Seriously, how can you NOT want to brew a tea from these fuzzy little buds?
Heh, I don’t think I’ve drunk a tea before which made the physical connection between the tea tree leaves/buds and the beverage so apparent.
The FlavorScent is described on the Yunnan Sourcing web site as evocative of Pine forest, but it reminds me more of scents I associate with spicy green chile. Good body, a slight sweet taste, and some floral/perfume notes that linger on the palate after you are done sipping. Tea liquid is nearly perfectly clear.
If you want to brew tea in “gong fu” style, you really only need a few things.
First you need something to boil water. I tried using the water from our office hot water dispenser, but it’s just not consistently hot enough for black tea.
Then you need something to keep your heated water hot over the course of your sessions. A thermos that holds 3 or 4 cups will do.
Then, of course, a gaiwan. These can be gotten online or at specialty tea stores. The people at Yunnan Sourcing are super nice and have a good selection. (They also have a second location based in the US, Bend, OR, to be exact: YunnanSourcing.us with faster turnaround and cheaper shipping.) I’d suggest a glazed porcelain or glass gaiwan, medium-sized sized (around 150ml). Don’t spend too much to get started. Save your money for tea. 😃
Finally, you need a teacup or mug. Not all coffee mugs present tea in a flattering way. Experiment with what you have at home.
If you want to share tea with others, a small pitcher to pour your brewed tea out of is nice. I use an old bodum tea pot.
If you’re picky about pieces of tea leaf in your tea, a tea strainer or small fine sieve.
A small electronic scale that will measure grams can come in handy to get the hang of dosage amounts for various teas.
If you want to get into brick teas like Pu-Erh, you’ll need something to break them up, a tea pick or tea knife is traditional. Sort of a cross between an ice pick and an oyster knife. (The pointy blade of a scissors works OK, just be careful not to stab yourself.)
It doesn’t hurt to have a watch with a second hand to time your steeps, but you can always use your smart phone.
Finally, if you don’t have one of them fancy water boilers that allows you to set a temperature, you should think about a getting an instant read thermometer so you don’t overcook your more delicate teas (especially, white and green).
I keep mentioning a “gaiwan” so I figure I should show you what one is and go over the basics of “gong fu” style tea brewing.
A “gaiwan” is a set of three dishes.
…and lid that is used to brew whole leaf tea.
You add tea leaves to the cup, cover leaves with heated water, steep briefly, starting with about 10 seconds per steep…
…and strain using the lid.
Repeat, gradually extending the length of time in the steep, until your tea is no longer flavorful.
It’s very simple.
But, as with many simple things, it takes a little practice.
Some differences from English-style tea brewing.
First, you need to use whole leaf tea. The size of the whole leaves enables you to hold them in the cup and strain without a filter. Broken leaf tea will make a big mess and also doesn’t really work for multiple steepings.
Second, you use a larger amount of tea. Sort of. You fill the gaiwan to about a third with tea, which is a tablespoon, give or take. With English style tea, you use a teaspoon per cup. However, with the multiple steeps, the overall amount of tea liquid you make ends up similar or greater with gong fu brewing. I usually start by heating 3 cups of water for a single batch. That’s about the same ratio of tea to water as a teaspoon per cup. So, actually, the overall amount of tea for the volume of water ends up pretty similar. It’s just the process that’s different.
Be careful that you hold the gaiwan with the very edges of the cup lip and the tip of the lid knob. Do not grab the sides or you will burn your fingers or drop it and make a mess. It takes a little practice, maybe try it a few times with cold or warm water.
Tomorrow I’ll talk about the benefits to brewing tea Gong Fu style.