Gong fu Brewing: What are your best tips for beginners?

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OCTO
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Fri May 01, 2020 5:37 am

aet wrote:
Fri May 01, 2020 5:24 am
I think you are looking at it too scientifically. App, timer, scales. Ok, scales I use when testing tea for business, but for daily drinking just throw in 110ml gaiwan a bit you can grab in fingers. Timing is in your mind. If helps, just count in head like 1,2,3, with each breath in or out.
There are some YT videos how to brew , what type of tea. You can't go wrong with fast steeping and small grams , like 4-6g in 120ml gaiwan and 5-10s or so. Then gradually add longer times till the taste hits your taste buds the way feels comfortable, or lower / increase amount of tea. Pressed tea need more steps to start release some "juice" , so also observe it how it behaves during steepings.
Dancong teas can brew even faster than that.
yup.... agree with @aet. Don't get overly conscious about the timing and precision. Just keep it simple. I never weigh my tea leaves... unless I'm cupping my tea.

Cheers!
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debunix
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Sun May 03, 2020 2:02 am

Weighing at first can help develop your eye for how much is enough tea. When you start out it's not intuitive that all of these weigh 1gram:

Image

a scale can function like training wheels on a bicycle.
Ethan Kurland
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Sun May 03, 2020 11:13 am

If you are experimenting with > 2 teas, I suggest taking notes. One can get confused. (I remember temperatures but sometimes have trouble with other parameters.)

When my preparation goes awry, I look at my notes and/or use my scale. (For timing instead of just standing by my teaware or walking away from it, I remember to do sets of stretching that take 15 seconds each; for shorter periods of time, I look at a clock or count.)

I think the others' good advice suggests that you relax, enjoy, & not spend too much $ on gadgets. The quality of your tea, water, & preparation are most important. You can prepare tea well with a glass, spoon, & a way to heat water. (Sometimes even perfectly.)
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OCTO
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Mon May 04, 2020 9:33 pm

Ethan Kurland wrote:
Sun May 03, 2020 11:13 am
If you are experimenting with > 2 teas, I suggest taking notes. One can get confused. (I remember temperatures but sometimes have trouble with other parameters.)

I think the others' good advice suggests that you relax, enjoy, & not spend too much $ on gadgets. The quality of your tea, water, & preparation are most important. You can prepare tea well with a glass, spoon, & a way to heat water. (Sometimes even perfectly.)
Agree 100% with @Ethan Kurland
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Webley
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Thu Jul 16, 2020 9:46 am

Practice, practice and practice. Take notes along the way. Relax. It will come in time. Enjoy yourself.
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mbanu
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Fri Jul 17, 2020 2:52 pm

Make sure to be honest with yourself about why you want to gongfu. A lot of pitfalls happen because people don't start at this step.

A common issue is that people decide they want to gongfu everything; gongfu brewing is a tool that makes some teas better and other teas worse. So it is good to consider if it is the right choice or if there is another brewing method that would work better.

Or from the other end, they see their use of gongfu as strictly rational a tool to solve a problem, when they have really fallen in love with the romance of gongfu. Being honest about this actually helps to make better tea, because then you can set out to find teas that play to gongfu brewing's strengths in particular.

I guess you would call this deciding whether "Tea" or "Art" is more important to you in "Tea Art". :) Both choices can lead to a satisfying time, but only after a person decides what they want to do.
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Pants404
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Sat Jul 18, 2020 3:29 am

mbanu wrote:
Fri Jul 17, 2020 2:52 pm
Make sure to be honest with yourself about why you want to gongfu.
I will add that teaware in itself could ultimately be more appealing than the tea. Collecting it is great, but using it can be best.
I realised that this applied to me, but I was struggling with denial and pushed the lie that I was in it for the tea, because I thought this was "correct".
When I gave in and let the love of the quality wares take over it slowly brought me back to the tea because the cups and pots all needed to shine with their appropriate teas.
Dedicating pots to a tea and learning how best to brew that tea then became my focus.
I don't have many cups, but they all suit different moods and tea types.
I feel my want of "stuff" gets in the way, but this was just part of my journey.
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pedant
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Sat Jul 18, 2020 10:09 am

debunix wrote:
Sun May 03, 2020 2:02 am
Weighing at first can help develop your eye for how much is enough tea. When you start out it's not intuitive that all of these weigh 1gram:

Image
awesome visualization
faj
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Sat Jul 18, 2020 10:38 am

debunix wrote:
Sun May 03, 2020 2:02 am
Weighing at first can help develop your eye for how much is enough tea. When you start out it's not intuitive that all of these weigh 1gram:
Image
If anything, I thought this picture kind of understates the difference, maybe because the third dimension is not obvious due to the angle.
Leafhopper
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Sat Jul 18, 2020 12:07 pm

I actually do like and suggest a 0.1 gram scale for beginners, opposite to a lot of suggestions. I rarely use it for myself these days but I think it's an invaluable learning tool, and it's useful to have on hand for a wide variety of other things, if you like cooking or baking, for example.

