One thing I love about tea is the fact that you can make it so many ways! I touched on a few typical ideas that are pretty simple to enact in my earlier post about tea in the office, but I didn’t get into much detail. I’m not going to get into all of the possible ways to brew tea, but the ones I’ll cover today are Western style, gong fu style, and Moroccan style.
The most common style for those of us in the Western world to brew our tea is Western style (I’m a fount of knowledge!). The Western style brewing method is pretty basic. You use a standard teapot, brew the leaves to their full potential, and drink.
Technically, it doesn’t have to be a teapot. You can use a tea bag or even one of those single cup infusers. This is really the only brewing method where people add milk to the tea with any regularity, though that’s more a reflection on Western style tea drinking than brewing. Western style brewing is generally done by steeping the tea a single time. It wasn’t until Westerners began brewing tea in single steepings that the large teapots really came to the fore.
With a large teapot and a single infusion, it’s made easier to enjoy one heck of a tea party with all your friends!
Gong Fu Style
It’s no coincidence that “Gong Fu” strongly resembles “Kung Fu”. They both actually mean the same thing, which is essentially something that requires “study, learning, or practice that requires patience, energy, and time to complete,” according to the wonders of Wikipedia. So while in the West, we tend to think of Kung Fu exclusively as a form of martial arts, it even encompasses the art of making tea.
Gong fu style tea is primarily made in a gaiwan, a lidded cup with no handle. With gong fu method, you place the dry leaf in the cup and pour the heated water over the leaves. This method utilizes multiple, short infusions. So instead of brewing the leaves to their full potential, like in Western style brewing, you end up getting more subtle nuances out of the tea leaves with each infusion.
It can be tricky getting a real handle on gong fu brewing, but with practice, you can really make an art of it!
Now, I know it’s a little weird to include Moroccan style brewing with more common methods. But I have a really good excuse… Briana, my amazing photographer, recently spent a couple of weeks in Morocco and we had a great Moroccan tea party the other day.
So what does that really mean? With Moroccan style tea, it’s more than just how long the tea is infused and in what container, though these considerations do come into play. You may have seen Moroccan Mint tea available on the grocery store shelf every now and then. That is a green tea with mint, which is absolutely inspired by the way Moroccans really prepare their tea.
First off, instead of the kind of teapot us Westerners think of (pretty and ceramic or made of china), Moroccans use a lovely silver teapot with a long, swooping spout. The teacups used are typically lovely clear glass. Once you see them, you’ll recognize the style.
When in Morocco, Briana kept asking what kind of green tea they use, but kept getting told nothing more specific than, “Chinese green tea.” So we did a little research and came to the conclusion that Gunpowder Green seemed the most likely.
Now, when brewing Moroccan tea, you throw the tea leaves into the pot, add some fresh mint, a boatload of sugar, and pour that just-boiled water over it. Once it’s brewed a bit, you take one of the cups, pour tea into it, the return the tea to the pot. Repeat this a number of times and it’s a fun, effective way to mix the tea.
“I’ll take my tea shaken – NOT stirred!”
Okay, well… poured and re-mixed, I guess. In any case, next comes my favorite part… pouring the tea! Moroccan tea is not poured directly over the cup, but is lifted high above the cup as it is poured in a beautiful stream. With the sugar in the mix, it causes a pretty awesome frothy top to the brew.
More typical Moroccan tea has a bit too much sugar for even my sweet tooth, but with a slightly lower sugar content, it’s a delicious option. It’s perfect for a leisurely visit with a friend, as the sugar and mint help prevent bitterness from the tea getting out of hand.
When it all comes to the end, I just enjoy drinking tea, no matter what brewing method I use. It’s always good to drink a cup of tea, and it’s even better when you take the time to brew it up in a way that is meaningful to you.
1 The Tea Enthusiast’s Handbook: A Guide to Enjoying the World’s Best Teas by Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J Heiss.
2 The New Tea Companion by Jane Pettigrew and Bruce Richardson
All photos by Briana Morrison, with the exception of the final photo. I actually took that photo using Briana’s camera, so it’s not quite as good as her stuff, but not too shabby for a beginner!