You don't have to be a tea house master to brew tea. Each action has its specific procedures and steps. Brewing tea is about mastering the fundamental steps, understanding the quality of tea, water and tea equipment, and all aspects of drinking tea, so that the resulting brew is based on each tea's unique qualities. It is not necessary to simply focus on the steps and neglect the leisurely enjoyment of tea.

Brewing tea is a delicate, elegant art. Brewing and drinking tea is a way to upgrade yourself, and cultivate your physical and mental faculties. How one brews tea reflects one's accomplishments, tastes, interests and heritage. Brewing a good pot of tea, enjoying a cup of tea - this is the culmination of a number of detailed steps. Whether you're brewing tea for yourself or to share with friends, or merely to quench a thirst, the act of putting some tea leaves into boiling water results in a cup of tea.

However, to add a level of spiritual enjoyment to the tea-drinking experience, the overall brewing process requires attention to methodology and skill. Relax and take your time in picking the tea leaves and water, preparing the tea set, and then brewing, sipping and appraising your tea. A full understanding of these tiny details of this art will enable you to brew a cup of smooth, fragrant tea that provides comfort and pleasure to yourself and others. Not only does this promote good rapport, one can easily and creatively make use of the various combination of tea utensils and methodologies and enjoy the many facets of tea culture.

Detailed tips for brewing tea

Fusing behavior, posture and environment
Generally, we brew tea while sitting down). We should sit upright, with both feet close together, drawn slightly to the back. Avoid extending your legs so that you won't knock into someone else's legs; it is considered discourteous. Your spine should be naturally straight to reflect your alertness. Whenever there is a lull in activity, cross your hands on your lap or lay them gently on a tea towel. Excessive hand movement is considered crude - pay more attention to this aspect. In terms of clothing, you should be dressed comfortably and conveniently, neither too formal nor casual. The environment should be tidy, hygienic and comfortable. Tea lovers prefer a clean and comfortable ambience that is elegantly furnished, with soothing music to delight the body and mind, calm emotions and beautify the atmosphere.

Preparing and layout of tea utensils
To brew different types of tea, you must use the compatible tea utensils. Hand movements must be skillfully executed throughout the entire brewing process. Arrange the utensils according to the tea brewer's preference and convenience. Remember, you must use your left hand to take items from the left, and similarly for the right. After taking each object, change hands, mindful that each hand has its own area to take care of. Use the simplest paths when taking or putting down objects, not complicated routes that involve criss-crossing hands.

When brewing tea, take into consideration the number of tea drinkers and the size of the pot. Avoid taking out more tea leaves than necessary. Leftover tea leaves cannot be returned to the tea box. Tea leaves that have been exposed to the air for too long will oxidize and deteriorate; if returned to the box, such leaves will affect the quality of the tea within. The tea towel is another indispensable part of the tea-brewing kit. It should be folded flat and kept on standby to wipe tea utensils or the bottom of the tea cup, to remove stains and watermarks. Do not use the tea towel to wipe the tea tray, or as a tablecloth.

Warming the tea cup
Before brewing the tea, you must warm the tea cup. Grasp the bottom or lower half of the cup. For handle-less porcelain or glass cups, for example, try as far as possible to keep the cup flat/even to contain the water in the centre and prevent spillage. Rotate the cup anti-clockwise once; move forward, back, left and right in a circular motion, then pour warm water into a tea pitcher. Avoid touching the edge of the cup which will come into contact with the lips. When warming a covered cup, use your left hand to hold the lower half of the cup, and keep your right hand on the lid, and rotate the cup anti-clockwise. Then lift the lid, turn it, and pour the water out into the bowl.

Detailed tips for handling the teapot
Regardless of whether you're warming or holding the teapot and cup, attention must be paid to the size and weight, whether you can move your hands unimpeded. There is not much difference in handling porcelain, clay, glass, purple clay (Zisha) teapots etc. The standard way of holding a tea pot is by pinching the curved pot handle with the thumb and middle finger, while using the index finger to press the lid lightly (but avoid closing over the hole in the lid), the ring finger should be resting on the handle, and the little finger curved inwards. Beginners can use the middle finger of the other hand to press the lid down with the same method. At intervals during the tea brewing process, avoid pointing the tea spout directly at guests, as it shows disrespect. Tea-brewing also involves other utensils: tea server ("Char hoi") - freshly brewed tea is poured into a tea server before it is evenly distributed for drinking; filtration net - to filter out the residual tea leaves after pouring from the tea server; snifter ("Mun Heong") cup - pour the brewed tea into the cup, rub both sides of the cup and then inhale the resultant fragrance; tea dish ("char hor") - to hold tea leaves; "tea knife" - to loosen compressed tea, such as brick tea or tea cakes so that it can be used for brewing.

