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The Tao of Tea: Part Three (Art of Preparing Tea II)

In the Art of Preparing Tea I, we discussed why different tea preparation techniques can be useful and introduced two of them. Today’s entry will focus on Gongfu Style and Western Style, while also commenting a little on Sun Style brewing.

Before presenting Gongfu Style, I want to recommend consulting our step-by-step Gongfu Tea guide for a more in-depth explanation of the proper technique. Below is merely an overview of each tea brewing method.

Gongfu Style

Gongfu Style is the most traditional way of brewing your tea. There is a very elegant way of doing this, which you can explore in our previously published guide. Maximizing style, your sensory experience, and the value of your tea is what lies at the heart of this way of brewing.

                Advantages: Most elegant way to serve tea; Great range of flavors

                Disadvantages: Time consuming; Small servings of tea

Western Style

General Guidelines:

  • Water-to-Tea Ratio: 4-5g / 200-350mL
  • Temperature: Variable (Depends on the Tea)
  • Teaware: Large Vessel (more than 200mL) or a Tea Strainer and a Teacup or Mug (150-300mL)
  • Time: 45 sec. to 120 sec. (Depends on the Tea)
  • Tea Type: Best Suited for Any Tea 

Western style brewing focuses on strong flavors and large servings of tea. It’s best suited for those who have little time or those who want to make a simple cup of tea, but it comes at the cost of not being able to produce very many infusions. 

To prepare your tea western style, simply place your tea leaves in your teapot or strainer, pour your hot water over the tea leaves, and then wait some amount of time until your tea is ready. 

In general, if you are preparing green tea or white tea, place your leaves in a teapot with a thinner wall, such as a glass or porcelain teapot, or be sure to pair your strainer with a mug of similar density, such as a glass mug. These teas generally get steeped for 45 to 60 seconds at approximately 165-185°F (75-85°C). 

Similarly, if you are preparing black tea, oolong tea, or pu-erh, place your leaves in a teapot or mug with a thicker wall that has better heat retention, such as yixing or stoneware. These teas usually get steeped for 60 to 120 seconds at approximately 195-205°F (90-95°F). 

                Advantages: Strong flavor; Largest serving; Simple setup

                Disadvantages: Very small number of infusions; Least aesthetic 

The Gongfu Remix

                General Guidelines:

The Gongfu Remix is my own invention after experimenting with many different styles. I wanted to find a compromise between Eastern and Western brewing styles, focusing on extracting great flavor from the tea in a larger serving. 

To try the Gongfu Remix, set up as if you were going to prepare your tea Gongfu Style but use temperatures similar to Western Style. Next, fill the tea vessel and wait approximately 15-20 seconds for it to brew. Pour the tea into your tea bowl. Quickly fill your teapot again, waiting another 15-20 seconds for it to brew, pouring this tea into your tea bowl. Finally, repeat this process once more. By now, your tea bowl or mug should be filled close to capacity. 

For subsequent infusions, you can repeat the above process, aiming for a total brew time of approximately 60 seconds. You will not get as many infusions out of this method as you would with others, but you should still get at least four to six total servings of tea. 

                Advantages: Great flavor; Large serving; Fair number of infusions

                Disadvantages: Still requires more setup than Grandfather or Western Styles; Less infusions than Flash Brewing or traditional Gongfu Styles 

Brief Note on Sun Style Brewing 

The idea behind sun style tea is to place tea leaves in a large glass container, fill it with water, and then leave it in direct sunlight to brew for a few hours. There are some things to like about this method, such as the convenience and the idea of preparing it on a warm summer day, but there are some drawbacks as well. 

One, it should be known that Snopes recommends against sun style tea brewing. Part of the problem is that if the water, tea leaves, or glass vessel is contaminated with bacteria, it is theoretically possible that the sun heats the water to a temperature ideal for rapid growth of bacteria. 

Two, this actually produces a much weaker flavor of tea and affords only one infusion of the tea leaves, which means this is the most wasteful method. A large part of the reason for the weaker flavor has to do with solubility, which you can review in our previous post

For those two reasons, I personally recommend against sun tea. 

I hope this series has been helpful in explaining the relationship between tea brewing, tea leaves, and teaware. 

Please share your favorite method in the comments below!


MeiMei Fine Teas
MeiMei Fine Teas

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September 29, 2016

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