Got myself a gaiwan! Any tips for me? I normally brew western style and don’t reuse leaves (even with expensive ones never had luck as I prefer strong tea). Am looking forward to trying gong fu and multiple infusions for some variety.
Start with short steeps when Gongfu brewing. I start with five seconds for the first two infusions and then increase a little bit for each infusion. For gongfu brewing you will actually use more leaf than western brewing. For raw puerh or oolong I use about 7g of leaf for my 120ml gaiwan. For ripe puerh I use even more leaf in the same size gaiwan, closer to 9g or 10g.
Here’s a little intro to gongfu article I wrote. Hope it helps! :-)
Personally I don’t preheat the gaiwan, I assume it gets preheated when I rinse the tea. I use a very thin-walled gaiwan so its not going to retain heat anyway. Also saves me a bit of water.
Only real tip is if you don’t want to burn your fingers, then don’t fill the gaiwan quite as high with hot water. The lower the water level, the cooler the edges. Otherwise, just takes a bit of practice. Its fairly simple.
Worth a watch from Tea DB https://youtu.be/Tvu3Y14m5tA
Place the lid on at a slight tilt, and it should feel securely in place before you pick up and pour. If it slides even a little, adjust it until it is stable.
What I see most people mess up on is under leafing. The whole point is to use more leaf with less water and shorter steeps.
I like using a scale, you can get a 0.1gram one for $8 on Amazon. I follow a ratio for gram to ml so I can repeat how I brew something for next time.
I think all the main points are covered above:
Leaf:water (1g:15-20ml, or experiment)
Start with a 5s infusion, add 5s each time, but adjust if it’s too strong/light
Don’t fill too high – maybe to where the lid makes contact, to avoid burning your fingers.
And tilting the lid forward slightly is also a good one that can be overlooked. If your gaiwan has a well-fitting lid, the seal will stop the tea from pouring out quickly, which would defeat the purpose of a gaiwan. Tilting it will allow tea out and air in from the other side to displace it.
It might not be perfect the first time, but as long as it’s fun. Length of steep time, amount of tea and water temperature can all be adjusted until you figure out what works for you. Even better, you can brew so many teas gongfu style! Large leaf whites, black, puer, oolong, heicha…
If you have never used a gaiwan at all, practice a bit with cold water to find which pouring style and angle to hold your hand works best, it is a good way to avoid scalding…wish I would have done this when I was learning.
I did a video on pouring with a gaiwan a few years ago:
I think gaiwan brewing can be very very strong. To echo some other comments, under leafing is very common among westerners trying brew the asian method. 10 grams of tea for a 150ml gaiwan is not at all uncommon in Yunnan.
But for beginners, I think in any Chinese gongfu method, consistency is key. If you’re just eyeballing tea weights, or just estimating water temperatures, using different water sources? the same tea will be wildly variable from infusion to infusion. That makes it hard to form notions about a tea if every time you reach for your gaiwan you get a different result. Producing repeatable, manageable results is crucial, in my opinion. Some might disagree, but I believe that is getting the scale out, measuring the gram weights, and having a water kettle that can be temperature managed is a good start. The gaiwan has very little skill or methodology required if all other variables are constant.
Yes I agree with the sentiment that you shouldn’t eyeball the weights. If you don’t have a scale get one. They are cheap and available from a variety of outlets, some that sell puerh, some that just sell scales. There was a scale store that was recommended here but I can’t remember the name of it. I got my scale from Puerhshop and it was less than $20.
I agree as I usually do at least 10 grams or so and sometimes more. A scale is very nice especially with compressed tea.
I think the only way you could eyeball compressed tea is if you were drinking the same thing day after day for a longish time. Gongfu style was around long before cheap reliable scales but probably the people who invented it did not routinely make all kinds of different tea that way.
Definitely have a scale and use it.
I found that I enjoyed the gaiwan much more after buying a filter. Some high quality teas don’t need the filter, but some have a lot of powder and small bits that get into the cup.
Also, you don’t HAVE to use a lot of tea. I use a bit less than 1 gram of tea per ounce of water, but do longer steeps. This way I don’t need to do 15 steeps for a session.