I dont find that it works so well either
Hi Rasseru. What do you mean by a specific brew point? Are you referring to water temperature?
I meant time. Sheng, Dan Cong, Darjeeling, white, I have a certain point where its perfect! and any more time will spoil it. If grandpa brewing its harder to control that. (use less leaf is one method)
sheng and darjeeling go bitter, dan cong can get a weird taste, like too much oil or something (?) and white tea loses its exquisiteness and seems to get murky for me.
but taiwanese green oolong seem to work very well this way
Oh, I see what you mean. I definitely feel the same way about white tea. It loses its delicate nature and complexity for me when brewing Grandpa style too. Maybe not as badly with needles, but definitely with the finer leaves like white peony. I feel that red tea also loses a great deal of its complexity. It’s still good, and is more robust and full-flavored than Gongfu style, but it is much less nuanced than brewing it Gongfu style.
I’ve had best bet with the oolongs and shou puerh – Often I’ll start a gongfu style session, and towards the end throw it all in a jar grandpa style to push the last out of it. Sometimes I suddenly realize I’m late to work or some other appointment and it will get thrown in earlier.
And a lot of mornings it’s just how I roll, as in most days the real world wont let me enjoy tea in a peaceful mindful way :) https://www.instagram.com/p/BBDBnYmFj8g/?taken-by=9thousandthings
Yeah its a good morning thing. Dian hong/gold/red tea can be really nice as the leaves in the bottom just go malty strong and the aroma works
Sometimes I put way too much leaf in, and those first couple of quarts in the mason jar are wooooooooyeeeeeeeee. Drunken Grandpa Style I’ve taken to calling it…
I got into drinking tea grandpa style in glass jars while working in China. Everyone carries their tea jars around. One spoon of tea will take you through a full day of steeping. Schools, offices, and residences tend to have boiling water thermoses around with which you can top up your tea jar throughout the day. Easy and practical.
I’ve started grandpa brewing a lot lately for a number of reasons…1) it’s super-convenient on the go and at the office 2) allows me to conserve tea.
My favorite kind of tea to drink grandpa style are strip oolongs (bao zhong, wuyi, dan cong, etc.) and scented tea (jasmine silver needles). Green teas in my experience often go bitter and/or lose their nuance.
I drink this way just about every day. It’s of my favorite ways to brew certain teas, flavorful, convenient, and economical. Works beautifully for many Wuyi and Taiwanese green oolongs. I mostly use a double walled glass mug, but will occasionally toss some leaves into a bowl and brew that way. Especially if I only have a few leaves I want to use up.
I dislike the term Grandpa style though, and instead say continuous steep.
I don’t like the term Grandpa style either, and I don’t know if I can pinpoint or explain why, which is partially why I asked what alternatives are out there. Glad I’m not alone in that. Maybe it just seems like a misnomer to me. Continuous steep is a good one.
I think Wuyi Oolong and Taiwanese green are the next two on my list to try drinking this way. I did try it with Bai Ji Guan yesterday and it was wonderful, but I am intrigued by the idea of using other Wuyi oolongs like Da Hong Pao.
Definitely give those a try. It brings out notes in certain teas that are muted in gong-fu and Western steeping. I find strong cinnamon in a lot of Taiwanese oolongs, and the creamy notes in Wuyi oolong often seem much more pronounced.
If you guys decide on a different name, I’ll happily adopt it :)
I think the second most used version I’ve seen behind grandpa style is “bowl style” or bowl steeping and I like the sound of it, though it really only seems appropriate if you are using a bowl (and not a cup, mug, tumbler, etc.) Cookies, I think continuous steep is a good description and probably the one I like best! Though I think I’m probably just going to have to get over my dislike of the term grandpa style since it’s more or less the sure way that other tea drinkers will understand what you’re talking about without having to explain. It has definitely caught on in the tea community.
Grandpa stlye = bowl tea
I start my mornings every day with bowl tea. Red tea in the winter and fresh sheng bowl tea in the summer
You know, I don’t think I mentioned this in my post, but I have also realized very recently that some teas that I bought and didn’t really think were too special when brewed gongfu style, or even teas that are a bit dated and maybe lacking quite the fullness of flavor they initially had, really can be brewed well bowl style. A lot of teas lately that would have been destined for the rubbish bin or somewhat reluctantly passed on to friends (reluctantly because I know they aren’t really stellar anymore) have been able to be put into my new “cup/bowl steeping stash” and get used with pleasing results.
Gaiwans, for hundreds of years, were used for this style of tea drinking. The lid would help to hold the tea leaves back from your mouth. It’s only in very recent times (80’s or 90’s?) that people started using gaiwans more like a teapot, decanting the liquor
That’s very true. I have tried drinking from the gaiwan this way a time or two. It does work very nicely.
yeah ive been watching chinese kung fu movies recently and ip man, a story about bruce lees teacher (very fictional and fun) the latest one I noticed them all drinking like this with big gaiwans.
True. Some folks I’ve spoken to said that many people use the gaiwan like a teapot coz it can get pretty hot. But the trick is to apply a bit of pressure through your fingers when you hold the rim of the gaiwan. That way you have a steady grip without burning your fingers :)
Soleiltea, my favorite way to hold a gaiwan when using it as a brewing vessel (but not drinking from it) is with the saucer between my thumb and ring (4th) finger with my index (2nd) finger on the knob on top of the lid. A light amount of downward pressure on the lid secures the bowl part in place so you can lift the whole set without even having to touch the bowl. No burnt fingers!
In fact if I am not mistaken it is proper etiquette in a Chinese teahouse when using a gaiwan as a drinking vessel to only touch the bowl part with your lips, while your hands will only touch the lid and saucer. I read this somewhere, but I’m not sure if it’s true.
Yeah! I’ve seen a lot of kung-fu movies (and even in Marco Polo from Netflix) that it was common to drink the tea directly from the gaiwan, I think I should try it!
I have seen a teacup on EBay made for this style of brewing and have considered buying it. I think it is from Streetshop88 and it has a built in filter to keep from drinking the leaves.
I’m a big proponent of GPS. Green teas and larger leaf blacks are best in my experience. Surprisingly, Sheng works as well but you have to be veeerry measured with it, like no more than 3 or 4g in most cases. One thing I also like to do with Sheng is grandpa it after 6-8 gong fu steeps, I find that really brings out the last of the tea well and I feel like I’m not wasting leaves.
+1 to the post-gongfu grandpa style on sheng. I don’t really grandpa young sheng but its a great way to extend the session for some nice teas.
Ginkosan! I am quite fascinated by your travels and encounters with mushi. Great to see you here. :D And yes, I find sheng to be quite nice in grandpa style. I have even used young ones that were very good. The first infusion can be a bit strong, but the refills are lovely. These were sheng though that were not at all bitter even when young. It would probably be pretty harsh with some of the more bitter ones.
Absolutely, Yiwu and other lighter teas certainly work better than say, Lao Man’Er would.
Oh, and yeah. Best. Anime. Ever.