Why Pour Tea the Traditional Chinese Way?
Often asked this question and remarkably the answer always changes! We at Four Seasons love the notion of sipping tea. Highest quality Chinese and Taiwanese teas produce a story or tale that can only really be enjoyed through traditional preparation methods. Part of the skill and ability to truly “master” a tea takes years of practice and experience. When using a larger quantity of tea and doing short quick multiple infusions, high quality teas can almost paint a canvas and from the first infusion a beautiful story can be told. We watch the flavour unfold over many short infusions and being able to control and paint this story, is the skill involved in traditional tea preparation.
What does that mean? With traditional brewing you are in total control. You control the water, the amount of tea, the brewing device of choice, and being able to maximize the number of infusions while maintaining consistent flavour is the true art of preparing tea. For instance, if you over steep a tea or let the temperature drop in your brewing device, it will not result in a superior cup. Being able to nurture the tea and tell that tale, is the skill which can only be mastered through truly understanding the tea and how it best likes to be prepared. There is no secret to preparing and enjoying tea… The more you engage in this traditional art form, the more you will be able to learn the tea that you are preparing. Two of the first teas that we learned to pour were Taiwanese “Dong Ding” (Frozen Summit) and Anxi "Tie Guanyin” (Iron Goddess). These are usually the first teas that open up the eyes of the westerner to Chinese and Taiwanese oolongs and their traditional ways of preparation. The fun of preparing and tasting the tea is when you start to learn these flavours and aromas, and begin to understand the flavours of mountains and growing regions. This exploration comes with practice and enthusiasm! To the beginner: not much is required to start your exploration into preparing teas traditionally. All that’s really needed is a short steep brewing device like our Kamjove TP-760, a small cup and fresh, clean water….
Here are a few tips to get you started:
Always use fresh clean water. High mountain spring water with a neutral Ph of 7 will brew the best cup. We suggest experimenting with different waters to find what works best for you. Taste different waters and identify their strengths and weaknesses.
- Always empty the excess water out of your brewing device. If using a gaiwan, after infusing the tea, you pour it out. Usually there is water remaining, so it's important to get that out. If not, it will keep infusing with the leaf.
- Keep your temperature stable. This is why high quality porcelain and clay are very popular; they keep the temperature stable inside the tea-brewing device.
- Each tea has a different amount of tea-leaf to water ratio. For example, in a 120ml brewing device such as a gaiwan, green tea usually takes 5gs to 6gs. Oolong tea likes 7gs to 8gs, and black tea likes 5gs to 6gs. None of these are rules that are set in stone! Each individual may like a little more or less tea, and this is something unique to your personal preference.
- Water temperature is very important in tea. To keep the strong fragrance of oolongs, remember to reboil your water after every fourth infusion to a maximum of three times. Over boiling your water will ruin the taste of tea!
Different teas traditionally have different preparation methods, but there are no rules, so use what you are comfortable with!!
35 Ways to improve your Cup of Tea
ALWAYS!! wash your hands before any tea service, since your hands may have come in contact with strong odours which can transfer to the cup you are drinking.
- Use the highest quality of water available to you with a neutral PH of 7
- Here is a good guideline for choosing water:
- High mountain spring water
- Natural spring water
- Bottled water with a PH of ~7 (kept in glass)
- Bamboo Charcoal filtered water (from a natural source)
- Brita filtered tap water as a last acceptable resort
- If possible, try to gather the water yourself from a natural outdoor source…
- Make the water yourself, using bamboo charcoal (100g per 2 litres of water)
- Store your water in a cool dry place away from light, dark and odours
- Rested water or overnight water will provide a superior tasting cup
- Energy in water rises to the surface. Therefore, water used from the top will provide a superior cup than the water resting at the bottom.
- Boil your water in high quality Japanese cast iron: this will add minerals and increases the aftertaste in tea.
- Keep the balance of water within your kettle, and don’t keep changing the types of water that you boil on a regular basis… this will cause the natural balance of your kettle to be unstable and affect the flavour of tea.
