Gong Fu Brew
The Gong Fu style of tea brewing has been the most popular style of tea leaf brewing in China since the Ming Dynasty. This style of leaf brewing became popular after the practice of whisking powdered tea, like matcha, became lost in China. (However, the practice of whisking powdered tea was preserved in Japan). The basic philosophy behind Gong Fu brewing is based on extracting the full and complex flavors of the tea. The strength of the flavor of tea prepared in the Gong Fu style is rather surprising to people who have only ever drank Western Brewed style tea.
Gong Fu style brewing is achieved by using a large amount of leaf to a small amount of water paired with short steeping times, with steeps as short as 10 seconds for some teas. These are often called micro-brews in the tea world. However, the Gong Fu brewing also incorporates multiple brews. Because the large amount of leaves is steeped for so little time per infusion, the leaves are able to hold onto much of their flavors throughout multiple infusions, and the differences in flavor between infusions is meant to be enjoyed and appreciated. While the large amount of leaf is meant to offer the most flavor that the tea has to offer, the multiple infusions is meant to explore the depth and complexities of the tea leaves’ compounds.
Gong Fu Tea Ware: Tea leaves prepared in the Gong Fu style in China are brewed in either a Gaiwan (lidded bowl), a small brewing vessel with a saucer, cup, and lid, or in China’s famous and small Yixing clay tea pots. (Yixing is the type of clay used) Both of these vessels are typically found between 100ml-300ml. Gaiwans are typically found in the same ranges. These small brewing vessels are perfect for micro brews. In them the leaves are meant to be brewed and poured into small pitchers, known as Fair Cups. The practice of pouring the tea from the pot into the fair cup allows the finished tea liquor to blend its flavors which might otherwise be uneven. This also ensures that the tea liquor does not steep longer than is desired. Pouring directly into cups from the pot or Gaiwan would give the first guest and last guest very different teas, the former weaker and the latter stronger. However, pouring first into the fair cup and then into the cups of the guests ensures that each guest receives tea that is steeped for the same amount of time and which can be enjoyed as a social experience.
There is also a method of pouring directly into the cups in the Gong Fu style, during which the host quickly circles above the cups while pouring from the Gaiwan or Yixing pot. The host circles the above the cups while pouring until the Gaiwan or pot is empty. The liquor in the cups should look very similar. However, this style is rather messy and quite wasteful. It should only be done on a table you wouldn’t mind getting a little wet! We recommend using a pitcher or fair cup! Fair cups also allow you to store multiple infusions if you desire a large cup with the same strong Gong Fu flavor and complexities.
The principles of Gong Fu brewing are practiced pretty much everywhere tea is grown in order to test the flavors and qualities of the finished tea leaves. However, Western brewing is by far more popular around the world.
Check out our Gong Fu brew guide:
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