My first expensive tea! Brewing suggestions?
Hello everyone I am proud to say I have bought my first relatively expensive tea! The aroma is lovely but I don’t want to brew it just yet as I am unsure what to do with it. It’s a 2016 Winter Alishan from Taiwan. The lady who sold it to me suggested that this should be brewed gong fu style. Is there anything wrong with brewing this traditional style? (3 grams for a 10z mug 2-3 infusions at 3 minutes each steep)… Or would everyone recommend gong fu? When brewing gong fu I understand the basics but after each short infusion do you pour each into a different cup or all into one big cup? Any advice would be great!! Thanks.
gongfu will allow you to experience the full width and depth of this tea compared to traditional, but if its quality tea either way you will enjoy it. I suggest you put the dry leaves in an empty dry mug and cover with a plate for 10-15 minutes prior to brewing, you will get a better experience with oolong that way. (Usually a small tea jar is used for this but its not necessary to go buy one).
In gongfu there is a pitcher (chahai) that you pour the tea from the teapot directly into, but a large cup/bowl will also work if you don’t have a pitcher. Then pour the tea from the pitcher into smaller cups to drink. One purpose of pouring into a pitcher and then into cups, is that it mixes the tea so its equally concentrated. The first drop out of a teapot will be less concentrated than the last drop. Its also useful if you’re mixing multiple steepings.
Everyone has their preference, mine is to blend 2 steepings at a time in the pitcher, for convenience and hot water management. Some people do one steeping at a time. If I’m not really focused on the tea, I may blend 3-4 steepings at a time in the pitcher. But you could do it however you want.
How much tea do you have? Do you have enough for multiple sessions?
I have drank jade oolongs & white teas western style quite a few times, they work well. Its dan cong or wuyi, puerh, hei cha etc that is difficult to brew without a gaiwan.
I find temps stay the same, just the timing changes, as you already know.
You can get some really nice progression of taste in the cup as the drink cools, as it becomes sweeter. Oolong has a lower drinking temperature as well, I think its around 70-80c, so wait a bit . I can tell when its ready with my glass cups because I can grip them tightly and it doesnt burn, my cups take over 5 minutes to reach this stage from 90c, yours may be different.
I’d certainly recommend trying gong fu style at least once, to see what your prefer. TeaDB have a video (with many others!) here https://youtu.be/owgY7hMY4zs
You dont need the whole gong fu ceremony stuff, the basic idea behind gongfu is more leaf, less water.
If you want to hack gongfu, take your mug and mug infuser and fill the mug half way, pull out the infuser, pour out the rinse, this is just a 2-3 second thing to open the leave. Wait a moment, then fill again half way. Steep for 30-40 seconds, pull infuser out, pour into another mug, repeat process. GONGFU HACK, you just gongfu brewed with a mug and mug infuser, and will get all the flavor benefits of gongfu without all the teaware and ceremony. I did this for about 2 weeks before I got my gaiwan from amazon.
This works best with 5 grams of leaf and a large mug infuser and 6 oz mug. keep repeating until bored of tea. If you have a strainer you can instead brew directly in mug with no infueser then pour into second mug, and through strainer and then drop the leaves back into the first mug and resteep. The really important parts that make the tea taste so much better if that the leaves are more free to open and you have a little water running over alot of leaf for a short time to get all the good flavors while minimizing the bad ones.
Trust me, once you do it this way you will never ever go back.
Are you pouring into different mugs each infusion or do you combine 2 infusions in one cup and so on?
you use one mug for brewing and then the other mug for pooling and drinking. You can just drink or pool and drink depending on preference.
What you are essentially doing is using the infuser with lid to turn a mug into a makeshift gaiwan. Its really easy, cheap and makes the same brew as a full elaborate gong fu set uo.
I agree with both Ken and Rob on this one.
Do try GongFu style just to see if it’s for you and follow Ken’s instructions, but I will also add – please don’t get hung up on this. I personally feel that there is a bit of an excluding snobbery going on in the tea connoseur society, where apparently you have to brew your tea to a certain temperature, using specialised teaware, in a certain way, a ceratin proportion of tea leaves and water, focusing on the technicalities too much and almost forgetting to enjoy the experience.
Please don’t let this scare you! Just experiment and let the flavour guide and inspire you and find what works for you. Sasha and I used ramekins or the method of filling half of my regular mug with tea leaves when we 1st started drinking good quality tea – i didn’t realise this at the time, but this immitated the high tea low water principle of the gaiwan in a way, but I did it because I found this was the flavour I preferred best. I personally prefer it in what would be considered the ‘savage’ way of the cross between the 2 – the Western tea mug and heaps of tea leaves, beacsue this is the flavour I prefer. It also leaves the headspace to just enjoy the tea and be inspired by it. Sasha now prefers the gaiwan. Just see what works for you and set the trend.
