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Introduction: How To Make Tea Using Gong Fu Cha

(Excerpt from our guide Gong Fu Cha - The Complete Guide To Making Chinese Tea by Daniel Lui)

Making tea is essentially the process of breaking down the cell structure of tea leaves to release their flavour. Gong Fu Cha (Tea with Great Skill) is the traditional Chinese method of doing this in a very controlled way to get the maximum flavour consistently for the maximum number of brews.

Step One - Warm The Teapot, Sterilize The Teacups And Strainer

Warm up the teapot by filling with boiling water and allowing to sit.  This will reduce temperature shift inside the teapot which can affect the flavour of tea. Pour boiling water on the strainer and fill the teacups to sterilize and warm them. Remember, you are serving “food” so you should practice good food handling technique. This is a courtesy to your guests and they will appreciate the care you take for their enjoyment and pleasure. Otherwise, always keep your tea making area and equipment scrupulously clean. Your equipment should also be organized so things are where you expect them to be when you reach for them. This improves your technique and cuts down on accidents and breakage.

Step Two - Rinse The Tea Leaves

Empty the teapot of the warming water, place the measured amount of tea (per the guidelines above) in the teapot and fill with the proper temperature water, allowing the water to overflow the top of the teapot until the bubbles disappear and the water runs clear. Replace the lid and immediately pour off the water (or longer if using compressed tea), then tilt the lid slightly open on the teapot. This tilting allows the heat in the teapot to escape and not “cook” the leaves, but retain their aroma.

Step Three - First Brew

For beginners, I recommend pouring the tea from the teapot into a small pitcher (or any glass or porcelain cup with a lid) before serving the tea in teacups. You'll see, this makes everything easier at the beginning.

Fill the teapot until the water overflows the top. Place the lid on the teapot and count 6 seconds (or whatever time scale you are using) while slowly pouring a little hot water over the teapot for few seconds which ensures an even brewing temperature inside the teapot.  At the end of the count, pour the tea into the pitcher, place the lid on the pitcher and tilt the lid on the teapot. Empty the teacups (using the tongs of course so as not to touch them) and serve the tea.

Step Four  - Additional Brews

      Repeat Step Three following the proper brew times until you have finished brewing the tea.

Step Five - Finishing Up

Remove the leaves and rinse your teapot and lid with hot water and place in the open air with the lid off to allow to dry. Tea is best made with a dry pot and this also allows the oils to set in the clay.  Rinse the rest of your tools and allow to air dry.

If you find that the tea you have been making might still have some brews left when you finish, you can keep the leaves right in the teapot with the lid closed for up to 12 hours.  Any longer might create moulding which could get into the clay and ruin the teapot. When you're ready to make more tea, just pick up where you left off. The first brew time can be a couple seconds less than what it might normally be since the tea concentrates somewhat while it has been sitting.

Congratulations, you are now ready to move on to a more advanced level…

For a full discussion on Chinese Gong Fu Cha (Tea With Great Skill) technique, read our guide Gong Fu Cha - The Complete Guide To Making Chinese Tea by Daniel Lui.

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