Tea Brewing is the art of extracting the flavour and all the benefits tea leaves have to offer so you can drink and enjoy them with each cup.
There are various ways to brew the perfect cup of tea. These methods depend on the tea you are drinking and your location.
In China, and most of Asia, Kung Fu style tea brewing is one of the best ways to appreciate tea and its myriad of flavours.
What Is Kung Fu?
Kung Fu is a traditional Chinese tea ceremony (similar to the Japanese) and is also widely considered to be the definitive Chinese method of brewing tea. It has been around for 1000 years and grew in popularity during the Ming Dynasty in the 1500s.
Kung Fu brewing is characterised by its focus on the taste of tea, the length of time it takes, and the multiple times you steep your tea. The Kung Fu style is also a much slower and precise method than the western style of brewing tea. It is a favourite of tea connoisseurs and requires you to know a lot about the different teas available as well as the optimum temperature and steeping times.
The Kung Fu cha method uses more leaves and not as much water as you would expect. The cups are smaller, making Kung Fu cha more concentrated and not as diluted. Infusion time is also a lot shorter, steeping tea for a few seconds at a time, depending on the kind of tea you are using. Fustyle tea is not meant to quench your thirst, and since you’ll be taking in only 2 to 3 sips per cup, you will appreciate the wonderful combination of scents and flavours your tea has to offer.
How Is Kung Fu Tea Brewing Different to Western-style Brewing?
The Western-style of brewing tea is that you steep the tea in boiling water for a certain amount of time and once done, pour everyone a cup. You immediately taste the tea with all its combined flavours in one go.
With the Kung Fu method, the tea is steeped multiple times, sometimes over 10 to 15 times depending on the tea you are serving. After each steep, the tea is poured into tiny serving cups that only allow a few sips, for you to drink.
Why Try the Kung Fu Method Of Tea Brewing?
There are several benefits you can take full advantage of by brewing your tea Kung Fu style. With every steep, you will slowly take in the many different tastes and scents found in your tea. You will get to truly experience – and savour – even your most favourite tea more fully, discovering new flavours you did not notice before.
It is also a slower, deliberate, peaceful and more mindful way to enjoy your tea and an excellent opportunity to catch up and chat with friends throughout the entire brewing process.
What Are the Best Teas For Kung Fu Cha Brewing?
Loose-leaf Chinese and other Asian teas are the best for Kung Fu Style brewing including Pu ‘Erh, White, Oolong and other black teas. The higher the tea quality, the better since they have more complex tastes and are the most flavourful variants. Kung Fu, however, is not meant for green, flavoured, herbal and scented teas and tea that come in tea bags.
DIY Kung Fu Brewing at Home
Since the Kung Fu style is one that is very old and traditional, you might feel intimidated to try it at home but don’t worry! Kung Fu style brewing is possible at home, and with enough practice, you can be an expert in no time.
You’ll need the following:
You’ll need a reliable kettle to make sure that your water is boiled to the correct temperature.
Gaiwan / Small teapot
A Gaiwan is a tea bowl that looks like a regular cup (but smaller) with a lid. If you don’t have one, you can also use a small-sized teapot. The Gaiwan is where you brew your tea leaves. A popular type of clay pot, cups and pitchers are often used with Kung Fu style brewing. Yixing pots are made from special clay that, over time, gets more porous, absorbing the different tea leaf essences to provide you with an even more flavourful cup of tea.
Chai Hai / Small Tea Pitcher
Once the tea is brewed, you’ll need to pour it into a Chai Hai, or a separate tea pitcher, also known as the “Fairness” pitcher. The Chai Hai is vital in Kung Fu style brewing because it guarantees that when you pour the brewed tea into individual tasting cups, they will all have tea of the same consistency, colour, strength and flavour.
Drinking Tea Cups
The teacups used for Kung Fu Cha are tiny when compared to western teacups. They only hold three to four sips worth or anywhere between 30 to 70 ml.
A Chinese Kung Fu tea tray not only carries all your tea accessories but also has a compartment built in to collect the water you will be throwing out as you continuously rinse your chai hai, gaiwan and cups as you steep your tea again and again. A regular serving tray can’t be used as a substitute, but if you are starting, you can also use a separate bowl to collect the water.
A tea strainer may come in handy if you are not used to pouring liquid out of the gaiwan and into the fairness pitcher. This way you won’t get tea leaves in your teacup.
Step by Step Instructions on Brewing Your Tea Kung Fu Style
- Boil water in your kettle.
- Once your water is boiled, pour hot water over your Gaiwan, and then use that water and pour over the chai hai and finally from the cha hai, over your teacups. This will sterilise and preheat your utensils.
- Measure out your tea leaves into your gaiwan.
- Pour hot water into the gaiwan and quickly pour it out. This will wash your tea leaves and also prime or “awaken” them.
- Pour fresh hot water into your gaiwan and steep your tea anywhere between 10 to 30 seconds depending on your tea.
- Once brewed, pour the steeped tea into the fairness pitcher.
- Use the fairness pitcher to pour tea into the teacups.
- Slowly take a few sips and enjoy your tea!
- Repeat the entire Kung Fu process, making sure that you increase the steeping time per round until the taste is gone.
Kung Fu tea brewing is truly a delight, not just for your taste buds but also for your peace of mind because it is a calm, unhurried method to truly enjoy the different flavours your tea leaves have to offer.
Invite your friends as well so you can share the experience.
Depending on the type of tea you are drinking, there are different ratios and timing for the optimal Kung Fu cup of tea. Read our in-depth guide for more information: How to Make Chinese Tea: The Most Comprehensive Chinese Tea Brewing Guide.