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baroness

"Western" style brewing

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Why is 'Western' style brewing (of tea) so called?

It seems likely that in the tea-producing countries (India, China, Sri Lanka.....), most people would use this method, rather than the labor- and equipment-intensive 'gong fu' style. A brief internet search was not enlightening.

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I use the term "western style" tea pot to refer to a teapot style that many people in western countries grew up with, whether something like a Brown Betty or a decorative white porcelain teapot. When England brought tea from China to India, they brought their teapots with them. But I am not sure what are all the ways people in India brew tea, and especially chai.

"Gong fu style" is not common in China or the rest of Asia; it is used by tea connoisseurs there for drinking Oolongs and Pu-erhs - a small percentage of the population. I assumed, and had this verified by Greg Glancy, that most people in China drink their tea "grandpa style"; that is, they throw a bunch of leaves in a glass or tall mug and add hot water, adding water throughout the day. I sometimes drink Chinese green teas this way and enjoy it. Greg also mentioned that western style ceramic tea pots are used in most restaurants in China.

Hope that answers your question.

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I use the term "western style" tea pot to refer to a teapot style that many people in western countries grew up with, whether something like a Brown Betty or a decorative white porcelain teapot. When England brought tea from China to India, they brought their teapots with them. But I am not sure what are all the ways people in India brew tea, and especially chai.

"Gong fu style" is not common in China or the rest of Asia; it is used by tea connoisseurs there for drinking Oolongs and Pu-erhs - a small percentage of the population.  I assumed, and had this verified by Greg Glancy, that most people in China drink their tea "grandpa style"; that is, they throw a bunch of leaves in a glass or tall mug and add hot water, adding water throughout the day. I sometimes drink Chinese green teas this way and enjoy it. Greg also mentioned that western style ceramic tea pots are used in most restaurants in China.

Hope that answers your question.

Well, I think I should clarify about Gong Fu Cha. High quality tea for making Gong Fu Cha is a luxury that most people can't afford, so it mostly has been reserved for more elite people and connoisseurs. That's changing a bit now with the emergence of a middle class in mainland China, but most people just throw some green tea leaves in a flask or bottle and drink on that all day. In a restaurant setting or when taking some tea with you, that's when "grandpa style" just makes more practical sense.

I tend to use the term Western style when talking about brewing tea like my grandmother used to. I think the term strikes a chord with people, and gives a sense of comfort and familiarity. Gong Fu seems very foreign and uncomfortable to most people until they have an experience that makes them understand the reason it is done that way...I know I was very intimidated at first too until I had an "Ah Ha" moment with Gong Fu Cha.

Richard brings up an interesting point about India though. When did tea consumption take hold all over the Indian Subcontinent? Before or after the British arrived? I know some of the ethnic groups in Assam and places with similar climates and the ethnic Tibetan populations in the Himalayan border regions were definitely drinking tea in one form or another before the British arrived in India, but how much of the Subcontinent actually drank tea before then? Was it Camellia Sinensis, or was it another type of plant? I know Soma was a very important ritual plant that was used in Vedic times and was lost...is it possible that the earlier forms of tea in India also could have fallen out of use once the British arrived? Anyone have personal experience or know of a good reliable source of information on this? I don't trust the Wikipedia article I just read one bit... :rolleyes:


Greg

www.norbutea.com

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I use the term "western style" tea pot to refer to a teapot style that many people in western countries grew up with, whether something like a Brown Betty or a decorative white porcelain teapot. When England brought tea from China to India, they brought their teapots with them. But I am not sure what are all the ways people in India brew tea, and especially chai.

"Gong fu style" is not common in China or the rest of Asia; it is used by tea connoisseurs there for drinking Oolongs and Pu-erhs - a small percentage of the population.  I assumed, and had this verified by Greg Glancy, that most people in China drink their tea "grandpa style"; that is, they throw a bunch of leaves in a glass or tall mug and add hot water, adding water throughout the day. I sometimes drink Chinese green teas this way and enjoy it. Greg also mentioned that western style ceramic tea pots are used in most restaurants in China.

Hope that answers your question.

Well, I think I should clarify about Gong Fu Cha. High quality tea for making Gong Fu Cha is a luxury that most people can't afford, so it mostly has been reserved for more elite people and connoisseurs. That's changing a bit now with the emergence of a middle class in mainland China, but most people just throw some green tea leaves in a flask or bottle and drink on that all day. In a restaurant setting or when taking some tea with you, that's when "grandpa style" just makes more practical sense.

I tend to use the term Western style when talking about brewing tea like my grandmother used to. I think the term strikes a chord with people, and gives a sense of comfort and familiarity. Gong Fu seems very foreign and uncomfortable to most people until they have an experience that makes them understand the reason it is done that way...I know I was very intimidated at first too until I had an "Ah Ha" moment with Gong Fu Cha.

