Wednesday, March 02, 2016
Gaiwan Tea Brewing
I am often asked how long I brew my teas for. To be honest, I don't time myself. I only time my tea brewing is when I am brewing teas for initial tastings or comparison using the competition brewing set.
However, I understand the curiosity or frustration with using a Yixing tea pot or Gaiwan for the first time. I remember when I brewed Gongfu style tea the first few times and my tea didn't taste right. I had friends who would brew the same teas, and what they brewed tasted better. When I asked them how they did it, they always looked at me a bit puzzled and told me to use my feeling and intuition.
That's pretty vague, right? Feelings? What kind? I decided to watch them whenever I had a chance to watch people brewing tea. I discovered experienced tea people have developed their feelings and intuition so that brewing tea has become natural for them. They feel the tea. It's like a beautiful dance between tea leaves and the brewers. It's like the person who brews tea has a thougtful conversation with the leaves.
This can sound fu-fu. If you have been doing something well for a long time, like cooking, brewing your own beer, making kombucha etc., you will probably know what I am talking about. You build a very good sense of how you are going to tranform the ingredients into something delicious. You simply know when it's ready for the next step.
However, we don't start by being perfect. We try and make mistakes even when we follow the recipes. I encourage you to be open to making mistakes when you start to do Gongfu tea. If you can watch an experienced tea person brew tea, that might be the best way to learn how to brew tea.
If you have to measure the amounts of leaves, water temperature, and time yourself, do that. But please don't follow any brewing instructions like they are laws. You can follow them the first couple of times to get used to brewing tea in a gaiwan or yixing tea pot, but go out of that box and see what you might discover.
With that being said, it's still difficult if you are new to this. So in my next couple of posts, I will let you know what my brewing times are with some of the teas, with the help of a friend who secretly timed me.
*photography by Douglas King.