The Gong Fu method of brewing comes from the Chinese word “gong fu” (功夫) which roughly translates to “skill” or “disciplined mastery.” This method requires a little more patience than the commonly used “Western-style” brewing, but the result is a brew that highlights the full flavor of the tea and brings out the best that the leaves have to offer. The added effort in brewing with the Gong Fu method results in a more optimal brew. It is also important to note that Gong Fu brewing is not necessarily equivalent to a traditional “tea ceremony” — instead, it can be done just as simply and plainly as everyday Western-style brewing, even if it requires more attention.
The main difference between Gong Fu brewing and Western-style brewing is the leaf-to-water ratio. Gong Fu brewing uses more leaves to less water, while Western-style brewing uses less leaves to more water. While Western brewing might, on the surface, seem like a more cost-effective way to drink tea, the Gong Fu method can still yield more tea, and even higher-quality brews!
In the Gong Fu method, tea is steeped for shorter — usually, these teas are only steeped for a matter of seconds. In contrast to this, the Western style requires long brews in order to draw out more of the flavors of the tea. This, however, can also make the tea more bitter or astringent, and often fails to completely express the flavors in the tea leaves.
As premium tea can be infused more than once, Gong Fu brewing also helps to make tea with multiple “layers of infusions” — that is, each infusion slightly alters the flavors and experience of the tea. With Western-style brewing, these layers tend to be fused together, and these tea leaves can usually only be steeped a few times.
Gong Fu brewing may seem to require more effort to understand and to do, but it is a rewarding way of brewing tea that creates a fuller, richer experience, and brings out the best in your tea leaves. If you would like to begin brewing Gong Fu without specialized equipment, we recommend starting by increasing the amount of leaves and decreasing the amount of water, and by shortening the steeping time! This will replicate the core ideas of Gong Fu brewing. However, we still recommend using proper Gong Fu teaware to fully appreciate this method of brewing.
As mentioned in The Art of Brewing Tea, brewing tea is a complex and nuanced process which takes various parameters into account. Among these many parameters, four of the most vital are: the leaf-to-water ratio, steeping time, water temperature, and water type.