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How to Brew Tea (Gong Fu Cha)


Pin Cha is a traditional Chinese method of brewing tea. It makes tea drinking a wholesome process allowing you to either concentrate on tea and conversation or immerse in thoughts and the tea brewing process. Let's take a closer look at how to brew tea step-by-step:

1. Start off by selecting the tea you would like to brew, this will also determine the choice of teaware. You will need approximately 7 grams of tea for one brewing session. Place the tea into a Cha He - a piece of teaware used to “get acquainted” with the tea before starting to brew it.

2. Prepare the water. Depending on your choice of tea, you will need to heat up the water to a certain temperature. You can use the following rule of thumb to guide you: the lighter the tea, the lower the water temperature. For White and Green tea 70-80°C is the perfect temperature, for Light Oolongs – 80-90°C, for Dark Oolongs – 85-95°C, for Puerhs and Hei Cha – 90-100°C. As for Black Tea, water temperature depends on the quantity of buds and the degree of fermentation, but the same rule of thumb comes into play here as well: the lighter the tea, the lower the temperature. For Black tea temperature can range from 85°C to 100°C.

3. Now it is time to select the teaware. A complete set includes a tea tray (Chaban), a teapot or Gaiwan, tea cups, a Cha He and a Cha Hai. If you have a standard set for drinking tea in steeps made from porcelain or ceramics you can generally use it for any type of tea. But if you would like to select teaware for a specific tea, here are some basic principles which can help you make the right choice: most light teas best “open up” in porcelain teaware. If you are drinking a dark tea  an Yixing clay teapot would be the best choice as it has the necessary thermodynamics for brewing such tea. Also Yixing teapots accumulate essential oils over time which adds an extra touch to the taste of the tea. Often tea enthusiasts have a separate teapot for every type of tea because the shape and properties of a specific teapot cater to the needs of a specific tea type.

4. Once you are all set with the tea, water and teaware you can start the actual tea session. Begin by “getting acquainted” with the tea. To do this, take the Cha He with the tea inside it and breathe in its fragrance calmly and slowly: inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale. By doing this you will be able to enjoy the aroma of the dry tea leaves. Then pass the Cha He to the person sitting next to you.

5. Make sure to preheat and rinse the teaware. The first thing you need to do is pour some water into the teapot or gaiwan. Then pour the water from the teapot or gaiwan into the Cha Hai and then into the tea cups. After this, pour the water from the tea cups onto the tea tray. Preheating is very important as it gradually warms up the tea preventing it from getting burnt.

6. Place the tea into the teapot or gaiwan. Now that the leaves have been warmed up you can enjoy their fragrance right from the teapot or Gaiwan. Pour water into the teapot or Gaiwan and pour the first brew into the Cha Hai, then from the Cha Hai into the cups. Now, just like in the previous step, pour the tea from the cups onto the tea tray. This is done because a lot of the times the first steep may presents little value or it may be used to cleanse the tea before actually drinking it (as it is done with Puerh teas, for example).

7, This is the last step. Pour water into the teapot or gaiwan, steep the tea for 5-10 seconds, then pour it into the Cha Hai and then from the Cha Hai into the tea cups. Now you can drink the tea! For every consecutive steep increase the steeping time by 10 seconds. Generally you can steep a tea from 6 to 10 times depending on the type of tea and the quantity.

Don’t worry if something doesn’t go right the first few times. Don’t give up and keep on brewing. As time goes by you will begin to understand how much steeping time a certain type of tea requires and what water bests suits each tea type.

Happy brewing!