There’s more than one way to brew tea, with a variety of methods informed by different traditions, cultures, and tastes around the world.
Find the one that works best for you.
European Brewing (Big Pot)
The preparation technique most familiar to those in the West, European brewing involves making a larger amount of tea at once, typically served alongside cakes and other baked goods as a means of entertaining guests.
Teapot sizes, designs, and materials can vary widely, though are generally larger than Chinese-style brewing pots. Though less tea leaves are used than is customary for the Chinese method, leaves are steeped for longer (usually 3 min) to guarantee an equally flavorful infusion.
This method is ideal for tea newcomers, as it doesn’t require specialized accessories or new techniques.
A centuries-old Chinese brewing method rooted in meditative practice, gong-fu cha translates as “tea with effort.” Teapots are small and traditionally made of unglazed clay, though porcelain and glass are now common.
The other marker of gong-fu brewing is the high proportion of tea leaves to water — up to double the amount used in European brewing — and the series of infusions as short as one minute, which each yield a subtly different cup. This, in addition to the ritual and sequence of gong-fu brewing, cultivates meditative mindfulness.
Japanese Brewing (Kyusu)
Throughout the centuries, Japan developed its own tea-brewing accessories and techniques informed by local aesthetics and tastes. Japanese side-handled teapots known as kyusu not only provide better leverage for pouring, they also transform the pot into an artful extension of the hand and arm.
As Japanese teas tend to have much smaller leaves, kyusu pots are often fitted with a fine-meshed screen as strainer.
Matcha, finely milled green tea powder, has been used in the traditional Japanese chado tea ceremony since at least the 12th century. Revered tea masters performed chado with numerous complex steps, but matcha preparation is easily adapted to modern-day consumption.
Using a chashaku bamboo scoop or simply a spoon, matcha is measured and sifted into a drinking bowl, or chawan. Top with hot water at 70° and whisk with a chasen bamboo whisk until foamy.
A fairly recent addition to the list of brewing styles, cold brewing tea is a method taken from the pioneering work of inventive Japanese baristas looking to extract fresh and subtle nuances in flavor from coffee.
Brewing tea in cold water results in a sweeter infusion with more complex aromas because catechins, the compounds that can make oversteeped tea taste bitter, are released only very slowly with cold brewing. Cold brewing is a simple, fail-proof way to create delicious and refreshing tea drinks for the summer and beyond — ideal for newcomers to whole-leaf tea.