Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Gong fu cha; easy as 1, 2, 3....... 6, 7, 8, 9

This is a question that often comes up. Most often, people think that this size pot will only make enough tea for one. This is a guide to the basic outlines of Gong Fu tea brewing, as well as a demonstration to show the amount of tea that a small pot will produce. Just remember, it is not the size of your teapot, but how you use it, that is most important.

The setup

Heating the pot. Fill your pot with boiling hot water and let set for a few moments. One tea master told me that the pot is properly heated only when the lid handle is hot. If you fill your pot with boiling hot water and wait about a minute, then touch the lid handle of the pot, it should be hot. This is a good start.

This is a 6 ounce pot.

The leaf, compliments of J-Tea. Competition Winner Mu Za Iron Goddess (Second Tier) Spring 2007

15g of tea

The leaves should fill the pot about 1/3rd of the way.

First infusion-30 seconds-no rinse. I typically will not rinse the tea, especially when it is of such a high grade.

The first infusion yields about 5 ounces of mouth watering tea.

Moving right along to the second infusion-35 seconds

I love teapots!

The first two infusions combined makes just shy of 10 ounces of tea.

Now the leaves have unfurled and they are expanded enough to just fill up the pot. I think I might have used a tad too much. In general, when the leaves have expanded, they should fill the pot, but they should be fluffy and giving instead of resistant to the touch.

Third infusion.

Pouring water over the top. This action has a number of applications. First, it is fun! Next, it cools the temperature of the pot. It treats the pot adding to the brilliant patina, and it can act as a natural timer. When the pot is again dry, a certain amount of time has gone by. This time will change with pots and with the temperature of the water.

The third and fourth infusion combine to yield just over 8 ounces of tea.

The fifth and sixth, the same, and...

the same for the seventh and eighth

Empty the leaves.

Rinse the pot.

Admire the handiwork.

All in all 15g of dry leaf yielded 34 fluid ounces of tea. Brewing tea in the traditional method according to heavy tea drinkers taste, 1 ounce of tea yields 8 cups of tea. If I were to do this demo again, I would do it with a lesser quantity and quality tea. Quantity, because I actually think I used too much tea as it was poping out of the pot after the first two infusions. Quality, because putting the tea into that measuring cup made it less tasty.

Tough Questions

Last weekend I did a tea tasting in Bend, OR. After the tasting, my partner stated that I was only providing about 40% of the information when answering questions. I thought that this was an interesting observation. It also reminded me of my friend in Taiwan that used to ask me, "Have you learned all there is to know about tea yet?" to which I would always answer, "no". Most people think that tea is not complicated, and it is true. Tea is not complicated, but it is not easily understood. Often times, people in my shop will say, "Puer, what is that?" My answer to this question takes about 5 to 15 minutes. There are so many ways to answer this question. My answer usually starts like, "Puer is its own category of tea..."

Tea Tasting at the Lane Community College Culinary Arts program (03/05/08)

The setup

This girl can rap. Check it out!

This was one of the tastings that I learned the most from so far. This group had some really tough questions.

Tea is Healthy!

Research conducted at Oregon State University found that freshly brewed tea contains 10 to 100 times more antioxidants than bottled teas. If you want antioxidants, drink freshly brewed tea.

Tea is just as effective as water in helping keep people hydrated. It is a common myth that tea or any other caffeine-containing beverage will cause a loss of body fluid and negatively impact the body's hydration level. Scientific evidence simply does not support this belief. UK experts found that drinking three or more cups of tea a day is as good for you as drinking plenty of water and it even helps to protect against heart disease and some forms of cancer. Drinking tea can give your mind a gentle lift that can help you focus. Moreover, unsweetened brewed tea is a perfect beverage to use as part of a weight management diet or lifestyle.

Tea demo at the University of Oregon

  The class was about Chinese food and culture. Ah, it made me miss the days in Taiwan, when I was just spending a great deal of time adjusting to the culture. In order to acclimate myself, I would spend the first three to five hours of each day eating and drinking at a very leisurely pace.
The professor, Ina Asim, graciously invited me to give a tea demonstration and allow the students to taste several high end oolong teas.  
 I am not sure why I used this set up, but if I had to do it again I would use several small brew cups as is done in the tea competitions of Taiwan.
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Professor Ina Asim and I.