Drinking tea has a very long history, said to begin in the 25th century BC with the legendary Emperor of Ancient China, Shennong. The lore suggests that he was a man of many talents, having interests in subjects as diverse as medicine, agriculture, and astronomy.
In fact, it was Shennong’s interest in medicine that compelled him to source and experiment with plants and herbs. Rather than use these on other people, he admirably insisted on testing the plants on himself, usually taking them orally and recording his thoughts on their medicinal value, identifying hundreds of plants in the process.
There is a legend that suggests that the branches of one of these plants had been burning in a fire. The fire had loosened the leaves from the branches, and shortly thereafter, the leaves were carried up and away by the hot air and smoke, landing in the cauldron of boiling water above. Committed to his craft, Shennong insisted on tasting the resulting brew, and this was what we now know as tea.
It is likely that Shennong used some kind of ladle to pour the infusion into a bowl, and in doing so, it’s also possible that some tea leaves remained in the bowl. If so, and there’s no way to know, this could very well have been not only the first discovery of tea but also the first instance of drinking tea “grandpa style!”
Grandpa Style is a way of brewing tea by leaving the tea leaves in the water. Regardless of whether Shennong was the first, drinking tea this way has been taking place longer than most in the West realize. When traveling through China, you will discover that many people take all manner of tea leaves, place them in a glass, mug, or bowl, and pour water directly over the leaves, casually sipping it. It is, by far, the most casual and relaxed way to enjoy tea.
As mentioned above, it’s easy to make tea grandpa style. You simply need to take your tea leaves, place them directly into your cup or bowl, pour the water over them, and enjoy directly! But if you’re going to try it, there are some important things you should know.
- The Cup’s Material – Try to think about what type of tea you’re going to be enjoying and choose the appropriate material. More delicate tea leaves should be placed in something that does not retain heat very well, such as borosilicate glass or fine porcelain. Hardier tea leaves, such as roasted oolongs or black teas, should be placed in something that does retain heat, such as stoneware or thick ceramic.
- The Tea Leaves – Grandpa style brewing works best with some kinds of tea leaves but not others. You do not want to use tea leaves that are very fine or small, such as Sencha green tea or Keemun black tea. Instead, look for teas with larger leaves that cannot easy sneak into your mouth when you sip the tea, such as Taiping Hou Kui or Dragonwell green tea, Wuyi Rou Gui oolong, or Jing Mai Gu Shu pu’erh.
- The Temperature – When brewing grandpa style, the temperature is less important since the leaves are going to remain in the water indefinitely. To that end, it is recommended that you simply use a temperature that you find ideal, whether you wish to sip your tea immediately or you like to wait for it to cool down to your ideal temperature.
- The Quantity of Tea – Because the leaves are remaining in the water, more polyphenols will be extracted into the tea. This is good and bad. It is good because the chemicals in tea have health-promoting properties, but the problem is that they can also make the tea taste bitter when too much of some of them get into the water. To help ensure that you always have a tasty cup, take this into consideration and use a smaller amount of tea leaves than you normally would. A good rule of thumb is approximately 1-2g of tea per 4 oz of water. If the tea starts to taste bitter, then dilute it by adding more water!
You might be wondering why you would even want to try grandpa style, but there are some good reasons for doing it!
For example, if you’re in a hurry, there is no better way to take your tea! You can continue to pour water over the tea for the rest of the day without worrying about a timer, an infuser, or even much cleanup. In addition, whether you suddenly find yourself in a hurry to leave or you simply really want to get the last bit of flavor out of your tea leaves, it can also be nice to transition to grandpa style after you’ve infused your tea using other methods. Or maybe you just want a style of preparing tea that just fits your mood? If so, when you are feeling pretty relaxed or mellow, grandpa style would be the way to go!
But perhaps the best reason to try grandpa style is because of how unique it is. It will definitely bring out different flavors in your tea that you will not notice using other methods, and provided that you followed the advice above, this will be a rewarding experience.