Firstly, a quick recap of the definition of gongfu brewing. There is no clear 'standard' for Gongfu brewing. Rather, gongfu brewing really just means using available knowledge, framework(s), equipment, material and techniques to adjust the brewing appropriate to the environment and the drinkers. The key goal is using the appropriate gongfu to adapt the brewing method to get the best out of each tea and improve a tea-drinking experience. The opposite applies - badly brewed tea is generally a bland or even unpleasant experience. Below, I share the key features of our gongfu brewing that commonly do with our Yiwu teas. Discalimer: I am not discussing anything about the 'art of tea' which is more about etiquette, atmosphere and performance rather than brewing a tasty cup.
For Yiwu gushu, I prefer to use 7 or 8 grams of leaves with 100-120ml gaiwan. The general rule of thumb is to start with boiled water (i.e. reached 100 degrees Celsius and then rested) and rinse and open up the leaves. While the water is still extremely hot, I use very short brewing times to release just a portion of the nutrients and flavours of the tea with each steep. Gushu can be very intense in flavour and aroma so by releasing it slowly, each steep will reveal a different layer until the leaves fully open up. After the leaves have fully opened up, the leaves will need more time steeping to release the nutrients sitting deeper in the leaves. Depending on the quality of the gushu, steeps ten to twenty will reveal the depth of the chaqi and huigan as the flavour fades further into the background. If tasting lots of teas, we'll normally end the session early by 'stewing' the almost finished tea with boiling water for three minutes. This will give a good indication of what the tea has left.
I would definitely suggest fifteen to twenty steeps with this type of brewing to get the best out of your best Gushu. Some methods of steeping use even more leaf and 'flash' steep by pouring out the tea as soon as the lid is atop the gaiwan, meaning that up to forty or fifty steeps are possible. This means, like most good things, it is always best enjoyed with friends, preferably a group of three to five, or you may find yourself overly tea drunk and alone... which is maybe not a bad thing if that's the effect you were looking for.
Using a low leaf to high water ratio (e.g 4 or 5grams to 100ml) and longer steeps often reduces the complexity of the latter steeps but more complex initial brews. This makes latter brews too bland in flavour compared to the chaqi and huigan still to be experienced, which is the best part of great Puer. I'll often do this more with leaves from young trees to brew what I think is a tastier cup.
I would not use long steeping methods or boiling water for broken leaves. If for any reason you are with lots of broken gushu leaves, it's better to flash-steep with lower temperatures (85-90 degrees Celsius) after the rinse or even consider using just a few broken leaves grandfather style. Broken leaves will always release their flavour too quickly, and are much harder to brew effectively for long balanced sessions. The full flavour of gushu can also be overwhelming. For example, my wife and I tried a four gram mix of BOP-gushu leaves from Wangong, Mahei and Chawangshu and boiling water - it nearly blew our heads off on the first brew. At least we could appreciate the immense bitterness cross-fading into even more immense chaqi and huigan. We were tea-high after two cups... and that was just the morning session. Running a tea shop defintely has it's pros and cons...
In the end, no matter how well you brewed the tea, it's how you enjoyed the experience that's important. Whether you're salivating, energized, relaxed, elated, or drunk, remember to take a moment to recall the aromas and flavours lingering just past, and reflect on the happiness of just being 'in the moment'.
I hope you find some useful tips here. If you have had any interesting brewing experiences or tips, please leave a comment, like and share.