by kate on March 2nd, 2012
During our week of Gong Fu focus, I have found myself starting to aim for ‘good Gong Fu’ as a personal skill. Having spent hours watching Gong Fu tea ceremonies and instructional videos on YouTube, I thought it was time to really get to grips with the art of Gong Fu – more specifically – the gaiwan.
Ah, the gaiwan. Looks so simple to use but beneath its shiny white surface lies a world of pain. At least, this was my previous experience (flashback to a rainy trade show and me attempting to brew cup after cup of Tie Guan Yin oolong for a thirsty crowd using only one gaiwan and two decidedly non asbestos-like hands). But this week I have been volunteering to make the tea more often so I can practice using one. I am determined to master the art.
My first attempts to get ‘good Gong Fu’ mainly consisted of totally uncoordinated tea making, spillages, near misses with ceramics and some rather colourful language as I constantly burned my fingers and my colleagues (*cough* Dan *cough*) chuckled at me. They didn’t complain when I poured them the tea though… that’s because Gong Fu brewing really does get the best flavour from the leaves.
I’d like to say that I experimented with precise brewing times and weight of tea leaves. But I have to confess that I didn’t – I went with my instinct. I generally just put more leaves in the gaiwan and I brewed the tea quickly – and that seemed to do the job. I got caught out a few times and over-brewed the tea, it took me a while to figure out that even with a tea that isn’t Puerh, you can brew for as little as 10 seconds and still get an amazingly tasty infusion because of the large amount of leaves being infused in a small amount of water. You might think, as I did, that using more leaves and less water is an expensive way to drink tea. But instead of using a small amount of leaves and getting 2-3 infusions, I have found that the Gong Fu method allows for at least 5 infusions if not 7 of gloriously flavoursome tea. One evening after work, I infused Oriental Beauty 8 times. It was a revelation (and it resulted in a surprisingly clean house).
Having spent a couple of weeks battling with the gaiwan, I’ve realised that brewing whole leaf tea perfectly Gong Fu style without the burns, breakages, spills and bad language, is an art that can take years to learn. But the whole experience of brewing tea in a gaiwan is one not to miss out on. I’m definitely a Gong Fu convert, and while I can’t decisively say that I have ‘good Gong Fu’ just yet, I’ll keep practising. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll be as good as this guy.
For a detailed but simple explanation of brewing tea in a gaiwan, watch this video in our tea school.
This week I have been mostly brewing these teas Gong Fu style:
Superior Dragon Well – The mid-afternoon pick-me-up green tea
Mi Lan Dan Cong – Best brewed Gong Fu style to fully appreciate the honey and floral notes
Oriental Beauty – Stands up to multiple Gong Fu infusions with the flavour developing from citrus to floral
Anji Bai Cha – Amazingly light and refreshing green tea
Aged Tie Guan Yin – The toasty aroma of this heavily roasted Oolong lingers beautifully on the gaiwan lid
If your burning yourself which gaiwaning Anji Bai Cha something Is SERIOUSLY Wrong. If you cant stand to have your whole hand in the water used to make ABC then its FAR FAR FAR too hot!. Seriously, for ABC dont even consider water over 55-60c, greens are delicate at best, ABC needs particular love and care :)
Hi Dorian, well done for noticing that I mentioned ABC and burning my hands - but don't worry, we do brew that tea cool. The burns happened with teas brewed over 80 degrees: especially Mi Lan Dan Cong - ouch!