Also, a genuinely good quality tea can taste good no matter how you brew it. ;) Yulia X
While you can brew in a mug as suggested you might want to pick up a cheap gaiwan. You can get one from Yunnan Sourcing for less than $10 or you can spend more. The $10 gaiwan will generally brew tea just as good as the $50 one. I would suggest a porcelain gaiwan over a glass one even though the glass one is probably cheapest. You can also find something cheap on EBay. Just do a search for “gaiwan” and you will get many results, usually with free shipping. You can get the classic style which is a lidded bowl or an easy gaiwan which has grooves to let out the water so you don’t need to prop the lid to let out the water.
There you go, cheap and in stock at amazon, no waiting.
And if your a member of Amazon Prime you can get it in two days with free shipping.
Just one warning, the shown design isnt what you are going to get, its a random design. But thats not really a major issue.
My $5 100ml porcelain gaiwan from YS is the most versatile tea brewing vessel in my collection. Easy to maneuver, works with any kind of tea, and the lid traps a lot of aroma. You may also want to consider an easy gaiwan, as they are more user-friendly for beginners.
I agree with Allan, go for porcelain over glass. Though I love my glass gaiwan, an Amazon purchase, it’s only really useful for greens, whites, and baozhongs. It’s not intended for high temperature brewing.
Quick update I am sitting here drinking a cup of Alishan brewed western style. I am amazed at how different this tea is from everything else I’ve tried. It’s great!! can’t wait for the second infusion. As for the gaiwan I’m going to buy this one https://www.amazon.com/Teagas-Yixing-Classic-Celadon-Chinese/dp/B0177WWMSQ/ref=pd_sim_79_3?encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B0177WWMSQ&pd_rd_r=5J27JCXY5ZPADMNDVFYM&pd_rd_w=nxiKM&pd_rdwg=drmMH&psc=1&refRID=5J27JCXY5ZPADMNDVFYM and just so I am clear I basically put 6 grams of leaves in the gaiwan and do I fill it up all the way to the top or just to the point where it is in the picture? After that I pour into my mug and drink based on how many infusions I’d like in it? Thanks everyone!
You might find that 150ml ends up being a bit large. I can do 10g of sheng in a 110ml one. Or it might be that the larger size enables you to get used to drinking stuff that’s a bit weird, like puerh.
Get some small cups. I have some that must be about 150ml and my 100ml gaiwan fills them up halfway
Generally around 15ml per gram is used for gong fu brewing, hence about 10gm for the 150ml gaiwan. However, the amount used varies by the type of tea and even within the tea types based on how they have been processed. E.g. for a tea that will expand more, you use lesser leaf; or if you prefer your tea stronger / lighter you use more / less leaf accordingly. You can also choose to use less/more leaf and longer/shorter brewing time than normal depending on how much you want to consume. You fill the gaiwan with water up to the level of the lid (not to the top of the gaiwan), use the lid to remove any air bubbles/pockets and close it so that there is only leaves and water under the lid. If you find it difficult to hold the hot sides of the gaiwan while pouring the tea out, you can pour with one hand on the lid and one hand on the bottom saucer – so that you do not even come in contact with the hot cup while pouring.
Edit: Re-infuse until the tea becomes too pale in strength to drink anymore.
The one for 10$ next to it, is 100 ml, and you can not fill the gaiwan all the way , thats fine. Also you can get away with a little less than 1 gram per 15, you can stretch that to 1 gram per 20. So for me 5 grams for 100ml is perfect.
You probably want to try to stick to 5 gram brewing parameter for the most part. Since sample sizes are almost always 5 gram, 10 gram and 25 gram. Which makes off sizes like 6, 8, or even 10 awkward.
So yeah for real expensive/high quality tea, Ill only put 60-75ml of water in the gaiwan.
If you want to brew less tea for expensive high quality teas you can get 50ml gaiwans from different sources including Yunnan Sourcing. Teaware.House, and Dragon Tea House. With a 50ml gaiwan using 3g of tea is usually sufficient.
OMG how do you even hold the thing, I have a 30ml Yixing from TealifeHK and the thing is tiny!!!
I use it for brewing expensive dark oolongs!
My hands are too big for those little ones. Like trying to brew with a jelly bean.