Question about western style brewing...
I’m very new to loose leaf tea and although I’ve graduated from tea bags, most of the time I’m just putting some loose leaf tea in a teabag and running the hot water dispenser from the coffee machine over it at work. I’m wanting to take more care with things like temperature and timing before getting into some higher end stuff but I’m having some questions about western style brewing. As I understand it western style brewing essentially uses less leaves than gongfu but more water and longer steep times. For better or worse this will probably be my preferred way of brewing tea since it’s easier however I got confused when I started looking at teas from Verdant Tea.
When looking at their brewing directions many of their teas show the same amount of leaves and water for western style as they do for gongfu style except that you brew it four times as long…this doesn’t make sense to me. Should I be looking elsewhere and not at Verdant Tea?
Many tea companies nowadays make it easy by specifying the amount of water and steep time right on the package. An herbal tea likely requires 8oz for 1.5 tsp for 5 minutes. I would recommend a tea ball, they cost about one dollar or two, for everyday steeping.
“As I understand it western style brewing essentially uses less leaves than gongfu but more water and longer steep times.”
That’s generally correct. However, keep in mind the size of your brewing vessel. Gongfu style typically uses a much smaller brewing vessel such as a gaiwan 150 ml (5.1oz) as opposed to brewing Western style with an 8-oz mug or a 16, 24, or 32-oz teapot.
The better tea suppliers generally provide the appropriate brewing parameters. You can then adjust them to suit your taste.
The simplest way to Western brew loose-leaf tea:
The simplest way to have the correct temperature:
Another excellent, but more $ choice:
A very convenient timer:
The general guide lines for Western brewing is 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of tea per 6 oz cup. The general brewing time I use most of the time is three minutes for black tea, more like five minutes for a rooibos or an herbal. Sometimes only two minutes for sensitive green teas.
Higher-grade and certain types of tea are more accurately measured in grams with a digital scale than a teaspoon due to their larger size.
I personally brew my tea using gongfu style as I believe it makes some teas less bitter. I about double what is normally used for western style and steep for only about 30 to 45 seconds and I will reuse the same tea for about 5 sessions adding about 20 to 30 second for each session. I would recommend getting one of these https://www.amazon.com/Adagio-Teas-ingenuiTEA-Bottom-Dispensing-Teapot/dp/B000FPN8TK/ref=sr_1_17?ie=UTF8&qid=1512178597&sr=8-17&keywords=tea+infuser+cup because it is easy to use at your desk and you can reuse the same tea for multiple sessions. It will also allow the tea to float freely and give a better flavor profile.
“When looking at their brewing directions many of their teas show the same amount of leaves and water for western style as they do for gongfu style except that you brew it four times as long”
It depends on which tea we are talking about, but generally speaking western brewing uses less tea per volume tea liquor. Not always though.
For example, western style you might use 5 gram tea in a 1 liter water, steeping once (for a long time). Or 5 gram tea in a 100 ml gaiwan and gongfu it for ten (short) steeps, producing the same 1 liter of tea. Would still taste dramatically different.
Personally I never western brew anything and see no reason to. I either gongfu, grandpa style or in rare circumstances thermos brew.
I steep Western style a lot for the reasons you mentioned — one of the arguments in favor of gong fu is that you slow down and really focus on and experience the tea, but the reality of my life is that as much as I’d like to do that, I have a packed schedule and need to find other ways to enjoy tea most of the time.
I think the time, temp and amount of water are often useful guidelines, but I generally find that I vary these things according to taste. For example, if I’m drinking a chunky fruit blend, I pretty much double up the amount I use because I know that otherwise it won’t steep to the concentration I like. I typically shorten steeping time and lower temperature for black teas from what’s recommended, although if I have enough (it’s not a small sample) I’ll often at least try what the seller recommends before varying. I almost never steep green teas more than 1 min. 30 sec. regardless of what the instructions say as I find it tends to go bitter after that. And other such variations.
Part of the fun for me is trying different things and seeing how the tea tastes with each experiment. Enjoy!
“one of the arguments in favor of gong fu is that you slow down and really focus on and experience the tea”
This is not really characteristic of gongfu and therefore something of a misunderstanding. I see no reason that you could not “slow down and focus” regardless of your brewing method. The argument for gongfu is that you have more control over the steeping and therefore over the result. Slowing down and focussing is neither required nor exclusive.
It need not take much longer either. I gongfu my daily drinkers while working every day.
I definitely agree that it’s good to vary by taste. I usually start with the recommended brewing, and then mess around from there. If I have a sample, I’ll usually try to follow guidelines, but still try not to overthink it too much.
Perhaps I should have said that it forces me to slow down, and not made it generic. It takes me susbstantially longer and makes me focus more, probably because I’m not very practiced at it.
When western brewing I generally use 3g of leaf in a brewing basket, 10oz mug, water temp according to the type of tea I’m brewing, let it steep for 3min and then remove the basket and drink. Usually I’ll do a second steep of 5 or so min. For some teas, a third steep of 8 or so min, or just pour the water on for the 3rd time and wander off and come back to it hours later and drink it cold. :)
For difference teas, there are suitable brewing points, I agree the above information, just one more things for chinese tea, special for white tea and oolong tea: you could try western brewing and Gong Fu both, while, after our carefully testing and reviewing their soup, Gong Fu style would be better. For 8g Oolong tea, 5g white tea, 120ml or 130ml Gaiwan would be more suitable to get its aroma and more stronger tasting.