Gong Fu Cha Part II and How to Brew Tea with Gaiwan

To continue from the last article of what Gong Fu Cha is, we will move on to Gong Fu Cha preparation and how to brew with Gaiwan, which is one of the most essential and common seen teaware that's used for Gong Fu Cha style as well as in Chinese tea culture. 

Before we start, here is a quick video to give you a general idea what it looks like to brew with Gaiwan:

Gong Fu Cha Equipment Preparation

Gaiwan - A lidded a small bowl with or without a saucer at the bottom. It’s created during Yuan Dynasty, about 600 years ago. An ideal tea ware for brewing mildly oxidized teas or teas with young tender buds, such as green tea, white tea and mildly oxidized oolong teas (Li Shan, A Li Shan, Shan Lin Xi, etc).

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Yi Xing clay pot - Also known as the Purple Clay Pot. It’s made from a very special type of clay that can only be found in Yi Xing, Jiang Su Provence in China. The purple clay is also known as the breathable clay, meaning that it can absorb fragrance and flavor from certain tea. Therefore, it is recommended to use one purple clay pot to brew only one type of tea. In general, Yi Xing Clay Pot is used for brewing aged teas, such as aged raw Pu Erh and aged riple Pu Erh, aged white tea and Dark tea.

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Regular clay pot - can be used for black tea or highly oxidized oolong teas, such as Phoenix Dan Cong oolong tea and Wu Yi Rock tea (Da Hong Pao, Rou Gui, etc.). It’s also generally used for aged teas such as aged white tea, aged raw and ripe Pu Erh tea. This is because clay pot traps heat better than Gaiwan, hence it will force aged teas to open up and release fragrance and flavor faster.

Gong Dao Bei/Sharing Pitcher - Liquor from Gaiwan will be poured into the Sharing Pitcher, then from Sharing Pitcher into each cup, in order to make sure the liquor will be distributed equally into each cup. “Gong Dao” literally means “justice” or “fairness” in Chinese, so you can understand the metaphor there. They can be either glass made or clay material. Glass is usually recommended because that helps to observe the liquor. 

gong dao bei, sharing pitcher, gong fu cha, gong fu tea    gong dao bei, sharing pitcher, gong fu cha, gong fu tea

Tea cups - there are various shapes of cups used for Gong Fu Cha, but they are typically small for just a few sips of concentrated tea.

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Tea tray - In order to prevent tea or water from spilling over on the table.

Cha Xi/Tea cup holder - A vessel/big bowl that’s used for waste water and waste tea during the rinsing process as well as for rinsing cups.

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Chao Dao Six Gentlemen utensils - Six different utensils that assist the brewing process, such as the tong, the needle for cleaning the tea pot sprout, the tea scoop, etc.

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Gaiwan Brewing Method and Guideline

There are generally four ways of pouring water into Gaiwan and it depends on what type of tea we are brewing. Water pouring method is one of the most important elements that determines if the true essence of tea will come out.

Central pouring

  • Used for reviving highly oxidized tea’s aroma when it’s getting weary, such as the 5th or 6th steeping and so on 
  • Not generally used for the first round of steeping
  • For highly oxidized oolong tea such as Wu Yi Rock tea, traditional Dong Ding, Pu Erh tea and Dark tea (Hei Cha)

Swirling leaf 6 o’clock

  • Generally used for the 1st and 2nd round of steeping 
  • Allows tea leaves to swirl in Gaiwan in a clockwise circular motion in order to let the aroma out 
  • Generally used for all buds teas, such as green tea, and white tea Silver Needle, certain all buds black teas such as Yun Nan Dian Hong and Jin Jun Mei, as well as ball shape taiwanese Oolong 

Fix 7 o’clock

  • Generally used for 3rd or 4th round of steeping 
  • Generally used for all buds tea or small leaves tea, such as green tea, white tea and black tea and big leaves such as Taiwanese high mountain oolong tea
  • Allows tea leaves to swirl vertically in Gaiwan in order to stimulate the aroma out 
  • Prevents hot water poured directly on the leaf to make the tea astringent 
Circle on the rim (the easiest)
    • Generally used for any rounds of steeping, from the 1st round to the last round
    • Specifically, it can be used for:
    1. Phoenix Dan Cong Steeping, from the 1st to the last
    2. Teas with big leaves, such as certain white tea (Han Lu, Yun Nan Moonlight White), for the 1st and 2nd round of steeping, then change to Fix 7 o’clock 
    3. Teas with big leaves, such as taiwanese oolong, for the 3rd and 4th steeping and so on 
    4. Aged teas, such as aged white tea, Pu Erh and Dark tea (Hei Cha)
    • For Pu Erh tea and Dark tea, circle water slowly and gently on the rim for the 1st and 2nd round of steeping in order to avoid too much aging “earthness” to come out all at once 


    Fresh harvested green tea, white tea, low oxidized oolong teas (such as A Li Shan, Li Shan, Shan Lin Xi, etc.), use lower temperature around 80C to 85C, 175F to 185F.

    Aged white tea, ripe Pu Erh tea, and dark tea, use high water temperature around 95C to 100C, 203F to 212F.

    For raw Pu Erh tea, the water temperature should be about 90C/195F.

    Black tea, highly oxidized oolong tea (such as Wu Yi Rock tea and Phoenix Dan Cong oolong tea), use high water temperature 95C/203F.

    Steeping time

    Generally speaking, for fresh harvested teas with very green leaves, black tea with a lot of buds (such as certain Yun Nan Dian Hong, Jin Jun Mei, etc.), and all oolong teas, the steeping time should be within 3-5 seconds. 

    For aged white tea, ripe and raw Pu Era tea, the steeping time can be longer, such as 10 seconds or more as more steeping goes on.

    Clay pot general guideline

    Clay pot is generally easier. While the water temperature for Gaiwan brewing also applies to clay pot brewing, the steeping time is generally longer for about 30 seconds for aged teas and about 5 seconds for oolong teas. The tea should fill up about 1/3 the space of the teapot in terms of proportion.

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