We’ve all been seeing a lot more of our homes lately, thanks to the pandemic. In these difficult times, it’s important to find home-based activities that keep us healthy and happy. Tea is great for that, because it contains Theanine which has a soothing effect on the nervous system, and it has many other physical health benefits. Plus, it’s a good mood-lifter: enjoying its beautiful aromas and flavours helps infuse more joy into our restricted routines.
When it comes to brewing whole leaf tea at home, you don’t have to go all out with a fully equipped gongfu tea table. There are many easy (and lazy) ways to brew a good cup of whole leaf tea.
1. Easy: With a gaiwan
A gaiwan (lidded bowl) is our go-to vessel for brewing whole leaf tea because it is the most versatile. The lid serves three main functions:
- To keep the heat in
- To strain out the leaves
- To capture the aroma
This Travel Tea Set has everything you need to brew tea at home, all packed in a mini compact case (great for small spaces!).
Here’s how to use it:
- Warm the teaware with hot water.
- Add about 4g of tea leaves into the gaiwan.
- Fill the gaiwan with hot water, up to the level just below the curved lip
- Put the lid on and wait for 1 minute
- Open the lid slightly so there is a gap large enough to let the water out but small enough to keep the leaves in
- Pour all the tea out into the pitcher (don’t leave any water behind with the leaves)
- Pour the tea from the pitcher into the tea cups to serve
You can use this Travel Tea Set to brew any type of whole leaf tea.
Try it with:
White tea: Darjeeling Moonshine
Oolong tea: Oriental Beauty
Black tea: Honey Scent Black Tea
2. Easier: With a teapot
Skip the step of straining out the tea leaves by using a teapot with an in-built strainer. We like this Pavilion Glass Teapot because it’s nice to watch the leaves unfurl and infuse the water with colour. It’s a magical and mesmerising process to witness.
There are two main brewing options with a teapot:
- Multiple quick infusions (1 minute), with a higher leaf-to-water ratio (about 6g per 100ml); or
- One or two slower infusions (3 mins or more), with a lower leaf-to-water ratio (3g per 100ml).
This teapot suits every type of tea, and the glass shows off colourful teas beautifully. However, the thin glass doesn’t retain heat as well as a porcelain or clay teapot does. So it’s not the best for teas that need a lot of heat, like Puerhs and dark roasted oolongs.
Try it with:
Green tea: Jasmine Phoenix Pearls
Black tea: Red Jade
Herbal tea: Camomile Reverie
3. Even easier: With a cup and strainer
Skip the step of pouring the tea by brewing the leaves directly in your cup! This Tea Infuser and Cup Set by Kanaami-Tsuji is designed for effortless brewing. The stainless steel strainer is handwoven in a tortoise shell pattern using traditional Japanese craft techniques. The white cup shows off the colour of the tea beautifully, too.
To make a cup for one:
- Simply put a pinch of tea leaves in the strainer
- Pour over hot water
- Lift the strainer out
Because there is no lid to trap the heat in, this style of brewing is best for lightly oxidised teas, like green tea, white tea and greener oolongs.
Try it with:
Green tea: Jou Netto Gyokuro
White tea: Yunnan Wild Tea Buds
Oolong tea: Wenshan Baozhong
We also love this copper Tea Strainer by Toast Living because of how easy it is to use with any mug and any type of whole leaf tea. The slots are big enough to drain quickly while not letting any of the leaves through. It was designed by a Taiwanese design brand who have won several awards for their work, and it's easy to see why!
4. The easiest: With a drinking glass
The laziest way to enjoy good tea is just to brew the leaves directly in a glass, without straining them out. In fact, it’s a very common style of brewing tea in China - so common it’s been given the nickname ‘Grandpa style’.
All you need is a drinking glass, tea leaves, and hot water. You may end up eating the tea leaves while drinking, and that is perfectly okay!
This style is great for green teas, white teas and greener oolong teas. Since the leaves sit in water for a long time with this method, it’s best to avoid boiling water and go for 80-90°C instead.
Try it with:
Green tea: Taiping Houkui
White tea: Forest Wild Broom Tea
Oolong tea: Shanlinxi Milky Oolong
We hope this guide was helpful. We'd love to see your home brewing experiments so do share them with us on Instagram and tag @plantation_hk!
For more home-based tea activities, see our other 'Tea @ Home' guides:
Read: QuaranTEA - Staying sane in quarantine with tea
Read: Setting up a tea space in a small apartment