An additional six tools ensures that the tea-brewing process is hygienic and decent. These six items includes a tea funnel, which is placed at the mouth of the pot to prevent tea leaves from spilling out; a tea scoop to take out the tea leaves from the container; a tweezer to lift the cup; a tea measurer to apportion the correct quantity of tea leaves; a tea needle to unblock the leaves that are stuck in the spout; a pot brush to clean the teapot and improve its appearance. When handling these six items, avoid touching the area which comes into contact with the tea leaves.

Tea-brewing etiquette and steps made easy
Before brewing, ensure that the amount of tea leaves correspond to the number of guests. Water quality and temperature is also an important part of tea culture. Without good water you can't bring out the sweetness, no matter how good the tea is. Since ancient times, spring water was considered the best for brewing tea. But in a modern urban environment, where spring water is not readily available, mineral water and purified water can be used. Different teas are also brewed differently. The right water temperature must be attained to match the different kinds of tea apparatus. For example, porcelain and purple clay ("Zisha") pots are recommended for oolong tea, which must be brewed with boiling water; green tea should be brewed with water at about 80 degrees, using glass or ceramic containers.

In a tea-brewing process, the hot water should be poured from a height and collected from below. The water must be poured rhythmically into the teapot in three movements of ups and downs, so that water flows in one continuous stream. After the teapot is full, pour the tea into a tea server, then divide the tea equally. The process of collecting and dividing the tea should take place at a low height, to avoid dissipating the aroma and prevent spillage. The tea server only needs to be slightly higher than the tea cup, but cannot touch the rim of the cup. Fill the cup until 70% full, leaving about 1/3 empty as a mark of respect.

After enjoying your tea, it is time to clean the tea utensils. Tea leaves that have been left behind in the teapot for too long will stain the pot and leave behind debris, and if used again, will interfere with the quality and flavor of the tea. While cleaning tea utensils, especially Zisha teapots, do not use detergent, as it will also affect the tea. Rinse with only clean or hot water. After washing, use a dry tea towel to wipe dry and then store properly.

Different ways of brewing different tea

Type of tea Water Temperature Tea apparatus The amount of tea leaves Infusion time
Oolong tea 95 degrees + Purple clay (Zisha)
Tea and water ratio of 1:22 30-40 seconds (brief at the beginning, longer at a later stage)


Yellow tea

80 degrees

Glass pot/cup

Porcelain pot

According to age of the tea, personal taste and number of people 2-3 minutes after the first brief period
Tea 100-degree boiling water


Lidded cup


Tea and water ratio of 1:30 30-60 seconds


Identifying the quality of water used for brewing tea

Prior to the Tang Dynasty, tea was already common, but a variety of fragrant and spicy ingredients were added into the brew. Under these conditions, the tea's color, smell and taste are not so critical. Therefore the requirement on water quality is not high. From the Tang Dynasty onwards, with the increase in tea products, tea appreciation became increasingly popular, as was the demand for higher water quality.

In fact, the quality of water can directly affect the merits of the tea. Then and now, the subject of water cannot be excluded from discussions about tea. Therefore, assessment of water quality is an essential skill for a tea master.

Tea connoisseurs have many diverse opinions on water, each with its own logic. From a comprehensive and practical viewpoint, emphasis is placed on lightness, body, sweetness, "life", i.e. the water should be clear, light and "alive". "A good tea's aroma is released by water; speak not of tea when there is no water." Simply put, the true taste of a good tea cannot be realized without good water.

Living in a modern metropolis, the most readily available and preferred water is mineral water; bottled spring water can be used to brew tea. Spring water contains carbon dioxide and various trace elements which are beneficial to the human body, as they have been filtered through layers of rock and sand, resulting in crystal clear water. Only minimal chlorine and iron compounds are present. Brewing tea with this kind of spring water will bring out the best of a tea's color, smell, taste and "form". Through advances in modern science and technology, our common drinking water is already pure as it has been filtered many times. The water has also attained a neutral pH that is suitable for making tea. Tea that is prepared from this pure water has superior aroma, purity in taste, is free from foreign flavors, and refreshing.

