I’m shifting the focus on this blog right now to what it was always supposed to be, educating and helping beginners in the tea world with the basics. I think reviews are useful, but the important thing is learning how to approach tea, and then going with you enjoy after that, and NOT what somebody else enjoys (which is essentially what a review tells you). I think beginners tend to lean towards green tea due to its worldwide popularity so I’ll start here.
Green tea is my all-day-every-day drink of choice, even though it can be a little expensive. The reason for this is the simplicity in the first and most frequent brewing method I use. I believe the name was coined by MarshalN (marshaln.com) and reflects the fact that in China, old men (grandpa’s) just lob some tea leaves into a mug, add hot water and drink. In general this method (esp. bowl tea) is the oldest and simplest brewing method.
What You’ll Need
Heat-tempered glass (or strong glass equivalent)
Fairness cup, jug or equivalent
Boiling water from the kettle
Hot water from a thermos
Good quality green tea leaves
Boil the kettle and pour the water into the fairness cup, jug or equivalent and allow it to cool. In the mean time, put some green tea leaves into the bottom of your glass (I usually cover the bottom of the glass with a few layers, max 0.5 – 1 cm high). When the water reaches about 85o C pour into the glass along the edge, and when it is about half full pour directly into the centre of the liquid until the glass is 3/4 full. The water will cool about 10o C entering the room temperature glass giving you a brew of about 75o C. Now pour water from the boiled kettle into a non-preheated thermos flask and cap. Enjoy your green tea when it is cool enjoy to drink, and continuously refill the glass with water from the thermos when it gets about 1/4 full (or cools down too much).
This method works very well with longjing (dragonwell) green tea because it ordinarily won’t get bitter. In general a good quality fresh green tea will work using this method, and can usually be enjoyed for hours with continuous refilling. Starting water temperature is crucial, and you should never allow the water level to drop below the leaves themselves. I find the tea becomes quite sweet after the third or fourth addition of hot water.
You can also enjoy this method using a teacup, mug or bowl. Using a bowl allows you to enjoy ‘bowl tea’, which can be very relaxing when you sit alone with music (or in silence) focusing on the tea.
Gongfu is a term thrown around in the tea world, and many traditionalists would dispute its use at times. When I say gongfu style, it is just that, a style, and not necessarily the traditional practice. I’ve heard others refer to it as ‘Eastern’ style, so what ever floats your boat.
I rarely brew green tea in this manner, simply because the intensity of flavour, the range of flavour and the length of the session don’t really do it for me, but it can be enjoyable.
What You’ll Need
Small (60 – 120 mL) gaiwan/teapot
Hot water from the kettle/thermos
Fairness cup, jug or equivalent (optional)
Good quality green tea leaves
Boil the kettle to a light boil (if it goes rolling boil that’s ok) and pour some water into your brewing vessel. Pour from this into the cups and add the green tea leaves to the vessel (1/3 – 1/2 full). Pour the water from the cups into the vessel (you want the water to be 70o – 80o C). You can place the lid on top if you wish, but I like to admire the leaves as they open, and also prevent heat retention by leaving it off. There is no need to rinse the leaves, just allow them to infuse for about 20 – 30 secs and pour into the cups. Adjust your timing to taste from then on. Remember, if you don’t rinse the leaves, then a 20 secs second steeping will be stronger than a 20 secs first steeping. I typically use a fairness cup to cool the water for the subsequent steepings, but if you have the patience then you can just use your drinking cups and wait. Increase the water temperature as the session goes on (maybe from steep 3 onwards, until you get fed up).
Green tea won’t last long with this method, and personally I don’t think it provides the depth of flavour needed to make it worthwhile, but I always encourage trying it for yourself, everyone is different!
There are other methods to brew green tea (Western style and cold brewing for example) and I might include them in the future, but right now I don’t brew green tea like that so it would be useless advice!
Overall I think grandpa style was made for green tea, and if you go to China you will see people walking around with flasks of green tea being steeped this way. It will last a long time, it will show off a good green tea and it is very enjoyable. However, one of the most important aspects of tea preparation is experimentation, so try the different methods, compare and contrast the flavours and sensations you get drinking the tea and decide what works for you!
Another important thing to mention is that my recommended parameters aren’t going to work all the time. All tea is different, and one longjing might come out perfect the way I suggested above, but another might need an extra jolt of heat, extra time etc… So when you get a new tea, start off brewing it in a way that you find “usually” works, and adjust based on taste. Have fun experimenting with temperature, timing and volume, and most importantly, happy brewing!