BREWING GREEN TEA
In China, green tea is usually drunk directly out of the glass cup that it is brewed in. Some find the floating tea leaves that inevitably find their way into the mouth bothersome, and resort to using teapots. The key to brewing green tea is to avoid covering the vessel. To further ensure that heat does not get trapped during brewing, a thin-walled vessel is preferred. Since green teas are the freshest teas, watching the leaves unfold into its natural shape is a part of the green tea drinking experience. Therefore, glass fairness pitchers and thinly walled white porcelain pitchers are the preferred vessels for green tea brewing.
Two open vessels are used: one vessel is for brewing, while the other is to receive the brewed liquid after it passes through a filter. The best way to appreciate the aroma of green tea is to lightly shake the dry leaves in the empty brewing vessel after the glass has been heated by hot water.
To cool down the temperature of the water, it can be transferred back and forth between the two vessels. One of the trickiest parts of brewing green tea is to find the ideal water temperature – given that the tea is never covered. The temperature used for brewing green tea is closely related to its picking grade and making style – the earlier the picking is and the more the tea has been rubbed, the lower the water temperature. One common practice is to brew bad tea at a lower temperature to dilute its flaws. While a late-picked tea should be brewed at a higher temperature to bring out its true flavor profile, using lowered temperature can result in flatter but less astringent tea. Below is a list of teas and corresponding temperature guideline.
Water should be poured into the tea around the edges of the vessel with the goal being to completely moisten the tea leaves with minimal disturbance. Green tea usually takes 2-3 minutes to brew. Always leave some water, keeping the leaves submerged before refilling for the next brew, to prevent the tea from further oxidizing.
Green tea usually produces three to four brews, with the second brew being the strongest.
Using a Gai Wan
A Gai Wan has three parts:
- Lid (Heaven)
- Saucer (Earth)
- Bowl (People/Human)
Holding a Gai Wan
Make sure to always hold the bowl’s outer edge of the gai wan. Do not kneel the index finger. Instead use the tip of the finger to gently stabilize the lid button. The gai wan should be held between thumb and middle finger with the ring finger and little finger also naturally rested on the gai wan edge for support. Feel free to point the pinky up for fancy. Some find approaching the gai wan from the top instead the side easier. Make sure to complete the following movements:
1. Fill Water: Make sure to not pour water directly towards the center of the tea – go around the edge if possible or at one point is fine too. The water should go in as high as possible without splashing. Fill up to the point where the water will meet the lid to minimize air gap.
2. Cover: Make sure to take the time to properly cover the gai wan lid before make an opening for pouring.
3. Open: Adopt a brushing motion, like pushing the water away, to open a space between the lid and the bowl for pouring. Be mindful of the size of the tea leaves – bitsy tea needs smaller opening. If you leave too big an opening, steam might come out from behind and hurt your palm; the lid could also flip. Usually, 2mm to half an inch is a good size for the opening.
4. Center: Make sure the opening is at the center in relation to the line between thumb and middle finger that are holding the gai wan. This should be the point where the liquid comes out. Do not pour sideways. If you intend to pour towards your body, then just reposition the fingers holding the gai wan to make sure that the liquid still come out at the center (widest point) of the opening.
**Relax: Not only the wrist should be relaxed, the fingers should be too. Eventually, you should be able switch among middle, ring and pinky finger while holding a gai wan. The tighter the grasp, the more it can burn.
5. Pour: Try to flex the wrist when pouring while avoid sending the whole arm and shoulder with the pouring. The hand should be perpendicular to the forearm. Make sure the tea liquid does not come out too harsh nor high at the fairness pitcher. Ideally, the water will not make a sound. Make sure all the liquid are drained completely.
**Don’t forget the filter.
It’s the best to have a dry run with the gai wan first. Before brewing, run through all the steps completed in your mind, be aware of where things are. Then position everything in a way that is the most comfortable for you to complete the steps so once hot water is poured, there’s no fumbling to find the filter or have to reach over to pour the tea out to a fairness pitcher. Start slow and try to get a smooth flow.
Temperature: 176 F
Tea Weight: 4 grams
Method: Open vessel with enough water left to soak the leaves between each brews
Number of Brews: 4
- 1st Brew: 2-3 minutes, or until leaves no longer look dry and are moist
- 2nd Brew: 10 seconds to 1 minute, or until leaves occupy top half of the brewing pitcher. Make sure to use slightly higher temperature water to neutralize the cooler water already in the vessel
- 3rd Brew: 10 seconds to 1 minute, or until leaves occupy the whole pitcher
- 4th Brew: 1-2 minutes, or until the leaves are all on the bottom half of the pitcher, drain the water completely
Temperature: 212 F (boiling)
Tea Weight: 8 grams
Method: Gong fu style with gai wan
Number of Brews: 9
- Rinse & the First 4 Brews: Gracefully finish brewing the tea and pouring the liquid out without any intentional steeping time. The tea is effectively brewed for about 5-7 seconds once all steps are finished.
- 5th to 8th Brew: Slow down the brewing movements and increase the brewing time for 5-10 seconds each brew. The trick is to look for color consistency.
Remember to smell the lid of the gai wan after pouring the tea out to build sensitivity towards the flavored development of the tea.