- Use multiple kettles or cast iron for certain types of water, for example:
- We use high mountain spring water ONLY in our Japanese cast iron. (If you don't boil water in Japanese case iron, chances are this is why the tea never tastes as good as it did in Japan)
- We use the same kettle ONLY for bottled waters with a ph of about 7
- We use the same kettle for our bamboo filtered tap water and Brita filtered water (our local water has a neutral ph of about 7)
- In traditional Chinese tea service, DO NOT overboil your water…. If you re-boil water more than 3 times, it becomes dead water and should be discarded.
- Test your water and control it, as local health food shops have ph and chlorine water testing kits for sale.
- Using gaiwans and small porcelain or clay teapots to infuse your tea gives you control over everything.
- Keep your tea tools clean at all times…. Tea oils and residues are easy to build up in tea ware, especially in glass and porcelain.
- When drinking teas in the traditional Chinese manner, pour your water forcefully onto the tea, as this always creates a forceful stream of water. This results in a better and balanced tea soup.
- Use appropriate water temperatures for tea, especially white, green and yellow tea as they are more delicate. These co-operate better with water off the boil, so prepare it correctly.
- If using zisha clay teapots, make sure you are properly using hot water as sanitation. Keep good tea oils, not bad ones. We prefer high quality porcelain to clay.!!
- Use the traditional way of pouring tea such as doing short quick infusions with about 3 to 4 grams of tea for 60 ml of water (using the traditional small teapot or gaiwan method). This allows the flavour of tea to develop over many short infusions. This will create a curve of flavour and the tea’s flavour and body will develop and change after many infusions (when done correctly)
- If you prefer to drink a cup of tea such as traditional western style or British style tea service, you can still make that cup. Using short infusions from a tea brewing device like our Kamjove TP 760, will provide a very balanced and rounded cup. Transfer the tea soup to your favourite cup and enjoy!
- When the air pressure is low and it is about to rain, perhaps skip your favourite cup.. Air pressure affects the taste of tea…. Negatively!!
- Bright lighting creates a good mood for enjoying tea.
- Add fresh flowers from the season in a small desktop flower vase; this will create a great feeling in the tearoom.
- Use teacups and implements that give YOU a good feeling!! White and lighter colours usually create a good feeling in the tearoom.
- Incense can be used, but do not overpower the aromas that will fill the room from the tea.
- When storing tea, use opaque, airtight containers and store them in a dark, cool area and avoid opening a large bag many times.
- If you have a dedicated tea fridge such as a minibar fridge, (with absolutely no foreign odours), store your green tea, and bright green oolongs in the fridge.
- Black teas and teas that are baked with charcoal (to enhance aroma) do not need to be stored in the fridge. (The Chinese and Taiwanese have done this for years…)
- If you keep tea in the fridge with anything that has an odour, the tea will act like a sponge and absorb the aromas in the fridge.
- After opening teas from sealed packages, try to use the tea as quickly as possible, since air is a silent killer.
- SIP your tea don’t drink your tea…. It’s easier to enjoy this way. The nuances and flavours will emerge clearly when you sip.
- When enjoying gong fu tea with friends, 3 is usually the ideal number to drink tea.
- Serve traditional small tea snacks with your tea. This is a great courtesy to your guests.
- Use the appropriate cup for tea, small mouthed cups work well with fragrant teas, use larger mouthed cups for less fragrant teas such a Pu erh… But most importantly, use what you like…!
- When tasting and evaluating professionally, the use of air will increase the flavour of tea, and when the tea hits the roof of your mouth, you can better evaluate the nasal aromas.
Most Importantly: Have fun and don’t take things TOO seriously… A tea life and tea mind has balance!
Traditional Preparation Methods
Note: Use your tea towel between each movement when required. When a tea tool touches water or the tea soup, wipe it with your tea towel. We have included some Chinese terminology in pinyin for tea wares and movements!
Green Tea tall glass cup preparation method
Using 3 tall slim glass cups for three guests
Pre-setup - Arrange and position your tea wares….
Prepare and boil your fresh water.
