How to Make Oolong Tea - Gong Fu Brewing Style | TEA SIDE
10 Jan 2019

How to make oolong tea gong fu brewing style

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Tea brewing guide. 5 steps and some tips.

Brewing oolong tea

Oolong tea is well suited for the tea ceremony.

Oolong tea is well suited for the tea ceremony. It has bright organoleptic (taste and aromatic) properties, which change in the process of brewing, from steeping to steeping. The old oolongs, in addition to the interesting and deep taste, may also have an extraordinary effect on the body - the Chinese call it Cha Qi (tea energy). Therefore, oolongs are very popular among both, beginners and tea masters. Aged oolongs of high quality can have serious collectible value.

And well, you finally decided to try a good oolong and understand what is so wonderful about it, what the tea masters can talk about for hours, with rapture and delight. In numerous photos and videos, you can see tea masters with various devices and tea accessories. But we assure you, for the first acquaintance, even with very serious tea, you can do with a minimal set of teaware. We don’t say to brew it artlessly, no way. But we can give you a few simple tips on how to make a good oolong by improvised means.

For making oolong by gongfu brewing for two or three people we recommend teapot with a volume of 100-200 ml. We will use Japanese shiboridashi, as the most visual and convenient tool with an average drain rate. You can take any ceramic or clay teapot or gaiwan as well. We don’t recommend glassware because it doesn’t keep the heat as well as ceramic. Dark oolongs, for example, won’t uncover themselves completely. You will also need cups, a pitcher (will talk about later), and a bowl for the tea waste set up on some tea tray. So let's pretend you already got everything and here we go.

If you do not have a special tea tray yet, you can take a large bowl and put the pot on the bottom - when brewing, excess water will remain at the bottom of the bowl. This rather popular way of serving gongfu tea is called the “tea basin” (cháchí 池). Prepare a piece of cloth to remove water from the bottom of the pot before pouring tea out into the cups.

Step 1. Rinse and heat the teapot.

Pour the boiling water over and into the teapot. Do not pour the water out immediately, let the teapot warm up properly.

A few words about the quality of the water. We prefer to use the softest water possible since too mineral (hard) water makes the taste of tea "turbid" due to its minerality or salinity.

Step 2. Rinse the leaves.

For brewing most of the oolongs, water temperature should be close to 100°C (212°F). But for thin, young oolongs, which by their properties are very close to green teas (for example, such as Baozhong), we prefer to cool water up to 85-90°C (185-194°F). Boiling water kind of cooks such teas and destroys the delicate components of top layers of taste. With the practice, you will feel the right temperature but for the first times, you might need a thermometer.

Put your oolong in it at the rate of 1 g of dry tea per 20 ml of water. Our shibo capacity is 120 ml, so we take 6 gm of tea, from which you can get 1.2 liters of ready-to-drink infusion.

How much oolong tea per 120 ml teapot

How much oolong tea should you put in your pot - 1 gr per 20 ml of water capacity

For the first time, fill the tea with water so that water only covers the tea leaf. Then close the pot with a lid, gently shake up the contents and immediately pour the water out into chahai - we rinsed the tea from dust and steamed the tea leaf. Make sure you drain out all the liquid to the last drop. For the chahai substitute, a small glass or ceramic jug is best suited. Actually, anything with a handle and spout is suitable for convenient draining.

Why do we need such intermediate vessel as fairness pitcher? In order not to overbrew the tea (you pour the tea out of the pot quickly and confidently) and to make sure every cup will get the tea infusion of the same density. Some teapots have a slow drain, and tea is brewed quickly - the pitcher equalizes the strength of the brew. That is why this piece of teaware in China is called Gōngdào bēi 公道杯 , which means “the cup of fairness” or more often nowadays “fairness pitcher”. It can also be named as cháhǎi 茶海 - literally translated as “sea of tea”.

Step 3. Rinse the pitcher and the cups.

Now pour this infusion into cups and after a minute pour out into any bowl for the tea waste. Do not drink it, it is a sanitary infusion. By this step, we washed and warmed up the pitcher and the cups.

Why do we need to warm up the pitcher and the cups? It is believed that cold teaware takes away part of the aroma of infusion. In addition, we wash the utensils from the traces of raw water. At the tea ceremony, it is not customary to save water, it should flow freely and easily.

Step 4. Make your tea.

Fill the pot with hot water, entirely up to the lid. Using thermos is very convenient here to keep water hot all the ceremony long. In 15-20 seconds carefully drain the infusion into the pitcher (chahai).

For brewing oolong water temperature should be 85-90°С

Thermos helps you to keep temperature the same all the way long.

Brewing tea gong fu style (steeping tea multiple times) implies a high concentration of tea leaves in a pot and a relatively fast draining. Therefore, it is important to care about the steeping time. If tea is strongly overexposed at the beginning or the middle of the session, then all the subsequent brews will become tasteless - the infusion will lose density, bitterness and tartness will appear.

To catch the sensation of the right brewing time, you can use three breaths technique (steep as long as you slowly inhale and exhale for 3 times). By the way, this rule will help you relax and concentrate on the process. So your tea ceremony will gain depth and become a real meditation.

Step 5. Serve and enjoy.

Pour the oolong into the cups and share with friends. The tea is ready. Drink without diluting it with water.

We recommend waiting a bit until it cools down to about 50°C. Oolong is especially good when you don't have to burn lips - then all its taste and aroma is available for perception. While drinking tea try to exhale lightly through your nose. Listen to the sensations in the nasopharynx. You will be pleasantly surprised.

Oolong tea brewed

Wait a bit until your tea slightly cools down. Oolong is especially good when you don't have to burn lips.

Repeat Steps 4-5 at least seven times. Good oolongs surely withstand 7-10 steepings. Keep in mind that the taste of tea is really revealed only by the third brew. Exposure time can be gradually increased up to a minute for the latest cycles.

If you started brewing Oolong, then finish it up to the end - do not interrupt the process of tea drinking for a long time. If the teapot and the warmed-up leaves inside cool down, you lose a good half of the oolong taste and the tea could start to taste bitter. Do not leave oolong for the next day and never brew yesterday’s tea.

Some clarifications.

In many online sources you can find recommendations for brewing temperature and time. Most often, it says 90-100 degrees and 1-2 minutes. These are for the European (Western) style of brewing. In this case, you need to take 2-3 grams of tea leaves per 200-250 ml of water. But we would recommend you drinking the Oolong in the Chinese manner, as described above. The taste of tea varies from steeping to steeping, these changes are interesting to trace and observe. By slightly changing the brewing parameters (water temperature, steeping time), you can achieve a more accurate and suitable taste.

Steeped oolong tea in shiboridashi teapot

Enjoy your tea.

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Tags: oolong
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