How to make Chinese tea

Oolong tea preparation according to Gongfu Cha

3rd January 2019

Chinese tradition or not - one thing is clear: if you are looking for the best taste experience, you cannot ignore traditional Chinese tea preparation (called “Gong Fu Cha” 功夫 茶 in Chinese). We recommend this method especially for our high-quality oolong teas. But don't worry, you can start very easily, even without too much prior knowledge and tools.

What is the difference to the conventional, typically "Western" tea preparation?

In contrast to the typical western tea preparation, Gongfu Cha uses a small teapot with a larger amount of tea. For example, you pour five grams of tea in a 150ml tea pot several times with a very short brewing time of 20-30 seconds. Oolong teas can be infused five to seven times. With the short brewing time, fewer bitter substances dissolve and fine aromas can come to the fore. The taste profile changes from the first to the last infusion and the many infusions also offer a more interesting tea experience.

What do you need to prepare Gong Fu tea?

  • A small teapot or a Gaiwan with a volume of approx. 150 ml to a maximum of 250 ml (e.g. a Yixing teapot or the Teekenner jug)
  • A pouring vessel (Chinese Gongdaobei 公道 杯, also called pitcher in English), e.g. our glass carafe
  • Small tea cups, e.g. made of porcelain
  • Kettle with temperature preselection

In addition to this basic equipment, there is an endless range of more or less useful and playful accessories for making Gong Fu tea. For example, the so-called “tea boat” made of wood or stone is the right base for tea preparation and a stylish method to artfully stage the water splashes. A teaspoon made of bamboo or wood simplifies dosing and prevents you from having to touch the tea leaves with your fingers. With a sieve, smaller suspended particles can be filtered out when pouring on. Smelling cups are used in addition to the drinking cup to smell the aroma of the tea before drinking it. A cloth is used to keep the workplace clean.

How do I choose the right teapot for my oolong tea?

First of all, you should find the right teapot size: For how many people do I want to prepare tea?

  • 1-2 people: 150ml teapot
  • 3-4 people: 150 to 250ml teapot

What shape should the teapot have?

Oolong teas are always unbroken whole leaf teas. A bulbous, round shape is advantageous so that the tea leaves can unfold. Basically, spherically rolled oolong tea leaves (e.g. Four Seasons Oolong) need more space to unfold than lengthways rolled tea leaves (e.g. Dancong Oolong).

The material: A distinction is made between smooth, tasteless surfaces (e.g. porcelain) and porous, air-permeable surfaces (e.g. unglazed Yixing clay). The latter have a positive influence on the taste of dark teas - they are preferred for pu-erh teas, dark oolong teas and black tea. For less oxidized Oolong teas and green teas, smooth and therefore tasteless surfaces are suitable. With these slightly or not oxidized teas, you want to experience the unadulterated, flowery and floral notes. Incidentally, tea buttons always use glazed porcelain for preparation. The very smooth surface has the least possible impact on the taste.

Another factor is the wall thickness and the heat capacity of the material. Thick-walled Yixing teapots have a very high heat capacity. Porcelain and glass, on the other hand, have a lower heat capacity. These materials are more difficult to preheat and you lose about 10 ° water temperature when you pour them on. Teapot recommendations:

Step by step instructions for making Gong Fu Oolong tea:

1. Boil water and preheat
First of all, you should always use the softest possible water. Water that is too hard spoils the taste experience - the tea then tastes a bit scratchy. In addition, the lime in the water and the dissolved polyphenols form a film on the surface of the water that one does not want to have.

For all oolong teas, you can safely boil the water first - if you have a kettle with a temperature preselection, you can also heat the water to 90 °.

Preheating: In the first step, you rinse the teapot and drinking cups with hot water - so that the clay heats up well, you should leave the water in the vessels for a few seconds and then pour it away.

2. Measure out the oolong tea leaves and take the first scent sample
Now you put the Oolong tea leaves in the emptied, but still damp and preheated teapot. The rule of thumb is: 5g tea per 150ml teapot volume. Then you close the teapot with the lid and shake the vessel vigorously a few times. Open the teapot a little and smell: The whole aroma spectrum of the tea is in your nose and you can look forward to the first infusion!

3. First infusion
Now pour the tea with approx. 95 ° C hot water - since you lose a few degrees Celsius when you pour it, you can confidently use freshly boiled water. For less oxidized Oolong teas, it can be a few degrees less (90 ° infusion temperature). The brewing time for the first infusion can be tried out with 30-40 seconds. If you have washed the tea beforehand (optional), 20 seconds is enough.

4. Transfer
At the end of the brewing time, the tea is poured completely into the infusion vessel, for example in a glass carafe. The glass has the advantage that you can better perceive the bright colors of the infusion. The infusion vessel ideally has the same filling quantity as the teapot. The pouring over ends the brewing time and enables the first infusion to remain homogeneous in taste. In addition, the tea cools down by approx. 10 ° when pouring it over, this effect is desired in order to bring the tea to drinking temperature.

5. Pour
Now the first infusion is poured evenly onto the desired number of tea cups. The tea mugs should also have been preheated, otherwise the tea will lose too much heat. Another heat loss of max. 10 ° is ideal - the tea can now be drunk directly and has a pleasant 60-70 ° Celsius.

6. Drink
Tea Taster like to sip your tea - the ventilation of the tea and the caressing of the palate contribute to the better perception of the taste nuances. You can also just let the tea stay in your mouth for a few seconds before swallowing it. This is a more socially acceptable way of enjoying.

7. More infusions
The tea can now be infused more times. Good oolong teas can easily be infused 5-7 times. Pu-erh teas even up to 10 times. If the tea was not washed before the first infusion, the following applies: the second infusion is the shortest. You can add approx. 10 seconds of brewing time for each subsequent infusion.

A Gongfu session with a ball-rolled Milky Oolong tea could look like this, for example, infusion temperature 90 ° Celsius throughout:

  1. Infusion 40 seconds (waking up the tea leaves) -> even more gentle taste
  2. Infusion 20 seconds -> the fine aromas emerge
  3. Infusion 30 seconds -> fine aroma and more intensity
  4. Infusion 40 seconds -> aroma slowly decreases, but more intensity
  5. Infusion 50 seconds -> only little aroma, but more bitter substances
  6. Infusion 60 seconds -> the tea already tastes "a bit through"
  7. Infusion 1 minute or longer -> the infusion for bargain hunters

You can also continue the other infusions with a time delay, e.g. a few hours later. Note: Use soaked tea leaves within a day.

Etiquette and finishing touches
Aesthetic movement sequences are very important in the Chinese GongFu Cha tea ceremony. The upper body is always straight and upright, the movements are gentle and graceful. Avoid rough and loud movements. In China, Gongfu Cha tea preparation is emptied by masters and takes years to perfect.


The Teekenner team wishes you a lot of fun trying it out!

Christian Beck