Step 1 Introduce and prepare the tea tools (the six gentlemen)
Step 2 Prepare the tea for preparation (from tea canister to presentation tray/vessel)
Step 3 Present the tea with the presentation tray or vessel (cha he), prepare the glass cups (turning them over)
Step 4 Warm the teacups to about 1/5th of the cup… (Turn or rotate in circles heating the entire cup)
Step 5 Discard the water from each cup
Step 5 Add 3.0 grams of tea to the cup using the tea-dispensing tool (cha shi)
Step 7 Fill the cup with hot water (pour from a low to high elevation about to about 1/5 of the cup full, (turn in circles to heat)
Step 8 Fill the rest of the cup with hot water (pouring with a motion of three, from low to high, low to high low to high (3 nods of the phoenix) to about ¾ quarters full.
Step 9 Present the tea to the guests, one by one from the servers left to right.
Green Tea Gaiwan (for drinking from gaiwan) preparation method:
Using Three Gaiwans
Pre-setup - Arranging and positioning your tea wares…. (Line up the gaiwans on a vertical slant)
Prepare and boil your fresh water
Step 1 Introduce and prepare the tea tools (the six gentlemen)
Step 2 Prepare the tea for preparation (from tea canister to presentation tray/vessel) (cha he)
Step 3 Present the tea to the guests
Step 4 Warm the gaiwans (in order) with the boiled water and turn in circles heating the entire gaiwan, pour the water off heating the lid into the bottom saucer (heating that as well) replacing the lids on the gaiwan. Discard the water into the tea table or the wastewater container.
Step 5 Dry the lids using your (clean) tea towel.
Step 6 Using your tea tool for dispensing the tea, (cha shi), add 3.0 grams of tea into your 120 ml gaiwan. After, cover the gaiwan with the lids.
Step 7 Add boiled water to the gaiwans by removing each lid, then fill to about 1/4 capacity, covering the tea and replacing each lid after. (do this one at a time)
Step 8 Cover the lid tightly and rotate the gaiwan in circles (very carefully, not letting any water out), do this in sequence one at a time, softly and gently.
Step 9 Fill the rest of the cup with your boiled water (pouring with a motion of three, from low to high, low to high low to high (3 nods of the phoenix) to about 85 % full
Step 10 Serve the gaiwans to your guests for drinking in one straight horizontal line. (From left to right)
Gong fu tea service (General)!
Using 3 cups for 3 guests.
Step 1 Present the Six gentlemen tea tools (in a circular motion across your chest)
Step 2 Present the tea using the tea presentation vessel/tray.
Step 3 Present the cups.
Step 4 Present the gaiwan.
Step 5 Present the sharing serving pitcher.
Step 6 Remove the lid and fill the gaiwan with hot water to warm it.
Step 7 Pour the hot water into the serving pitcher and replace the lid.
Step 8 Pour the water into the cups (to heat them).
Step 9 Bath the cups into each other and then dry with the tea towel.
Step 10 Remove the lid and dispense the tea with the tea dispensing tool. (Cha shi)
Step 11 Cover the tea with water an fill the gaiwan to the near top.
Step 12 Brush the bubble and precipitate off with the lid of the gaiwan in a circular motion left to right.
Step 13 Using the kettle, pour the precipitate/ bubbles off of the lid of the gaiwan with hot water.
Step 14 Discard the first infusion of tea from the gaiwan into the tea table drain of waste water container (quickly, about 5 sec)
Step 15 Remove the lid of the gaiwan and pour more water into the gaiwan,
Step 16 Pour the second infusion into the sharing pitcher.
Step 17 Display the infused liquor in a circular motion and pour into the 3 cups.
Step 18 Serve the guests from left to right and enjoy…
Wuyi Yan Cha Oolong Tea preparation method
Note: you have two choices at step 10
Pre-setup: Gently scent the room with Sandalwood or Agar wood incense as you arrange and position your tea wares. Make sure that the scent is not over dominating at the time you pour your tea, or you will interfere with the strong aroma of the rock tea… (it should be faint at the time of the tea service)
Arrange and prepare tea wares. You can use a darker coloured, implements such as copper for your incent burner and a zisha or brown waste water vessel. Line up your cups horizontally across the front, (we still recommend white cups and porcelain tools) although some people prefer darker colours for yan cha or rock tea.
