The Chinese Tea making method

Chinese teamaking is a little bit different from the English method.

In the Chinese method the water is added to the leaves in the pot, left for the correct length of time, then all the water is removed from the pot and poured in the cups. Removing all the water from contact with the leaves means the tea doesn't get too strong and bitter. When more tea is wanted more water is added to the pot, left for a time, then poured out completely again. These "steepings" may be repeated several times depending on quality and type of the tea.

How to make a "Genuine Tea"

If the same tealeaf is made using different methods the taste will change. It can be too weak, too bitter or too cloudy. To reveal the genuine taste of the particular tea the correct method needs to be used. Making Tea is like making a friend, sometimes it takes a little time to understand each other's character - and when you understand a new friend and the friend understands you for the first time it is a very precious event.

The main variables are
  1. The Volume of Tealeaves.
  2. The Temperature and quality of the Water
  3. The Time the Tea is allowed to brew - we show you the full method here.

1. Volume of Tealeaves

Before preparing a tea, we have to choose a proper size of teapot. If we have many people to serve, we will need a big teapot. Chinese teacups tend to be quite small too - but if using a large pot the cups are also larger. For comparison an English Cup is 240cc. If using a small teapot (around 150cc) then the cups are usually small (around 15-30cc). Usually this size is used to serve 4 or fewer people. If using a larger teapot (around 300cc) and the larger cups are around 60cc capacity. For small teapot, the proportion of tealeaf depth and water depth is 1:4. (1 1/2 teaspoons will need about 150cc water. It also depends on personal preferences.)

2. Water Temperature and Quality

For making a genuine tea, use water with a fresh, clean neutral taste. Tap water is not recommended - because the chlorine smell and taste of minerals which will mask some of the subtle tea tastes and fragrances. Perhaps mountain spring water is best. Filter water is fine. There is no advantages or disadvantages to use distilled water to make tea. In a competition, distilled water is the standard for judging.

Many people think that the water needs to be boiling, but the best way is to match the temperature to the type of tea.

Oolong tea requires very hot water between 85 and 95 degrees - pour the boiling water out of the kettle into the teapot.

There are four kinds of tea which cannot be steeped in such high water temperature. The water needs to be around 60 to 80 degrees. Let the kettle boil but then let it cool for 5 or 10 minutes before pouring in the pot:

  1. Green Tea
  2. Lightly fermented or non-fermented tea, such as Pilochun, Longjing tea.
  3. Lightly baking or non-baking tea, such as light Oolong tea, Pilochun and Longjing tea.
  4. Tender or small broken tealeaf - where the leaves have been broken into pieces by machine.

3. Time and Method

The secret of Chinese style teamaking is that if there is not water in with the tealeaves it is OK for the pot to sit there for five or ten minutes or even an hour. So you can relax and talk with your guests.

  1. Warm the pot.

    First warm the pot by putting fresh hot water in. Leave for a minute.
    Throw away the hot water.

  2. Wash the tealeaves

    Put the tealeaves in the pot.
    Put water in with the leaves. Leave for a few seconds - no more than 10 seconds and pour the hot water into to cups to warm them up. Don't drink yet - this tea washing water is thrown away too. The purpose is to let the tealeaves open up a little and when the water is drained give the pot a little shake and you and your guests can smell the leaves for the first time. Enjoy this special experience.

  3. Steep the tealeaves for the first time

    Put the water at the right temperature in with the leaves. Normally the water is left in the pot the first time for around 60 seconds - which is about right for most teas, particularly Oolong and High Mountain tea. Though it also depends on whether you like the tea weak or strong.
    During that 60 seconds pour the tea washing water out of the cups.
    After 60 seconds pour the water into the cups. Don't fill one cup after the other but put about a third in each cup, then another third in each then the final third in each so everyone gets equal flavour.
    If there is any tea left in the pot you can pour it into a small jug or a spare teacup. Now the water is out of the pot it can sit there happily waiting for the next steeping.

  4. Taste the tea.

    Look at the tea in the cups - it should be have a nice colour and not be cloudy.
    Have a smell - enjoy the fragrance.
    Taste and hold in your mouth for a moment. Feel the different taste as you swallow.
    If the tea is bitter then the first steeping was too long or there were too many leaves in the pot. If it was too weak leave it a bit longer next time. You are starting to understand the character of the genuine tea! Welcome new friend!

  5. Second, third steepings and beyond

    You might want to turn the kettle on for a few seconds to restore the correct temperature of the water. The general times for steeping tea have this form - but it will change a bit as you get to know the Genuine Tea. If the tea is too bitter, shorten the next steeping. Generally Good Quality Oolong or High Mountain Tea can be steeped a total of 6 to 7 times.

    First Steeping - 60 seconds
    Second Steeping - 50 seconds
    Third Steeping - 60 seconds
    Fourth Steeping - 80 seconds
    Fifth Steeping - 100 seconds.
    and allow an additional 20~30 seconds for subsequent brews.

    Green Tea and other lighter teas can usually be steeped 3 to 5 times.
    First Steeping-40~50 seconds
    Second Steeping-30~40 seconds
    Third Steeping-40~50 seconds
    Fourth Steeping-60 seconds
    Fifth Steeping-70 seconds