Department of Clarified Clarifications

Greg, are you saying it is common to serve tea in a restaurant "grandpa style" - tea leaves thrown in a glass and then filled and refilled with hot water, as well as restaurants serving tea in a western style ceramic teapot? When most people are drinking their tea out of a flask or bottle, do they refill with water during the day?

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if drinking 'grandpa style', how do you avoid the over-brewed bitter flavors? You would seem to have control over two things: how much tea you use at the start, and how hot the water is that you use to brew it, which in turn determines at least the minimum time required for the water to cool enough to be safely drunk. And given that the grades of tea used for this are likely to be lesser, it seems like a recipe for bitter brew.

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Grandpa style for me is only green tea leaves, Chinese green tea leaves, in a ceramic cup with 175 F water. Chinese greens work well this way. I have not had a problem with bitterness, I assume because a cup or glass dissipates heat faster than brewing in a gaiwan or teapot. I don't think you could do this with Japanese green teas.

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Richard, you are correct, some restaurants will just give you a glass with a few tea leaves in it and just pour hot water in there from the ubiquitous vacuum flasks, and some restaurants will have tea in a big stainless kettle to pour in your teacup. No real rhyme or reason apart from the mom & pop style places tend (in my experience) to opt for the hot water in the vacuum flask poured over a few tea leaves in my experience, and the fancier places with a more complete/full service kitchen will have pots of tea to serve from. The better food always comes from the mom & pop places though...

It's almost always green tea when done grandpa style, and not with a high leaf to water ratio at all. My experience is that there is never enough tea in the glass to give the possibility of bitterness. In these cases, I get the impression that it's more about showing that the water has been boiled and is safe to drink than about the tea itself.

I noticed in Tibetan areas that jasmine scented tea seemed to always be available and was usually served in a glass grandpa style, and that tended to be a bit on the strong and funky side for me. It is possible that the jasmine was just an alternative for outsiders who don't tend to really like butter tea all that much.

As to how many times people will top off their water flask to keep reusing the same tea leaves, I can't be sure. I'm sure it varies from person to person. Most tea drinking habits in China are simply based on what people can afford, and I think probably 95% of people try stretch their tea as far as they can even in times of plenty. Waste not, want not is how my Grandpa used to put it, but he didn't drink tea "grandpa style" for some reason.


Greg

www.norbutea.com

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A common way of making tea in India is to boil the tea leaves with the water and often also the milk. This is obviously quite different to the Western method of steeping tea.

By the way, I think I've read that the British introduced tea to most of India, but it is possible that some of the Northern regions near China were drinking some kind of tea before that so don't quote me on it!

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Jenni, you may find this Indian Tea topic of interest, as well as the Tea Tasting Discussions in this forum that feature Indian teas.

Thanks, but I was merely pointing out the specific way of brewing tea in India, not the different types of tea.

Yes, more on that in a number of posts in the DIY Chai topic.

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What exactly is Western Style brewing?

I gather from the posts in this thread that it refers to brewing tea in a typical "English" style teapot but beyond that what are the specifics? Is only as much water used as will fill the cup of the person or persons who will be drinking it or is a whole pot brewed and the tea left to sit in the pot with the leaves or is the tea poured into a second pot after steeping to hold it?

TIA,

Diane

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Good question.

In general, I think of it as having to do as much with the leaf:water ratio as the type of pot. About 2.0 g per 6 ounce cup, adjusted to taste. (This in contrast to gong fu cha, using a ratio of about 1.5 - 2.0 g: 1 ounce water and brewing in a gaiwan or yixing tea pot.) I can stretch "Western style" to include brewing in an infuser cup, using that 2.0 g:6 ounce ratio.

But never leaving the leaves in a pot partially full of water, which usually will result in something you will not enjoy. At all.

The two pot method works great. Brew in one, then decant into a serving pot. Or if making just one cup in a small pot, pour directly into your cup.

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I think of it a little differently:

Western style uses a lower leaf to water ratio with one longer infusion to get everything out of them; gongfu style uses more leaf to water but you extract the tea flavors in multiple shorter infusions, which allows the variety of flavors in the tea to express themselves individually as they are extracted at different rates.

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Exactly. Well put. I agree. For the most part.

Western style can involve at least two infusions, although many people are not aware they can do so or don't want to bother. I have brewed some high quality teas as many as 5 - 9 times western style, though it's usually 2 - 3 times for mornings with black/red teas.

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"Western" style, gongfu style, grandpa style, and other styles, I don't think any of them is common or non-common in China. It really depends on what tea is brewed. It's like we can't say what kind of glass is most commonly used in US, but it all depends on what kind of alcohol/beverage is served.

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Welcome gingko!

I think that's partly true. But since green tea is the most commonly drunk tea in China, I would tend to think there is more grandpa style green tea drinking (throw some green tea leaves in a glass or cup and add hot water over and over again) going on. And since gong fu cha is limited to tea connoisseurs, it's going to be pretty much uncommon.

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