Brewing tea is central to any class about tea. On the second day of the Puerh exhibition event at Penn State, a whole class was dedicated to brewing methods for puerh. Teaparker distinguised between young sheng, young shu and old puerh. Each requires some adjustments to be brewed well.
But the general tea brewing rules apply to these teas as well:
1. Use a porcelain gaiwan in order to obtain a neutral taste.
2. Preheat the gaiwan and cups.
3. A layer of leaves on the bottom of the cup is enough, because tea needs space to open up, expand in the gaiwan.
4. Pour good water that has just boiled.
5. And brew as long as you like.
It sounds easy and it's something everybody can learn quickly. But each step also contains much skill that takes a lot of practice to master.
Holding and handling a gaiwan properly may seem like a detail, but it's actually a fundamental skill when brewing tea. If you are not comfortable holding it, then you'll probably be anxious, nervous at the tea table and this may reduce your pleasure (and the quality of the tea you brew).
So, Teaparker asked every student to practice pouring from one gaiwan into another. First we used cold water, then boiling water. The goal was to pour comfortably without letting water splash or dribble on the table cloth.
The more often you practice this exercise, the better you'll become. You'll realize that the best place to hold the gaiwan with your fingers is the rim of the gaiwan's mouth. Also, you need to first move the lid in order to create an opening for the water to flow.
This pouring skill can have a direct impact on the temperature of the tea: once you know how to pour well and precisely, you won't need any cha hai (pitcher) anymore. You can pour directly from the gaiwan in the cups. This isn't just more elegant and skillful, but this also results in a warmer tea.
There might still be a tea drop here or there, if you have 10 years of practice. If these drops happen on a hard surface, this may end up looking messy. But if you use an absorbing tea cloth (Cha Bu) under your teaware, then these few drops are absorbed by the fabric and won't bother your peace of mind. Because the mind is another important prerequisite to a successful cup. And how can a student be relaxed during his finals? When he's confident that he has studied thoroughly and practiced the moves until he knows them by heart.