Thursday, December 06, 2012

Gong Fu Brewing in a Bowl

Question from reader:  "I'm a newbie.  I have a little clay teapot, but nothing else.  Can I still brew in Gong Fu style?" 

Steph's thoughts:  Yes!  For me, the spirit of tea is about humbleness and simplicity.  I love all the special tools and pretty accessories that surround tea brewing, but they are collections.  Making a good pot of tea requires very little.  In truth, sometimes the other stuff gets in the way.  

Gong Fu brewing can be done very simply.  In the picture above, I've taken a bowl from the cupboard.  Into that I've placed a small glass container to use as a rest for the the teapot.  (This is not necessary.  I did this because my bowl is very deep.)  Simple Gong Fu brewing in five steps:

  1. Warm.  Fill the teapot with hot water.  Put on the lid and then pour water over the pot.  The bowl catches the runoff.  Also warm your teacups and, if using, your serving vessel. 
  2. Add tea.  Pour off the hot water from the teapot and add your tea.  Put on the lid, wiggle in your hands, then lift the lid and enjoy the aroma.
  3. Rinse.  Now add hot water.  Many people prefer a quick rinse of the leaf, so after a very few seconds, pour this off.  (You could use this rinse water to warm your teacups if you haven't yet.)
  4. Brew.  Pour more hot water over your leaves.  This is your first brew, and it will be very short because in Gong Fu brewing, you use a high ratio of dry leaf to water.  Between 30 seconds and 1 minute, typically, depending on your tea.  While the tea is steeping, pour off the water in your teacups and serving vessel.
  5. Serve.  If desired, decant the tea into the serving vessel.  Pour into the cups.  Enjoy and repeat for several brews!
Here's the actual setup I used with a friend.  I have an extra bowl (also from the cupboard) because we went through several pots and I needed the extra waste water capacity.  The remaining items are fun and beautiful additions.  They aren't necessary to brew the tea well.  The utensils in the upper right include tongs for handling the teacups, a scoop for the tea, etc.  On the right is a little serving pitcher.  A creamer works just fine.  The brush can be used to sweep the dry leaf into the pot and to bathe the clay teapot with hot water as you brew.  

The key message: Making tea is a humble pursuit and requires very little.  All the extra stuff is for fun, but not necessary. Does this ring true for you?  Or, how does tea foster simplicity in your life?    


Steph said...

I want to also mention that with yixying pots (little clay pots), it's important to NOT use soap to wash. It's clingy to the porous surfaces. When I prepare a new teapot, I bathe the pot in boiling water several times.

Also, it's best to dedicate an yixying pot to a particular type of tea. It will absorb the essence of that tea over time. Whether you can truly brew tea from an old pot without leaf is a bit of a question, but certainly a well seasoned pot from a dark tea would change the flavor of a lighter tea brewed in it.

Teafan said...

I love this post! I had never thought to use a bowl. Now I have something to try. thank you

La Tea Dah said...

Your photos are beautiful! This evening I was going through my WuWo Ceremony photos from July. It was such a highlight for me. Although the ceremony --- and your home brewing description --- are simple, I am still learning and I think I make it too complicated yet. I suppose it simply involves unlearning and allowing new in.

Marilyn Miller said...

Beautiful, Stephanie! I do love the simplicity of this style of having tea. You have explained it just perfectly. The simpler the better for me because in the end what is so special is just holding that cup in my hands, smelling the aroma, and tasting. When done with a friend it is even more special.

Angela McRae said...

In quieter moments, I enjoy using extra utensils, strainers, infusers, etc. During my "busy" seasons (of work, of life) I tend to go with good teabags or a simple infuser basket. But you are right about how it really doesn't require a whole lot to enjoy a simple cup of tea!

The Teaist said...

Hi Steph,

I've decided to feature this post as part of my weekly link-up. Just so you know :)
You can find the post here:

All the best!

Kaleo Indigo said...

Groovy Blog Page Stephanie!
You reminded me of my brush I bought to bath the tea pot, Thanks!

relevanttealeaf said...

Such an informative post. Can you believe I have never done Gong Fu brewing myself, but I've had it prepared by others. I think I better get myself up to speed!