Seemingly, tea can be very difficult to prepare. This is because there are many reasons why people drink tea—flavor, health, caffeine, et cetera, et cetera. Then you take into account the type or variety of tea, strength of the brew, water, water temperature, brewing time, and the complexity quickly multiplies. However, even with all this complexity it does not have to be that difficult. In the words of the great 16th century Japanese Tea Master Sen Rikyu:
“Tea is nothing other than this: heat the water, prepare the tea and drink with propriety. That is all you need to know.”
In risk of adding further complication to tea brewing, there are two methods of brewing tea. Fortunately, they embody the exact same brewing principles, so it’s not really more complicated. The only difference is tea volume to water volume to water temperature to brew time ratio. The two methods are General Brewing Method and Gung Fu Brewing Method.
General Brewing Method
It is very important that one ‘gets to know their tea,’ as different varieties and types, whether it’s green tea, black tea, oolong tea, white tea or puer tea, can brew at different ratios. Generally, depending on type of tea and desired strength, the brew ratio is:
NOTE: For consistent brewing across the many varieties of tea, it is best to measure tea in weight via grams. However, for those who don’t want to trouble themselves with acquiring a digital scale and weighing out their tea, I will include teaspoon approximations.
1 rounded tsp. or 5 g. of tea per 8 oz. of water for 2 minutes. At Blue Lantern Tea, we use 7.5 grams of tea and brew it in 12 oz. of water. Water temperature varies, again depending on the kind of tea (e.g. green tea, black tea, oolong tea, puer tea, white tea). Typically, green teas are between 160˚ F to 180˚ F and for black and puer teas temperatures are between 180˚ F to 200˚ F, with oolongs in the middle—depending on the oolong (some oolongs are more green and some are more black). If you want a milder or naturally sweeter brew, heat water towards the lower side of the temperature scale, and for a stronger more astringent brew, heat water towards the higher side of the temperature scale. For example, for a sweeter green tea brew at 160˚ F instead of 180˚ F.
With this method, you can yield one to two cups of green tea and two to three cups of black and puer tea with oolong tea falling in between. That of course depends on the variety of tea.
If you like a stronger over all brew, you can either add more tea, or less water, or a longer brew time, in addition to higher water temperature. It should go without saying a milder brew would be either less tea, or more water, or less brew time, in addition to lower water temperature.
Gung Fu Brewing Method
Gung Fu Brewing Method is the method used in the Chinese Gung Fu Tea Ceremony. You do not need to perform the ceremony to enjoy this simple method of brewing. As previously mentioned, the overall principles of brewing are the same as the General Brewing Method, with the difference being water to tea to brew time ratio.
NOTE: Typically, this method is done using a small 4 oz. to 6 oz. tea pot with small cup(s) as the brew times are very short. At Blue Lantern Tea we use 6 oz. pots – which is only filled up with approximately 4 oz. of water.
Approximately 1.5 rounded tsp. or 7.5 grams of tea per 4 oz. of water for ten to fifteen seconds for the first brew, increasing brew time ten to fifteen seconds each steeping. With this brewing method, one can yield several cups of tea; again depending on the type of tea. For green tea, one can yield approximately three to five cups, with black and puer tea, one could yield approximately five to eight cups, and with some puer tea, the yield could be as high as ten cups!
As with the General Brewing Method, if one were to want a stronger brew, simply use more tea, or less water, or longer brew time with higher temperature (the same water temperature rules apply). For a milder brew, use less tea, or more water, or shorter brew time with lower temperature.
To learn more about the Gung Fu Tea Ceremony go to our Gung Fu Tea page.
Brewing For Health
If you are drinking tea for health, you can adjust your brewing method to maximize teas health benefits. Tea has great antioxidants which release early during steeping but are dissolved by bitter compounds that release later during steeping. Short steeping is also when the most caffeine will be present, as compounds that release later during steeping also dissolves caffeine. So, to get those antioxidants, use Gung Fu brewing method or a shorter General Brewing time. If you like stronger cups of tea, have no fear, as you can simply add more leaves, brew for less time and enjoy a strong antioxidant rich cup of tea.
If you prefer to get a more polyphenol rich cup of tea, choose General Brewing Method as polyphenols release later during steeping. If you want polyphenols but prefer a milder cup of tea simply add more water or less tea and lower the water temperature, and with every brew your one cup closer to a healthier, cancer free life.
As previously mentioned, it is important that one ‘gets to know their tea.’ Every tea will require a different brew ratio, and even experienced tea drinkers and connoisseurs alike will have to try different brewing variations on a new tea to find the right flavor and strength of a tea for them. And if you are interested in or planning on preparing tea for others, it’s paramount to know how to brew different methods to really bring out the teas characteristics, as your guests’ preferences will be as varied as the many varieties of tea.