Tap water generally contains iron, chlorine and other particles. This is especially true for water that has stayed in iron pipes for a long time; it contains higher amounts of iron. This water does not lend itself to making tea, as it will affect quality and aroma; the resultant tea will be brownish. It is much better to use water filter to purify the water before using it for making tea. Another simple and modern way to improve the quality of tap water is to store it directly inside a specially made anti-oxidant vessel. For the anti-oxidation effect to take place in the water, at least five hours of storage time is required. Based on medical reports, anti-oxidant water has a significant impact on human health; it belongs to the "live" water category that can be drunk directly. Anti-oxidant water is also very suitable to brew tea. The "live" character, light quality and sweet aroma of this water will help to bring out the fragrance and sweetness of tea.

The basics of tea utensils

Tea utensils are an integral part of tea culture in ancient China. Tea utensils have undergone an epoch-making evolution since its emergence, reflecting the historical context and development of tea culture. With its nutritional composition and medicinal efficacy already proven by modern medicine, the custom of drinking tea for health is even more prevalent than in the past, with drinking for the purpose of thirst-quenching fading in importance. Tea has become part of our everyday beverages, with attention given to the taste and the art of drinking. Along with these changes in tea-drinking habits, tea varieties and special characteristics, there is a higher demand and more comprehensive standards for its utensils. Not only is the practical aspect emphasised, there is also focus on shape, material, color and inscription, from the crude to the delicate process, reflecting the different requirements of the art. The basics in classifying and selecting tea utensils are also an essential part of a tea maker's skill sets.

Even with the same kind of tea leaves and brewing methods, using utensils of different qualities will yield different colors, aromas and tastes. Modern tea brewers continue to innovate different brewing methods. There is a wide range of tea utensils; the most popular types can be broadly classified into the following categories:

- Ceramic Tea Sets
Among this kind of tea sets, we should be pushing for the forerunner, i.e Zisha tea utensils produced in Yi Heng, a district in China. The most common tea utensils are the Zisha pots. The advantage of brewing tea with a Zisha pot is that it retains the tea's original flavor. It is resistant to high heat and heat transmission is slow, so it won't scald your hands; it can breathe, it's durable; and after prolonged use, even normal water that is poured into the utensil acquires the tea's fragrance. The outside of the pot won't become dirty after prolonged use, but increases in luster instead. It is a favorite of many collectors. Zisha utensils are suited for making Pu'er tea, Yancha oolong tea, Tie Guan Yin, re-fermented tea like Oriental Beauty.

- Porcelain Tea Set
This is the most widely used type of tea utensil. All types of tea utensils - lidded cups, pots, fair cup, snifter ("Mun heong") cup, tea tray, tea pitcher, trays, etc. - have their own characteristics. There are several varieties e.g. white porcelain, celadon, black porcelain, as well as a vitreous enamel colors, pastels, bucket color, blue and white porcelain with and so on. These utensils are suitable for brewing Tie Guanyin tea, oolong tea, kung fu tea, Taiwanese high mountain tea, scented tea, Pu'er and so on.

- Glass Tea Utensils
Its advantages are: the texture, transparency, beauty, can watch "Tea Dance" and the color of tea. By using a transparent utensil as a boiler, you can gauge the water temperature from observing the air bubbles which form. The disadvantage is that it heats up fast and scalds the hands. It is commonly used for brewing green tea, white tea, "Jun San Yuin Zhen" (Jun San Silver Needle), a type of yellow tea. Through the transparent glass, you can enjoy the beauty ("fung choy") of the three "up and down" movements.

- Bamboo & Wood Tea Set
Bamboo (bamboo and wood) tea sets have a natural beauty and easily moulded, and have exhibition and collection value. They are commonly used to make tea trays, the six tea items, "tea sea", tea tables, and so on.

Other tea utensils include stainless steel water boilers. In addition, the lacquered tea set, stoneware, jade - these tea sets are nice to look at, but not very practical. When selecting tea utensils, consider the type of tea leaves, brewing method and the number of drinkers; choose a teapot with the appropriate capacity and suitability for the leaves. All the tea utensils should be combined in such a way that the colour is harmonious; nevertheless the auxiliary items like tea box, tea bowl etc can be ingenious in its design yet flexible enough to suit your convenience.






Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved. Best Viewed : 1380x768 pix IE 6, Netscape 7.1.