There is a common misunderstanding that brewing Chinese tea is a challenging task, only achievable if you had years of training and can comprehend arcane references.
Here is a simple way to brew and enjoy pu-er (but you can use it for black tea and oolong as well). I hope it will encourage you to try.
First the essentials
As you can see what you need is
1) The ‘pot’- this is actually a variation of the gaiwan known as shouzhuawan- literally the handheld bowl.
2) Serving cups
3) A spatula to scoop out the tea leaves from the container. It is not recommended to use your bare hands as your fingers emit oils that would spoil the taste of tea leaves that are stored inside.
4) A serving pitcher- as known as a ‘Fairness’ Cup.
When you are pouring tea out from the pot, the first bit would be bland while the last bit would be thicker. To prevent your guest from having uneven intensity, you can pour it into the fairness cup and serve from there.
5) The wooden box is known as a chapan- literally a tea plate. This has two uses. First to contain the water that you will pour out (more on that later). Two, so you don’t spill water on your table
6) Tea leaves of course- here I have shown pu-erh
7) A kettle (not shown in the picture)- naturally, where else are you going to get boiling water.
Here are your simple steps:
1) Boil water
2) Add boiling water to the pot and cups and pour it into the chapan
3) Add roughly 1:20 leaves to water ratio to the pot. In this case, it is a 200ml pot, I added about 4g of leaves or two spatula
4) Add boiling water into the tea pot, cover the lid and pour it out into the chapan within 3-5 secs. This is known as washing the tea leaves, especially important for pu-er because of its long storage period.
5) You can see the leaves start to unfurl. Add boiling water to the pot. Cover the lid and pour it out almost immediately unto the serving pitcher
6) Pour out into the serving cups and enjoy
7) You can re-steep 3-4 more times for pu-er
The above steps also work well for black tea- generally they can be steeped a total of 2-3 times (excluding the washing of tea leaves)
Oolong as well, although you might want to pour the boiling water on the serving pitcher to reduce water temperature to about 95 c before pouring into the tea pots. 3-4 brews total for oolong.
For green tea, low water temperature is paramount so you can’t use this method but I will blog about it in a later posts.
Hope this helps you to get started and enjoy Chinese tea!