Chinese Tea Brewing Guide
Every tea has its own specific way to be brewed, and full instructions for this can be found on the packaging of the tea or on the individual product information pages. However, there are some universal brewing tips for making the perfect pot of Chinese tea.
There are a few factors that will affect the taste of your tea. These include; the water you use, the temperature of the water, your teaware, the length of brewing, how your tea is stored and the accessories used when making your tea.
When asked the ingredients of tea many people will simply answer, well, tea of course! But they are forgetting the other crucial ingredient of water. Water makes up the majority of the tea we drink and so it is vital to use the correct water when making your tea. We recommend that you use either tap water that has been filtered or if you have to use bottled water, it should always be spring water. We do not recommend the use of mineral water when making your tea as the minerals present in it can change the flavour of your tea. The water used must however contain some minerals as water that has been distilled or water that is too soft will also have an adverse affect on the taste. It is always up to your own personal taste which kind of water to use but the types of water that are least likely to affect the flavour of tea and so giving you the most accurate flavour are filtered tap water or spring water.
Another important aspect of the water is the level of oxygen in it. For the perfect brew there must still be some level of oxygen present in the water. To prevent the water from completely losing its oxygen content you must not boil it for too long and never use water that has been boiled more than once.
For each individual tea we recommend that you check the packaging or have a look at our product information pages as these will specify the temperature the water should be for each different tea.
When water is boiling it goes through different stages depending on what temperature it is at. This is because as the water is heated, the particles which normally remain close to each other are given more energy and so begin to move. The level of movement depends on how much energy they have from the heat. The stages are;
Shrimp eyes (about 70-80 ºC) - the first bubbles you will see, they will be tiny pinhead bubbles. Some delicate green and white teas can be brewed at this stage.
Crab eyes - (about 80 ºC) - streams of slightly larger bubbles accompanied by light wisps of steam. Some Chinese green and white teas can be brewed at this stage.
Fish eyes - about 80-90 ºC (175-195 ºF) - larger bubbles the size of fish eyes will be visible along with a greater amount of steam. Heartier green and white teas can be brewed at this stage.
Rope of pearls - about 90-95 ºC (195-205 ºF) - steady streams of large bubbles should be rising to the top of the water. Black tea, darjeeling and oolongs can be brewed at this stage.
Raging torrent - This water looks like rapids in a raging river, it is at this stage that the water can become de-oxygenized so care must be taken to not let this happen. Pu Erh tea can be brewed at this stage.
People in China often use the bubble system instead of a thermometer. If you can not control that temperature of your water with your kettle, you can boil it and let it cool to the desired temperature.
As well as water temperature it is also vital that the teapot has been warmed before the addition of the tea leaves. To do this simply pour the boiling water into the teapot and leave to heat while the rest of the boiling water cools to the desired temperature. Remember to discard the water before adding the tea leaves and cooled water to the teapot. It may be important to add at this point that you always add the tea leaves to the warmed teapot before the water except in the case of Bi Lou Chun when water is added first.
There are a number of different types of teapot that can be used. Each type of teapot has its own individual advantages.
Clay teapots are most commonly used for black, oolong or even pu erh tea. Due to their porous nature, these tea pots will absorb tiny amounts of the tea each time you brew it and it is therefore important to choose only one type of tea to brew in your clay tea pot. Over time the teapot will take in the flavour and smell of the tea you are brewing and will, after prolonged use, form a rich patina on the interior of the teapot that will enhance the taste, colour and aroma of your tea. This patina can also be formed on the outside of the teapot by pouring the first brew of the tea (which is often discarded anyway) over the exterior of the teapot. Clay teapots must never be washed using soap as the chemicals will be absorbed having a negative effect on the flavour of the tea. To wash the teapot you can use the final brew from the tea that will be too weak to drink and boiling water.
For these reasons, clay teapots are best used by those who know and love Chinese tea. As it is best practise to only use one clay teapot for one type of tea, they should only be purchased with this in mind. If you have a favourite tea that you regularly enjoy, this experience will be enhanced by the purchase of a clay teapot. If however you are new to the world of Chinese tea and would like to experiment by trying a wide variety of teas or if you enjoy picking which tea to drink depending on your mood then you might prefer a glass or ceramic teapot.
As far as beauty goes, the clay teapot has this one covered. They are seen as pieces of art in their own right and are beautifully crafted. It is tempting to simply purchase one just to display.
