Kung Fu tea vs English breakfast tea

Chinese tea setWe have been occasionally asked by surprised customers as why the Chinese teapots and accessories are much smaller in size in comparison to the traditional English teapots.

Tea in China is like wine in the west. The Chinese have had a love affair with their teas for more than two thousand years. After their discovery of this unique beverage, they invented all sorts tea ware and ways to explore and enjoy every aspect of it with all senses, to see, smell and taste.

A famous tea master from the Tang Dynasty, Lu Yi once put down this thumb of rule for tea brewing: Water – natural spring is the best; Fire – charcoal fire has the magic; Tea vessels – small ones are ideal.
Using a small Gong Fu tea set has the following benefits:

  1. Communal. A tea tasting section is often shared by a group, family or friends – great opportunity to chat, discuss or have a laughter. It is on opportunity to deliberately slow down (among the fast pace modern lifestyle) and appreciate some humanity like our ancestors did daily.
  2. Bring the best out of good teas. The Chinese believe the best teas are the ones freshly brewed and freshly served. A small teapot with frequent topping ups and serving minimises the chance of a tea being soaked and over steeped, where a bitter taste and rough texture is often introduced.
  3. Laying out the different layers and aspects of a tea. Premium teas have layers and angles that tea drinkers appreciate and enjoy. We often refer to them as tea tasting than tea drinking, for examples: shape, aroma and colour of dry leaves; aroma, colour, flavour, texture and aftertaste of a tea brew; the characteristics of the wet leaves after their brewing etc.
  4. Over and above, there is one distinctive character of a premium tea that is not talked a lot about, that is different infusions of a same tea have rather different natures in colour, taste and aftertaste. Only using a small teapot with frequent topping ups will allow these to be separated and appreciated individually.

A Gong Fu tea set therefore, apart from its authentic look and ceremonial significance, has also got its functional implications.

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Brewing loose leaf tea: better to learn the principle than step 1-2-3

More and more tea drinkers now are aware that you are in a better chance of getting a descent cup of tea by using whole leaf teas. Many inexperienced tea drinkers are however at loss when it comes to loose leaf tea brewing. 

Some tea suppliers seek to address this by offering step 1-2-3. Although these instructions could get you started if you are completely naïve to loose teas, they however can turn into restriction with time to stop you brewing a ‘real’ pot of premium tea. 

We therefore advocate to learn also the principle. Once this is understood, loose tea brewing is not such a myth really. 

Understanding loose leaf teas

Various teas are made of leaves of various degrees of tenderness (the focus here is of course the premium loose leaf teas):

  • Most of the premium green teas are made of very young and tender tip leaves
  • White teas are ranked according to the levels of the tenderness of the leaves (Silver Needle contains the tip needle leaves only which is the top of the range; White Peony contains the tip leaf plus a couple of leaves below; the lower grades contain more and more mature leaves and less tips etc)
  • Most of the Oolong teas are made of relatively mature leaves
  • Black teas vary, some made of tip leaves and others mature leaves
  • Most of Pu-erh teas are a mixture of both tip and mature leaves, and harvested from tea trees instead of tea shrubs. 

With this understanding, the thumb of rule for tea brewing is: the younger the tea leaves are, the lower the water temperature should be and shorter brewing time required. For example, always use 100oC water for Pu-erh teas, but only about 90oC for green teas. 

The principle of brewing loose leaf teas

The rest are quite simple: 

  • Always rinse the leaves (add hot water for about 5-10 seconds and dispose the water)
  • ½ - 1 minute for the first brew and increasing the brewing time for 30 second with each additional brew. 
  • The tea leaves can be used repeatedly until the flavour is no more: the mature leaf teas last much longer than the young leaf ones, eg some of the Pu-erh teas can be used up to 30 times while most the green teas can only be used for 3-4 times. 
  • Control you preferred tea strength by: the amount the leaves put in and brewing time. 

So, the thing to be avoided is to constrict yourself. Experiment with different tea varieties, the amount of leaves put in and tea brewing time, tea vessels to use etc. You will find your niche of brewing very soon and it is not nearly as hard as some make it out to be. 

Last thing to remember, loose leaf tea is a dynamic drink that what is perfect for someone else may not be even close to be ideal for you. Explore and enjoy the experience of exploring. 

 

 

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Explore the enjoyment of green tea brewing process

I have been asked over and over again: how do you brew PREMIUM loose leaf green teas?

I always start from saying it is much more dynamic than just step one, two and three.

Special natures of green teas

Premium green teas are made of young tender tip leaves, some use single tips only and the others use the tip plus 1-2 leaves below. Apart from all being unfermented (classification of green tea), there are different in every other way: plants, geographic locations and climate conditions and making processes etc. The end results are green teas with different appearances, aroma, tastes and after taste.

How to brew a desirable cup of green tea?

 ne thumb of rule to brew premium green tea is we always recommend using sub-boiling point temperature hot water due to the tenderness of their leaves, around 90oC or just below. A glass tea vessel is ideal for observing, monitoring and enjoying the brewing process.

There are three ways of adding tea leaves to the brewing vessel depending on the nature of the green tea:

  1. add the leaves to the vessel first before adding hot water to it; (bottom infusion)
  2. fill half of the vessel with the hot water, then add the tea leaves before topping up with the other half of the hot water; (half way infusion)
  3. fill the vessel with the hot water before dropping in the tea leaves. (top drop infusion)

Different green teas require or more suitable for one method than the other and the best way to find out is to try them out. Generally speaking, we recommend the top drop for the very young tender leaves and bottom infusion for the more nature leave green teas.

Good quality green tea

A good quality green tea will process the following:

  1. Pure and elegant aroma arising with the steam when in contact with the hot water
  2. Tea leaves descend and ascend after being in contact with the hot water, create a phenomenon some describe as rolling green clouds and others as under water forest (for an experienced tea grader, this is also a great opportunity to evaluate the quality of the tea leaves)
  3. The tea brew starts producing a clear, light and bright yellowy colour drawing out the nutrients and refreshing taste of the green tea
  4. A long lasting, lingering and refreshing after taste. 

Just like everyone has a different taste, various green tea drinkers will find out with time with regard to what tea vessel they prefer to use, how much leaves to put in (even how to add the leaves as described above), what water temperature is best for the green tea they prefer and how long to brew their favourite green tea(s).

In summary, green tea brewing process is to be explored, experimented, enjoyed and perfected. The chart of thermometer for water temperature, spoon for amount of leaves and timer for brewing time is not how you create your desirable cup.

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