Today while having a tea session I was struck with how I need to return to the basics of tea and tea preparation. This is designed to be the "one stop shop" for an introduction to tea, tea culture, tea preparation, and a step into the vast variety of styles that are created from camellia sinensis.
The cornerstone of tasting and understanding the complexity of tea is through a tea session, or gongfu cha session, which is what I do during one of my tea classes. Simply put "gongfu" means to create or conduct with great skill, and "cha" means tea. This is the method of tea preparation which will unlock the full tea experience and really understand and enjoy a cup of tea. In basic terms, a gongfu session focuses on a brewing vessel (typically a gaiwan or small teapot) with a high tea leaf to water ratio, where short infusions are used to produce many steepings of the same leaves.
Note how I said in basic terms. Like any good hobby there's expensive teaware to purchase, rare teas to seek, and nuances of the gongfu session to add or perfect. Though I brew my tea at work with a basic filter, I do have gongfu sessions at home and during Tea Series events. Below I'll show you the basics of the gongfu cha experience:
Do you need a fancy gaiwan or yixing teapot to explore the world of gongfu cha sessions? No! You can use a brew basket, try a cup to cup transfer, or brew it grandpa style. For "grandpa style" put tea in a pint glass, fill it with water, and drink it halfway down. Then fill it back up. Try not to drink down too many leaves though!
For gongfu cha the name of the game is surface area. The more freedom that leaves have to move around the vessel, the better they will diffuse into the water and create the best possible tea.