Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Gongfu Cha Brewing: Lesson 1, the equipment

The subject keeps on coming up in mails and discussion groups about tea. Almost each tea web site proposes its slightly different version of how to make Chinese tea. Some give good advice, but there are always mistakes or inaccuracies and none seems to go as far as what I have learned from tea master Teaparker. So, I'll share what I've learned in a series of several lessons. These are more guidelines than a standard procedure and they should give you enough basic knowledge to let you make educated experiments by yourself. Because it's not enough that I (or Teaparker) tells you this is the best way to make tea, most importantly YOU must feel the difference.

First, what are the most basic tools we need to brew Chinese tea?

1. A gaibei (also called gaiwan) made of 3 elements: a cover, a cup and a saucer,

2. A small cup to drink the tea,

3. A pitcher or strainer to empty the tea from the gaibei.

4. A water absorbing towel below all the above: tea brewing can quickly look quite messy with water everywhere. The towel is the low cost solution to keep everything neat and your mind in peace.

The gaiwan, cup and pitcher must all be made of glazed porcelain instead of glass or clay. Why? Porcelain is neutral while unglazed clay will modify the taste of tea. All serious tea competitions and professionals use porcelain. They are usually plain white, but motives on the outside are not a problem. I also recommend rather thin walls, as such walls let delicate flavors express themselves better. But it's not a must. Thicker walls, on the other hand, may be more resistant to shocks.

You'll also need 2 other items not shown here: a hot water pot on a source of energy (wood, gas, electricity) and a trash can for water and used tea leaves.


Anonymous said...

What is the reason for not using glass? It seems to me that it would have similar thermal and porosity characteristics to glazed porcelain.

TeaMasters said...

Hi David,
Glass does not handle heat as well as porcelain. Glass is made at a temperature of around 650 degrees Celcius, while porcelain is made from 800 to 1400 degrees Celcius.

I have done the test a couple of times and suggest you do it too: brew oolong in a preheated glass and a preheated gaibei without the lid (to make conditions similar). I noticed the taste from the tea in the glass is blurred, fuzzy, compared with that from the gaibei. You can try other teas also. Here an experiment with Long Jin:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Stephane for making this site, My name is Stewart
You have had a very good opertunity to learn with someone who is dedicated to Tea!

You mention the porcelin should be used, but out of preference and ever since I was taught by some Taiwanese Monks that Clay is the only way to go, I just find the earthy taste is a great addition to an earthy element, and my interpretation is in the early years of chinese/Taiwanese civilization clay would of been used, do I make any sense here?

Unknown said...

Bonjour Stéphane!

J'apprécie le thé depuis plusieurs années mais me contentait de thé en poche individuelles bas de gamme de supermarché que je me contentait de mettre dans la premiere theiere ou tasse qui me tombait sous la main.

J'ai toutefois récemment voulu aller plus loin. Je me suis commandé plusieurs sortes de thés et me suis acheté deux belles théieres yixing.

Mais alors que je lisais votre blog, et certains autres, j'ai remarqué que vous utilisiez un gaiwan (ou gaibei). Remplace-t-il la théiere ou il la complete? Pour le pu-erh, devrais-je le préparer dans ma théiere d'argile ou dans un gaiwan en porcelaine?
Et finalement, pourriez-vous me recommander, si vous en connaissez, un site internet ou je pourrais me procurer un gaiwan de qualité?

Merci a l'avance et félicitation pour votre merveilleux blog. Grace a lui j'en apprends beaucoup!