After reading through many of the posts here on T Ching, I decided that the best way for me to broaden my tea experiences and tastes would be to acquire a gaiwan and experiment with Kung Fu style tea. Deciding that it would be more eco-friendly, I wanted to find one at a local thrift store. I was certain that I had seen such previously but at the time simply didn’t know what they were. So one afternoon, my husband and I set off on a thrift store adventure. FOUR thrift stores and tired feet later, we returned home with one pair of black suede knee-high boots, two toy lightsabers, a pair of rainbow furry costume wings, a teddy bear dressed as the Hulk, a long black lace peasant skirt, and a really awesome vintage teacup. But no gaiwan.
Realizing that continued thrift store quests would most likely only end up leading to more (unnecessary) spending, I decided to order one on Amazon. I scoured through the listings, trying to find a good combination of potential authenticity, price, Prime for free two-day shipping, size, and good reviews. I finally ended up choosing this pretty blue-green one with a koi on the lid (the listing image had a koi on the saucer as well, but mine does not) and ordered it.
Since today’s agenda consisted of little save laundry, it seemed the perfect day to try out the new gaiwan. After doing some reading on various articles and instructions online, I headed for the kitchen to give it a try. I picked out an oolong that I already own, Kali Cha by The Tao of Tea. In online instructions, tea quantities seemed to range from 2 tablespoons to 2/3 filling the vessel. I opted for somewhere in between, though closer to the latter.
My water is straight from a mineral-laden well and I don’t have a water filter, but I buy filtered water for my fish tank by the gallon. I poured some into a steel pot, as I didn’t feel like trusting the kettle since it’s full of mineral deposits from the tap water. While it was heating, I ran hot water over the gaiwan and a teacup to heat them, then spooned some tea. I panicked about just how much tea I was using, it feels like a lot! Once the water was boiling, I took it off the heat and stared at the tea for a minute, trying to remember what to do next. I poured the hot water into the gaiwan, dashed back and forth in the kitchen a couple times in a tizzy, then poured it into a cup and drank it.
I then poured more hot water over the tea leaves, let it sit long enough for me to put the pot in the rack and remind one of the cats that it was not yet dinner time, and then poured it into the cup and drank that. (Of course, once I got back to my computer I found that I should have poured out the first time as the “waking” rinse and only drunk the second.)
All the same, the first tasting was heavy and had some bitterness but was very flavorful. It reminded me of espresso, with its blend of sweetness, bitterness, and aromatic qualities. The second tasting started even more bitter, but with an almost delicate and floral finish.
I am definitely looking forward to further experiments. Any advice is greatly appreciated!
Good for you. I know it takes time to master the pour but with consistence, you’ll be a pro in no time.Yes, pouring out the first rinse is a good idea. Also, I think you’re using too much tea. I’d bring it down to 1 spoonful – each tea is different so don’t be afraid to experiment. Same goes for time. I’d start out with minimal time – maybe 30 seconds and taste that. Then try 1 minute. Once you find the right time and measurement, you’ll know you’ve found it. Each new tea will require experimenting again. Remember that temperature is another key element – depending upon the type of tea you’re drinking. If the water is too hot – it will get bitter. Too cool and you won’t be able to fully enjoy the flavor. Keep trying and have fun.
Michele’s comments are pretty much what I was going to say; parameters vary by preference and by tea, and you can vary proportion (amount), timing, and water temperature to see what you like best. I don’t use full boiling point water for very many tea types but some people would use that for almost all teas. Some teas naturally work well with really short infusion times; sheng pu’er in general is like that, and Dan Cong oolong works well based on short infusions (and either boiling point water or a good bit cooler water; depends on the person). It’s rare but some teas do work out better brewed Western style. Usually it’s more the case that if there’s not really a difference for a type then it’s easier just easier (using Western style). It’s possible to use a version of Western style that is closer to Gong Fu parameters, to shift it to more a hybrid of the two, or to use a Gong Fu approach that’s not so far off Western brewing. It’s funny how people make a big deal of pouring out the tea, as if it’s hard to do and normal to get burned, but it’s not that tricky. One decent online reference for tea basics is the Mei Leaf videos on youtube, but really you’re going to be using trial and error with or without any research, so it wouldn’t change much.