To help you out on your way to a better cup of tea, we wanted to list some of the styles of brewing that are prevalent or that we ourselves practice. This list isn't a complete guide on all styles. It also isn't a guide on how to practice each style. If you already have a brewing style that you are happy with, don't feel obligated to change. We do want to have more people drinking tea, but you are also free to do what you want.
Everyone knows what a teabag is and how to use it. Put it in a mug, let it steep and get it out. Normally lower quality leaves are put in them and they are single use. Getting a reusable tea infused is a better option. Now you can use whole leaf tea and get more infusions.
This is an old style of brewing tea. Hence the name grandpa style. You put the whole leaves into a mug and add hot water. The leaves will sink to the bottom (If you have the right type of tea) and you can start drinking. After the mug is about half full, you fill it up with water again. This makes sure the tea doesn't get too weak because you don't drink the stronger infused bottom half. This style is great for having a casual cup of tea. It does however steep the tea continually. This will make the tea not last as long as it could in other styles. You also need the right kind of tea that will sink to the bottom.
In this method you need to have a bowl without handles. We sell bowls that are made specifically for tea ceremonies here. But you don't need a special bowl (although it is nice) to start using this method. You probably have something in your house right now that you could use for leaves in a bowl tea. An ideal bowl would be about 12cm in diameter and have a standring to keep your hands from getting hot.
Making tea 'leaves in a bowl' style is very easy. Add leaves(you could even use a teabag!) to your bowl, add hot water and you are done. This method has the same downfalls that grandpa style has. You need leaves that sink to the bottom and the leaves won't last as long as the next few styles.
With this method you use the same type of bowls we used with leaves in a bowl but now we add something extra. A sidehandle tea pot. In this pot we will put the leaves, add hot water, let it steep and pour it into our bowls. This has multiple benefits. We now can use leaves that float to the surface. And we let the tea rest between infusion, thus it will last longer.
Gong fu isn't just a martial art, gong fu actually means (loosely translated) to do something with skill and dedication. So it is doing tea with skill and dedication. This methods aim is to create the perfect cup of tea. In bowl tea (leaves in a bowl and sidehandle) one can have bowls or pots that are not ideal but are nice to look at. Gong fu favours function over beauty.
We will make now a distinction between mainstream gong fu and gong fu that is taught to me.
If you ever go to China, you will see a lot of people use a tray, a gaiwan (this is a lidded cup) and tiny cups. This is what we would call (for the sake of having a distinction) mainstream gong fu. While there is nothing wrong with doing tea this way, using the right kind of teaware is a part of 'doing tea with skill and dedication'. Using gaiwans and just about any cup is less that ideal. Tough we think it has a place. To start with gong fu brewing the right way would require hundreds of euro's. Getting started with mainstream gong fu could be done for a fraction of the costs.
Gong fu uses the right kind of teaware, form, mind and a lot more. This is a big topic so I'll be brief about it (I also still have a lot to learn). Gong fu uses a REAL yixing pot (topic for another day), antique gong fu cups, an antique plate, a good kettle etc. Now we are brewing tea with skill and dedication.
Boiling is where you take a big pot, add leaves and hot water and let it simmer over a heat source for a time. This will get out more of the yumminess of the tea. Some teas do not respond well to this, some seem almost made to be brewed this way.
Big shoutouts to the Global tea hut (www.globalteahut.org) for providing a lot of inspiration and teachings. If you haven't subscribed yet, it is wonderful!