Prepare and boil your fresh water (it should be rather hot)
Step 1 Present the tea to the guests in or on the presentation vessel/tray
Step 2 Make sure your water is ready to use.
Step 3 Remove the lid and warm the inside and then outside of your small porcelain/zisha clay teapot, replace the lid and pour into the fairness cup to warm the fairness cup. (gong dao bei)
Step 4 Warm the three teacups with the boiled water
Step 5 Dispense the tea in to the teapot using the dispensing tool (Cha shi) (the black dragon enters the palace) add 7.4 to 8.0 grams depending on the size of the clay tea pot… (Approximately 120-150 Ml)
Step 6 Pour your fresh boiled water on to the tealeaves using a down up motion three times (3 nods of the phoenix) or from a high position (forcefully)
Step 7 Using the lid, brush aside any bubbles or precipitate that may have come to the surface (chun feng fu mian) (the spring wind brushes the surface) and then pour the bubbles off of the lid with the hot water from the kettle.
Step 8 after about 10 - 20 seconds, (your preference) pour the tea from the small teapot into the pouring cup.
Step 9 pour the water again from a high elevation forcefully and replace the lid on the teapot. Using the 3 nods of the phoenix (or just pour forcefully, from a high position)
You have two choices here for step 10
(we recommend following this method)
A1 discard the water from the cups.
A2 Pour the tea from the serving pitcher to the guests.
A3 Appreciate the tea.
A4 Smell the aroma of the tea.
A5 Sip the tea in three sips…
A6 Again pour the tea from the serving pitcher. (gong dao bei)
B1 put your zisha teapot into a zisha bowl, and pour the first infusion from the serving pitcher over the clay teapot to additionally heat it. Note: (this method will not yield as many infusions as if you were just serving the tea with shorter multiple infusions.
B2 Remove the clay teapot from the zisha bowl, or tray.
B3 Discard the water from the cups.
B4 Wipe the teapot on your tea towel and pour the tea into the serving cup.
B5 Appreciate the tea.
B6 Smell the aroma of the tea.
B7 Sip the tea in three sips…
B8 Again pour the tea from the serving pitcher.
Anxi Tieguanyin Gaiwan preparation method:
There are two options at step 5: Option A
Use 3 small-mouthed cups (xiao kou) (ping ming bei).
Pre-setup – Arrange and position your tea wares….
Prepare and boil your fresh water
(enter the tea mind)
Step 1 Introduce and prepare the tea tools and tea ware (the six gentlemen) use small cups for tasting (xiao kou) this way the aroma of tea will be present in the cup.
Step 2 Remove the lid of the gaiwan and pour the boiling water in the gaiwan and replace the lid. You can rotate the gaiwan to disperse the heat of the water, and then discard that water.
Step 3 Remove the lid of the gaiwan and add the tea (guanyin ru gong) using the tea dispersing tool (cha shi). (Guan yin enters the palace)
Step 4 Pour the boiling water into the gaiwan from a high elevation forcefully, you can pour from low to high with three quick up and down notions (the 3 nods of the phoenix) if you like.
Step 5 with the lid of the gaiwan, brush the bubbles and precipitate off of the surface and place the lid back on the gaiwan. (Spring wind brushes the surface)
A1 After six seconds pour the infusion into the sharing pitcher, (guanyin chu hai) and pour the infusion into the 3 small tasting cups. Serve from left to right. (clockwise)
A2 Appreciate the fine tea in the cups tea
A3 Smell the aroma from the cup.
A4 Sip the tea in three sips.
A5 Smell the cup after drinking to further appreciate the strong fragrance.
B1 after a quick 5 seconds, pour the infusion into the sharing pitcher, (guanyin chu hai) and pour the infusion into the 3 small tasting cups.
B2 Discard the tea in the cups using the tea pincer tool one by one into the tea table drain or the wastewater container.
B3 Pour the boiling water into the gaiwan from a high elevation forcefully, again you can pour from low to high with three quick up and down notions (the 3 nods of the phoenix) if you like.