1ml of water is about 1g, and it's really useful to calibrate. If I say that I like oolongs usually at 1g tea to 15g water, steeped for 5 seconds, 7 seconds, 10 seconds, and so forth, it's a lot easier to adjust because I have fixed variables.

I recommend taking one variable and changing it slowly. If you're a bread baker, you know it's the same thing in baking. I really, truly think the learning curve is smaller if you do it methodically. You drink better tea, sooner, and have less wastage overall, IMO.

Like I said, these days I don't use scales and such, but it's because I've learned how to use my senses, but it's been through using a more scientific approach.

Definitely not required. I've had tons of good tea from people who disagree with me wholeheartedly. But I thought I'd supply an alternative perspective.
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klepto
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Sat Jul 18, 2020 12:39 pm

Leafhopper wrote:
Sat Jul 18, 2020 12:07 pm

I recommend taking one variable and changing it slowly. If you're a bread baker, you know it's the same thing in baking. I really, truly think the learning curve is smaller if you do it methodically. You drink better tea, sooner, and have less wastage overall, IMO.
I'm very rigid on how I make tea, just because it has worked for me well and continues to. I use a scale and a timer. I'm no where near the tea drinker who can tell that he needs to shorten his steeps or lengthen them on the fly.
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Baisao
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Sat Jul 25, 2020 3:04 am

I was fortunate to have a Taiwanese teacher when I was starting out. She taught me how the tea should taste and be appreciated. Just academically knowing how to make tea is not enough as subtle things can keep you from reaching the target. Even something as abstract as your intention can affect the tea so it helps to be mindful and in a correct state of mind.

Steer clear of YouTube and the like. One video is enough to teach you all the things you need before you forget it and start making tea intuitively, approaching a tea as an archer approaches a target.

Stay away from gadgets like filters. With technique you won’t need them and they affect the flavor of the tea as well as impair your “flow”. Keep it simple.

One gadget exception is using an aroma cup at first. An aroma cup can tell you a lot. Smell the scent even as it cools down. Follow those changes, how the aromas change steep to steep. Sometimes they appear in different orders, sometimes they are merged, and other times more separated.

Lastly, find a couple of teas (no more than three) and brew them again and again with mindfulness. Sit with them. Spend a year with them. A year is not that long. Notice how they change with different waters, timing, temperatures, weather, glass or porcelain, what music you are listening too (if any), and your attitude.

I apologize if this sounds esoteric but this is how I approached it and feel I got the best tea education. I can’t imagine effectively learning any other way.
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debunix
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Sat Jul 25, 2020 11:27 am

You were lucky to have a teacher to hand. I had a handful of demonstrations of very casual western brewing of TKY and puerh with my father, and then the tea community on the internet years later. In between were some terrible experiences with what might have been adequate teas yet not suited to such brewing, which put me off everything green for more than a decade.

I needed my scales and thermometers and measuring cups to get through the learning curve to the point I am now, where I only really use those when conducting a more formal tasting whose results I will share with others, so that they can better understand how I got the results I am describing.
Noonie
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Sat Jul 25, 2020 5:21 pm

debunix wrote:
Sat Jul 25, 2020 11:27 am

I needed my scales and thermometers and measuring cups to get through the learning curve to the point I am now, where I only really use those when conducting a more formal tasting whose results I will share with others, so that they can better understand how I got the results I am describing.
These along with internet suggestions were so important. Imagine if you were a noob to good loose leaf tea and a friend/co-worker gave you a sample of some premium sencha to try at home. You get that water to a rolling boil and brew for a few minutes...then after dumping the tea head out for a latte because that was such a horrible experience. I still pay attention to the parameters, but I'm not bound by them.
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klepto
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Sun Jul 26, 2020 1:42 pm

Baisao wrote:
Sat Jul 25, 2020 3:04 am

One gadget exception is using an aroma cup at first. An aroma cup can tell you a lot. Smell the scent even as it cools down. Follow those changes, how the aromas change steep to steep. Sometimes they appear in different orders, sometimes they are merged, and other times more separated.
I was looking at some of those the other day. I've seen them on other people's tea sets.
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