How to Brew Gongfu Tea

How to Brew Gongfu Tea

How to Brew Gongfu Tea


Gongfu tea is a traditional way of making tea that uses multiple smaller infusions of a tea. Gongfu style allows you to fully control the “life” of a tea, to adjust the taste according to your preferences, and most importantly — to reveal the full potential of the plant and characteristics of its terroir.

Here we'll making Shui Xian, an oolong varietal, using a gaiwan, a fairness cup and 2 "three sip cups".

What you'll need:

  • Gaiwan (the ceramic lidded bowl. Pictured: left)
  • Fairness cup (the spouted glass vessel. Pictured: center)
  • Three sip cups (the small ceramic cups)
  • Tea
  • Kettle

Brew Time:

1–2 minutes

Step 1

Prepare your tea set in a comfortable spot.

Gaiwan, fairness cup, "three sip cups"

Step 2

Fill your kettle with only as much water as you need for the first few brews. Gaiwans usually hold between 100-120ml, so 300-360ml (about 10 ounces) is a good starting point.

Step 3

Bring the water to a boil.

Step 4

Slowly pour the boiling water around the rim of your lidded gaiwan to warm it. You should hear the sound of the lid dancing as the air escapes from the bowl.

Pouring water into a gaiwan

Step 5

Pour the water from your gaiwan into your fairness cup to warm it. Then pour the water from the fairness cup into the three sips cups to warm them.

Warming the fairness cup and "three sip cups"

Step 6

Add the dry tea into your gaiwan, cover with lid, and gently shake the gaiwan to wake up the tea leaves. Then, quickly open the lid, smell the warm aroma of the tea, then close it again.

Pouring tea into a gaiwan
Smelling gaiwan lid

Step 7

Using one hand to hold the gaiwan’s lid, the other to hold the kettle, slowly pour boiled water into your gaiwan. Stop when the water gets near the rim and cover with the lid.

Pouring water into the gaiwan

Step 8

Wait 3-5 seconds, then carefully empty the tea soup from your gaiwan into your fairness cup.

Pouring tea from gaiwan into fairness cup

This step can take a little practice. The key is to leave a small gap between the gaiwan and it's lid by holding the lid against the gaiwan using your index finger on top while steadying the rim of the gaiwan with your thumb, middle and ring fingers. If some tea leaves get into your fairness cup, not to worry! It becomes easier the more brews you make.

How to hold a gaiwan

Step 9

Smell the inside of the lid.

Smelling gaiwan lid

Step 10

Pour the tea from the fairness cup into the three sip cups to share with everyone.

Sharing tea with friends

Step 11


Sipping tea

Repeat the same pour pattern for each following brew. The steeping time should be prolonged for an extra few seconds (between 3-5 seconds) for each successive brew.

Holding three sip cup