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Brewing Methods

General Brewing Guidelines

Brewing a ceremonial-quality tea is different from tea in bags and lower-grade loose leaves. Rather than steeping a small amount of tea leaves in a full mug of water for a long time (which often leads to a bitter, overcooked flavor), we treat living teas with more nuance.

Instead of making a large pot or mug of tea all at once, we enjoy smaller cups of tea, re-steeping the leaves many times. Begin with short steeps, as short as 3-6 seconds, and gradually lengthen the steeping time as you taste the flavors transform.

This practice of re-steeping leaves arose from humble beginnings: the simple need to get the most possible value and flavor from one scoop of leaves! Over many millennia of drinking tea this way, however, tea lovers have used this method to refine their palates, discover new flavors, and engage the craft of tea as a practice of mindful self-cultivation. Experiment, listen to the tea, and enjoy!

Water Temperature

Puerh, Red, and Black Tea
195-205°F - A steady stream of pearl-sized bubbles rises to the surface of the water.

Oolong Tea
180-190°F - Larger bubbles (“fish eye” size) rise to the surface with steam in thick columns.

Green Tea
175-180°F - Vertical streams of steam with “crab eye”-sized bubbles.

White Tea
155-175°F - Tiny “shrimp eye”-sized bubbles rise to the surface.


Improving the quality of your water is the fastest and easiest way to improve your tea. Fresh spring water is best. Taste the different types of water available to you and find one that is smooth, clean, and delicious.


Use enough leaves to lightly cover the bottom of your teapot while still allowing the bottom to be
visible, like leaves scattered across a forest floor. Depending on the size of your teapot, this is approximately 3-5 grams of tea.

At Living Tea, we practice three primary brewing methods that suit different occasions, teas, and experiences. Each method coaxes out unique qualities in these beautiful leaves.   


Leaves in a Bowl

This method involves large-leaf teas brewed directly in the bowl. It’s the simplest of the methods, and a wonderful place to start a tea practice. As one progresses in the study of tea, it’s important to return to these fundamental beginnings. By cultivating a “beginner’s mind,” we can continue to find new and fresh details in all our activities. 

How To: Leaves in a Bowl


Sidehandle Bowl Tea

The sidehandle teapot comes to us through the long tradition of side-handled medicine pots used by Taoist herbalists. The filter in your teapot allows you to enjoy a wider variety of teas than is feasible with the Leaves in a Bowl method, which is challenging with smaller-leaf teas. Generally, sidehandle tea is ideal for sharing tea in a group of three or more people, using larger bowls of tea that require less exactitude in brewing. 

Watch: Sidehandle Bowl Tea Ceremony

Gongfu Tea

Gongfu-style brewing became popularized in the Ming Dynasty, before which time the dominant brewing method was grinding bricks of tea into a powder for boiling.

Gongfu can be translated as “skilled discipline.” With this method, we use special purple clay pots and porcelain cups that soften the water and bring out the best qualities in the tea. We pay close attention to the quantity of leaf used, the temperature of the water, and the amount of time that the leaves steep.

Gongfu elevates the practice of tea to an art form as we seek to brew the perfect cup of tea. 

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