Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Gongfu Cha brewing: lesson 2, the ingredients

The 3 ingredients we need are:

1. Tea: any tea can be prepared with the gongfu cha method. Of course, fine Chinese whole leave teas are perfect for gongfu cha, but you could even use a plain tea bag! The goal of gongfu cha is, for a given tea, to find the best parameters to brew the best possible cup of tea with it.

2. Water: Tea is 99% water. So you better choose your water very carefully. A good way to start learning about tea is to blind test several waters (mineral, purified, tap...) you consider using for your tea. Find out by yourself which one slips most easily down your mouth and has a mellow, but neutral taste.

3. Fire: Heat lets the leaves release their flavors faster. A 100 degree Celcius brewed tea will release twice as many molecules as when brewed at 80 degrees C. That's the reason why Lu yu and Teaparker recommend to always use water that has reached the boiling point for a short period of time. Best is to cook the water at medium speed in order to catch the right moment, when the bubbles have the size of crab eyes. An overboiled water will taste 'old' and loose its freshness. If this should happen, add fresh water to the overcooked water and boil more carefully again.


theCoffeeScientist said...

Hi Stéphane,

a very late question as this post is getting newr ancient ...

are you implying that it is better to heat water to 100°C and then let it cool to the desired temp, say 80°C, rather than using water right when it reaches the desired temp, ex 80°C?

TeaMasters said...

The short answer is yes. But the complete answer is that for good quality Chinese tea, the water temperature must always be just off the boil. It's the flow and place where the boiling water will hit that will vary depending on the type of leaf.

theCoffeeScientist said...

So, if I'm brewing a delicate white in a gaiwan, I should bring the water to 100°, then pour the water slowly on the inside of the gaiwan to drop the temperature as opposed to a puerh where I can pour directly on the leaves? And then adjust the pour speed and proximity to direct contact with the leaves depending on the tea? But for you and your sensei, always just off a full boil, as in 100°C?

TeaMasters said...

Yes, I think that you've understood the principles I've presented and that I'm using. The only thing I'd like to emphasize is that these principles apply for high quality tea only. If the tea is of lower quality, it may be a good idea not to drink it(!), or to brew it with a lower temperature. But if you want to test the tea to know the quality level of the tea, then always just boiled.