Quantities & Temperatures
Some guidelines are helpful for enjoying tea to its fullest potential. The amount of leaves relative to the size of the gaiwan, type of water, and the temperature of water are all important elements to consider.
Generally speaking for an 80 ml gaiwan—a traditional Chinese tea brewing cup with lid—3 to 5 grams of leaves are needed. From there you have to exercise some common sense with basic knowledge. Much of the results at first are from trial and error. The more you practice, the more you will get a feel for it. Steeping too long or too short a time, adding too many or not enough leaves, and so on. It is not an exact science. This is the beauty in the gong fu cha method.
How Much Tea Leaves...
It's important to note that I am using a standard 80 ml gaiwan as a a starting point for measuring quantity of tea leaves. These are truly just guidelines, because once you get to know your tea (each one unique) you will fuss with the quantities in your own way.
1-1-1/2 teaspoons (to cover bottom of gaiwan) of large rolled leaves, say Taiwanese high mountain oolong tea, would be an appropriate amount as these these leaves need plenty of room to expand fully, which would just about fill the cup leaving some room for water.
5 grams medium-sized twisted oolong tea leaves for the same 80 ml gaiwan is also appropriate. The amount should fill the cup about 1/2 way up. These leaves expand but not quite as much as Taiwanese rolled high mountain tea leaves.
3 grams of small-sized black tea leaves such as a lapsang souchong or jin jun mei, are plenty for an 80 ml gaiwan. The amount should fill the cup about 1/4 way up.
NOTE: it will take a few tries for you to get a feel for how many leaves are appropriate for your gaiwan, as leaves are different based on any number of factors. They expand differently, some more intense in flavor than others and so on.
Type of water...
A really good choice for water used in preparing tea is filtered initially with a water purifying system like Brita, for example, and then again with bamboo charcoal, which renders the water alkaline and naturally sweet.
• Green tea - 70°C to 90°C / 158°F to 194°F
• White tea - 80°C to 95°C / 176°F to 203°F
• Oolong tea (semi-oxidized) - 90°C to 95°C / 194°F to 203°F
• red/black tea (fully oxidized) - 95°C to 100°F / 203°F to 212°F
• puerh and post-fermented tea - 95°C to 100°F / 203°F to 212°F
NOTE: notice that there is a 5°C / 9°F allowance in each temperature range, giving you room to figure out just what the best temperature is for a particular tea, so do have fun with this.
Steeping time depends on the type of tea and water temperature. When using the gong fu method, however, tea is steeped for seconds at a time. In general the cooler the water, the longer the steep, and the hotter the water the shorter the steep.
White or green tea: the first steep might be about 15 to 20 seconds, increasing by 5 seconds or so for each additional steep. All depends on the specific tea. These are probably the hardest teas to steep because the temperature range is fairly wide especially with white teas.
Oolong (semi-oxidized—light to dark; light to dark roast): after the initial rinsing of the leaves, the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd steeps might be 7 seconds, increasing steeping time by 5 to 10 seconds for each additional steep.
Red/Black teas (fully oxidized), puerh and post-fermented teas: after the initial rinsing of the leaves, the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd steeps might be 3 seconds or so, increasing steeping time by 5 to 10 seconds for each additional steep.
NOTE: These are guidelines, because ultimately you have to connect with the tea you are steeping. Once you know your tea, it will only get better as you will find that optimum temperature and steeping time that makes it taste best. I find this to be especially true when it comes to current white tea versus aged white tea. Some teas are more delicate than others and require a little thoughtful action. The same is true of green teas. Some are more delicate than others. Follow suggested temperature on each tea page.
Also see the following...