Seeing for the first time tea brewed with a bowl and spoon might come as a surprise to tea enthusiasts who are fans of the Chinese tea ceremony - gong fu cha. It is a popular brewing method in Taiwan, used for brewing green teas and oolongs.
When traveling throughout Taiwan, you may be surprised to see tea brewed in a bowl with a spoon. It is the preferred brewing method throughout tea shops and tea farms alike. The more formal gong fu cha method may be used for tea ceremonies, while the honest bowl and spoon are used for daily tastings and sips.
In fact, the uncovered tea bowl is an ancestor of the gaiwan. Tea bowls were widespread tea utensils throughout the Tang and Song Dynasties (618-1279), until the gaiwan was invented.
For Brewing Loose Leaf Tea With a Bowl and Spoon, You'll Need:
- A white porcelain about the size and shape of a rice bowl)
- A porcelain soup spoon
- A white porcelain teacup
White porcelain is used because it's one of the most neutral materials for tea tastings. It doesn't impart a taste of its own or dim or subdue the taste of the tea. It's ideal to use with light teas and teas that you are trying for the first time. The color white is important for us to observe the beauty of the tea liquid and the unfurling tea leaves. Other colors can also be chosen in accordance with the tea. For example, a light jade or green tea bowl will make green teas look more vivid and delicious. Read more.
How To Brew Tea With a Bowl and Spoon
To brew your loose leaf tea with a bowl and spoon, follow these simple steps:
- Preheat your tea bowl with hot water
- Measure the amount of tea leaves needed
- Pour water into the bowl from a high angle, quickly. This will cool it down and produce a light foam
- Use the spoon to remove the foam, revealing the beautiful light tea
- Use the spoon to transfer the tea brew into your teacup and taste the tea
- Repeat until the tea brew is finished, adding more water to the bowl (just like grandpa-style tea)
*For the subsequent brews, you can pour the water in at a lower angle and slower.
- You can smell the spoon after each brew. It will nicely retain the aroma of the tea.
This way of brewing tea is a good method of tasting the different stages of the same tea brew and is often used by tea farmers to gauge the optimal length of the tea brew.
Since the tea bowl has a wide opening and no tea lid, it will surely cool down faster. That's one reason why we usually only brew light teas (green, white, yellow) in the tea bowls. Darker teas like pu-erh and hong cha may not have the adequate heat to fully open up to us.
When brewing teas with a bowl and spoon, it's better to stick to curled teas versus rolled ones. Although in Taiwan, light rolled oolongs like Alishan Oolong are also commonly brewed using this method. For rolled oolongs, you may want to whirlpool them inside of the tea bowl with the help of the spoon. This will nudge them to open up. It's important to note that a porcelain or glazed ceramic bowl with thicker walls is best. That way, the water won't cool down as fast.
Brewing loose leaf teas with the tea bowl and spoon is a tranquil experience both for solo tea meditations and tea gatherings with friends. Unlike during traditional gong fu cha, everyone can experience seeing the tea leaves slowly dancing against the background of the white tea bowl. Their shape, size, and unfurling tendencies become apparent. It's a delightful treat to watch the tea open up in front of you. Then, everyone gets scooped a portion of tea into their individual teacup.
Try brewing your teas using a bowl and spoon and compare to other methods of tea brewing. Take notes. The teas are always far more gentle and have a pronounced sweetness like no other, in our experience. It's a sure way of enjoying tea, connecting to the tea leaves and their journey. Up until the final sip!