A glass teapot will not absorb any of the flavours from the tea brewed in it. It is therefore the perfect teapot for people who brew many different types of tea. The glass teapot is also aesthetically pleasing as you can watch the tea brew and the water change colour. This leads to another benefit to the glass teapot. When you become familiar with your tea you can judge by the colour of the brew if it is ready to be poured.
The glass teapot may also be preferred over a clay one as there is a lot less groundwork that needs to go into the preparation of the teapot. Glass teapots are ready to use immediately although it may be a good idea to rinse out once with boiling water. A clay teapot however requires quite a lot of work to ensure it is ready to make the perfect brew. The process is known as cultivation. To begin with the teapot will need to be seeped in boiling water, after this has been boiling for 30 - 40 minutes tea leaves of any description must be added and the water, tea leaves and teapot to be re-boiled for another hour. After this it must be allowed to be air dried. It has also been recommended that you should only use your clay teapot as a, “gong-dao” (justice) pot where tea is poured into it first before being poured into the cups for three months before fully utilising it as your teapot.
The main advantage of using a ceramic teapot is that it will retain heat for a long time without getting so hot that it cannot be held. Although it is a nice idea to be able to see the tea brewing through a glass teapot, glass will not keep your tea as hot as in a ceramic pot, and a warmer may be required. Ceramic like glass, does not retain any scent of the tea, as long as it is properly washed out before brewing a different type.
The length of time tea should be brewed for depends on these contributing factors; the quantity of tea leaves, the temperature of the water, type of tea used and personal taste. It is good practice to experiment with different brewing times by using a tea egg (tea filter) which enables you to remove the tea leaves and replace them if the tea has not brewed for a long enough time.
It is not a coincidence that all of our tea is packaged in sealed opaque bags and stored in tins. For tea leaves to remain at their best they must not be exposed to air, water or sunlight. For this reason, keep your Lu Lin tea in the tin tea caddy it was sent in and store in a cool dry place. Preferably somewhere easy to access so you always have your favourite tea at hand!
Unlike most other teas, Pu Erh tea should not be stored in an airtight container. This is because Pu Erh tea is an aged tea and so live and active bacteria and mould cultures are present in the tea (similar to some cheese and wine). The tea should be stored in a cool, dark area with good air flow. They must be kept away from other aromas as Pu Erh tea can absorb these and this will have an effect on the flavour.
We offer a selection of tea accessory products. These are used to aid in tea preparation. The sets include;
A scoop - this means that you do not have to touch the tea leaves as the oil on your hands could affect the flavour of the tea,
Tongs - these are for picking up the tea cups. This is part of the Chinese tradition of tea making,
Scraper - to help move the tealeaves around the pot and for getting the leaves out of the pot once the tea has been finished,
Filter - this can be used in place of a tea egg to stop tea leaves from getting into the cup.
Gong Fu Cha
Gong Fu Cha is a way of preparing and serving tea that originates from the Fujian province of China. The ritual has many stages that must be followed in order for it to be considered Gong Fu Cha. Although some believe that as long as there is an appreciation of the aroma and flavour of the tea then Gong Fu Cha has been achieved. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that without the appreciation, the other stages of Gong Fu Cha are somewhat pointless.
To begin with the tea is prepared. This is done by warming the cups and teapot by pouring boiling water over them. Next the tea is examined. You then fill the teapot with tea and rinse the leaves from a great height above the teapot. Any debris or bubbles from the surface of the tea must be removed which can be done so using the lid of the teapot. Now the tea can either be allowed to brew for a short time or not depending on preference but the water must then be poured into the cups but not drunk, this ensures the cups are still warm. You now refill the pot with water this time from a lower height (the difference in height can be explained using the term ‘high to rinse, low to pour,’ the purpose of the height when rinsing the tea is so that the force of the water will help to clean the tea whereas this is not a desired outcome when pouring the water to brew the tea and so it is therefore poured from a lower height).
Again, remove the bubbles with the lid. Before serving the tea you must pour out the first brew of tea and this can be poured onto the exterior of the tea pot. The tea is then poured into pitcher and then into the guest’s cup, this ensures that the tea is brewed an even amount, and each cup of tea tastes the same. To pass the cups it is common for a set of tongs to be used.
At the end of the ceremony the used leaves can be placed in a bowl for the guest to examine and compliment. To wash up after the ceremony all utensils will be sterilised in boiling water. No soap should be used to wash the teapot or cups and they should be allowed to dry naturally.