Gong Fu Brewing Guide for the Best Taiwanese Oolong Tea
Here's a simple Gong Fu brewing guide on how to brew the best tea using quality Taiwanese loose-leaf teas. From how long to steep oolong to how much to use, there really is no right or wrong when it comes to brewing tea. We just want to share how both tea pros and tea lovers in general brew Oolong Tea here in Taiwan. We offer this in hope that it will enhance the quality of brewed tea for tea lovers around the world.
What is Gong Fu tea brewing?
Gong Fu tea brewing involves brewing small amounts of concentrated tea for short intervals that are repeated several times. Brewing the tea in small amounts for short intervals allows the leaves to be brewed in succession, capturing the subtle essences of flavor and aroma as they are released from the tea leaves.
The Chinese term "Gong Fu Cha" (功夫茶) refers to the traditional method of brewing Oolong Tea that requires knowledge and skill. In addition to a Gongfu tea set – which includes a small Gong Fu teapot, pitcher, and cups – a bowl or vessel that is big enough to hold the brewed tea leaves as well as the discarded rinse water before and after brewing, are all necessary.
Rinse and warm the teaware
If you're starting out with a spanking new clay (yixing) Gong Fu teapot, be sure you've properly seasoned it before using it. Check out our guide on how to properly cure a Gong Fu teapot to get you set up for proper brewing. If your teapot is all nice and cured, begin by rinsing and warming the teaware with boiled water, and discarding the rinse water.
Proportion of tea leaves to water
The amount of tea leaves to be used is typically measured in proportion to the size of the teapot. For smaller pots, filling the pot to 1/5 capacity with dry leaves is a general rule of thumb for tightly rolled Oolong Tea. Leaves that are not tightly rolled should be measured differently. Proportionally less tea should be used as the size of the pot increases.
When brewing Gong Fu style with teapots or gaiwans up to 200ml, we recommend a basic proportion of 1:15, leaves to water for unroasted Oolong Tea types. So for the 150g gaiwan in the photo below, we typically use about 10g of tea leaves. If there are very few stems, and the size of the rolled tea leaves is particularly small, start with less leaves — about 8g/150ml.
Prior to brewing the first pot of tea, rinse and moisten the leaves by filling the pot with boiled water and immediately pouring off the rinse to be discarded. Then refill the pot for the first brew. About 50 seconds is allowed for the first brew, and 10-15 seconds are added for each successive brew. After the third brew, up to two minutes for each successive brew is fine. Quality tea can be brewed 6-10 times, depending on the leaf. Most Taiwanese Oolongs can be brewed at least five times, and often more.
A general rule for roasted Oolongs is the more roasted the leaves are, the less leaves needed. So start with around 8g/150ml, and then adjust accordingly. In the end, each batch of tea has its own character and its worth learning how to brew each batch of tea in order to make the best tea possible.
Gong Fu Brewing Tip
Notice the second pitcher in the brewing arrangement above. This allows you to pour off the remainder of each brew into the second pitcher in order to taste each brew on its own. This is particularly useful when brewing for only one or two people.
Proper Brewing is Key
The leaves we brewed in the photos above are Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Oolong Tea. This type of tea really reveals its potential when brewed in the way we've demonstrated. This is true of all Taiwanese loose-leaf Oolong Teas. It is really up to you to determine if a tea is too strong or too weak. So with this as a starting point, experiment and get to know each tea and how you like to brew it!
Other Ways to Brew
If you're interested in other ways to brew tea, check out our guide on how to brew Oolong Tea.
Taiwanese Tea Sampler
Want to try some of the teas mentioned above? Taste for yourself the broad spectrum of flavors that have made Taiwan famous for its specialty teas in our Taiwanese Tea Sampler!
How to Store Tea?
Now that you know how to properly brew a nice cup of tea Gong Fu style, check out our article on how to properly store your loose leaf tea!
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The medium oxidized leaves have undergone extensive, repeated roastings that have resulted in a very balanced, integrated character. The initial steepings offer a freshly cut wood aroma with a toasted nutty flavor. This proceeds to open up into a sweeter, more complex profile that is strikingly reminiscent of roasted winter vegetables, including parsnip, caramelized onion and butternut squash.
Mr. Zhang's father cultivated tea on their homesteaded land in Xiaobantian, on the southside of Lugu Township, where he grew up in the midst of traditional tea making. At 20 something, he decided to embody his local tradition by clearing land to cultivate his own plot of tea. For the last 20 years, he has managed his own humble, privately owned plot of tea. Throughout this period, he also acquired seasonal work in tea factories in Lugu, Shanlinxi, Alishan, Fanzaitian, and Lishan. In a word, he learned the ropes of tea making in a comprehensive way, like most tea farmers of his generation. Lugu hosts the highest concentration of tea makers in Taiwan, and is a hub of specialty tea making culture.