There are many ways of making a delicious cup of quality loose leaf tea. Luckily for us, the methods required to brew the perfect cup have been meticulously studied over the past centuries. Listed below are the 5 main methods of brewing loose leaf teas.
1. Gong Fu Cha
Gong fu cha is the traditional Chinese tea ceremony. Concentrated amounts of tea leaf brew in small vessels for a short period. Depending on the tea, the same tea leaves will usually be re-steeped over ten times.
Literally translated, gong fu cha means "making tea with skill".
When buying Chinese teas or visiting a traditional Chinese tea house, we will usually be offered tea prepared in this style. Gong Fu Cha is easy to master and, with the right teaware, can readily be enjoyed anywhere from home, work, even outdoors.
Gong Fu style tea shows itself gradually, step by step. No cup of tea is the same. With each brew, we experience new tastes and aromas. Gong Fu Cha is a slow journey filled with discovery and tranquility.
When trying a tea for the first time, we will always opt for the gongfu brewing method.
2. Western Style
Western style is perhaps the easiest method of preparing tea. Western tea brewing requires just one big teapot, unlike the many tea utensils, as are necessary for gong fu brewing.
Western style is preferred over tea bags because it allows for the tea leaves to expand naturally, providing us with an exceptionally aromatic and flavorful brew.
If you didn't grow up drinking gong fu style tea, western style is probably the first tea brewing method you were acquainted with. In fact, it is how most cafes and households will brew their tea.
Some seasoned tea drinkers argue that there are teas that taste better western-style than they do the traditional gong fu way. Try drinking the same tea both ways and see for yourself! There is nothing better than personal experience to discover a particularly preferred brewing method.
In any case, brewing tea in a bigger teapot is definitely a great option for brewing tea for family or friends, when you are short on time for a gong fu style tea ceremony.
3. Grandpa Style
When brewing tea grandpa style, instead of using a gaiwan or teapot for the tea, it is brewed in a big cup. No strainers or teabags are used either. Instead, the tea leaves are put directly into the cup and covered with hot water. Having the perfect leaf ratio or water temperature is not at all crucial.
After anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes (timing is also not as important), drink the tea without dumping the tea leaf. When about 1/3 of the cup is left, you add more water. Continue until you feel the taste is becoming too weak or perhaps until you've become tea drunk!
The name "grandpa style" comes from its literal origin, as it is common to see older citizens drinking tea this way while relaxing or chatting with friends.
Tea enthusiasts, when traveling to China for the first time and expecting an authentic tea experience, might be surprised that many locals prefer to drink tea grandpa style. No doubt, this can also be considered authentic!
Grandpa style is also a good choice for when you don't have the time for a full traditional tea ceremony, or perhaps you're on the go or at work.
Boiling tea leaves is the most ancient method of making tea.
Back in the Tang Dynasty (618 to 907), when tea culture was gradually at its rise, tea leaves were boiled for prolonged periods. Sometimes they were cooked together with different spices. Different kinds of herbs, roots, fruits, and even chili and scallions weren't uncommon accompaniments to tea leaves.
Tea boiling ceremonies last as long as gong fu tea ceremonies, and often even longer. Usually, they can last up to 3 hours. As the boiling method gradually extracts more from the tea leaves, it is possible to enjoy them for a longer time. The tea reaches its best taste after about an hour of the tea ceremony. Especially so in the case of hei cha and pu-erh, this is when the tea becomes exceptionally sweet and smooth.
Pu-erh, hei cha, certain types of oolong, as well as aged white teas, can withstand a boil and are commonly enjoyed this way. Green and black teas, on the other hand, tend to become too astringent when boiled; thus, we do not recommend it.
5. Cold Brew Tea
Cold-brewing requires us to pour cold water over tea leaves and leave it in the fridge for several hours to steep. This method of preparing tea requires the most patience. However, we guarantee it is worth it, especially when the temperature starts rising.
When making cold brew tea, not as many catechins are extracted (these are what may cause bitterness). We are left with a sweet, flavorful, clean-tasting brew. Besides, it retains more antioxidants!
Cold brews are also known to have less caffeine as the cold water doesn't extract as much caffeine as does hot water.
Japanese teas, in particular, are our favorites when we're in the mood for a nice cold-brew! Cold-brews do require some initial patience. But after preparing some in advance, we end up with a good supply of flavorful cold tea for those hot summer days!
In conclusion, although we personally prefer to brew most of our teas gong fu style, we always recommend experimenting. No doubt, different teas favor best from different brewing methods, teaware, and temperatures. When receiving a new batch of loose leaf tea, we recommend starting off by brewing it the gongfu way. Allow yourself the time to be with the tea, getting acquainted with its many layers.
Sometimes a tea may actually benefit from a different style of brewing, in which case feel free to experiment!
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