B4 Using the lid of the gaiwan, brush the bubbles and precipitate off of the surface and place the lid back on the gaiwan.
B5 After 6 seconds, pour the infusion from the gaiwan into the sharing pitcher, and then pour the infusion into the three small tasting cups (one by one). Serve from left to right.
B6 Appreciate the fine tea in the cups.
B7 Smell the aroma from the cup.
B8 Sip the tea in three sips.
B9 Smell the cup after drinking to further appreciate the strong fragrance.
Anxi Tieguanyin aroma cup / zisha teapot preparation method:
4 sets of aroma cups
Note: this can also be used for preparing Taiwanese tea.
Pre-setup - Arrange and position your tea wares…. Align the aroma cups in front of the tasting cups.
Prepare and boil your fresh water.
Step 1 Introduce and prepare the tea tools and tea ware (the six gentlemen) use aroma cup sets, for tasting (xiao kou) and the aroma cup for smelling the aromas of the tea. Feel free to present the other things such as tea towel (cha jin), tea canister. (Cha guan) , zisha tea pot and serving pitcher.
Step 2 Present the aroma cups and the ping min bei small cups (sipping cups) two at a time
Step 3 If you are using a tea caddy, dispense the tea leaves into the tea presentation vessel (if not using a tea caddy, you can have the tea prepared already on the presentation vessel or tray) replace the lid and put back the tea canister to the original positions.
Step 4 Present the tea to the guests.
Step 5 Pour the fresh hot water over the zisha teapot to get the temperature into the teapot, remove the lid and pour water into it as well. (it may be hot!!)
Step 6 Pour the water into the sharing pitcher.
Step 7 Pour the water from the sharing pitcher into the aroma cups and a little into the tasting cups.
Step 8 Put the aroma cups upside down into the tasting cups and allow the heat of the water to transfer into the aroma cups and tasting cups.
Step 9 Put your pouring tool onto the zisha pot to allow an easy transfer into the zisha pot.
Step 10 Using the tea-dispensing tool (cha shi) pour the tea into the clay teapot (the black dragon enters the palace) using about 7 to 8 grams for 120 ml to 150 ml zisha clay teapot.
Step 11 Fill the zisha pot with water, replace the lid and quickly rinse the tea, and pour the tea from the teapot to the sharing cup. Put the teapot down and remove the lid.
Step 12 Again pour fresh hot water from the kettle to the clay teapot and replace the lid, pour from a high elevation until the tea comes to the surface of the teapot.
Step 13 Gently brush the bubbles and precipitate away fro the teapot (the spring wind brushes the surface and replace the lid onto the teapot.
Step 14 Take the serving pitcher and pour that water over the clay teapot adding heat to it.. (Bathe the immortal twice) infuse for about 20 to 30 seconds
Step 15 Remove the aroma cups from the tasting cups and empty the water into the tea table or waste water container, align the aroma cups in front of the tasting cups.
Step 16 Pour the tea from the clay teapot to the sharing cup, using the strainer, and then pour the tea (gwen goong) into the aroma cups about ¾ full.
Step 17 Place the tasting cups (one by one) on top of the aroma cups (so they are resting on the top of the aroma cups)
Step 18 In one quick motion (make sure there is a good seal, flip the aroma cup over and place the tea tasting cup down with the aroma cup on top… (With a lot of practice the tea will actually become like a seal and prevent spilling. After turning each cup, then place it onto the serving tray, and align it beside the tea table. Serve it to each guest in order, one by one.
Step 19 Guests should be instructed to remove the aroma cup from the tasting cup, then in a circular motion go around the rim of the tasting cup.
Step 20 Smell the aroma of the tea using a side-to-side motion and then roll the aroma cup in both hands, further appreciating the fine aromas and put the aroma cup down beside the tasting cup on the serving tray.
Step 21 Sip the tea in three sips and place the cup back onto the serving tray and then pick up the aroma cup and further smell the wonderful aromas…
Four Seasons Tea Co. Reviews
http://steepstories.com/orchids-in-my-oolong/ (Bai Ya Qi Lan)