文/許玉蓮 By Hooi Yoke Lien
In 1999, we published Malaysia’s first book dedicated to Chinese tea, "A Passage to Chinese Tea", in which we described the tea brewing method developed since 1987. The ‘Modern Method’ defines the position and arrangement of tea utensils, and the 21 steps involved in tea brewing. Every step is carefully explained, and every movement highlighted.
The method has since evolved, based on continuous practice and daily application. We have revised the content over nearly two years to reflect this evolution. For example, the tea brewer and drinker(s) bow to each other to show respect at the beginning and the end of the occasion. Some steps are eliminated, such as the ‘warming up’ and ‘pouring over teapot’. With these changes, the entire process of tea brewing, serving and appreciation is in line with the requirement of science, hygiene and modern practices. The adjustment ensures that people from around the world feel at ease while immersing themselves in the Way of Tea.
Along with the emergence and availability of increasing varieties of tealeaves, there are more and more tea utensils made of different material. If we are to cultivate a habit of enjoying ‘the art of tea’, and to make it a life-long pursuit, we will need to understand the method, and be well-versed with the process of tea brewing, serving and appreciation; the correct and safe use of each tea utensil; the characteristics of the tealeaves and the way to bring out their best; the impact of water temperature on the tea infusion and its style, etc. Such is also the intention and principle behind the compilation of the ‘Modern Tea Brewing Method’.
泡茶前的準備茶葉 Preparation of the tealeaves before Brewing
The brewer must understand the type of tea he/she is going to brew. Tealeaves purchased from the tea retailers are normally kept in canisters. Compressed tea such as Pu’er may have their original packaging removed and kept in ceramic urns, or just wrapped in pieces of paper. We must take out the tealeaves and keep them in small tea caddies already prepared. Why use small tea caddies, you may ask? It is because we should only take out the amount of tealeaves needed for a particular occasion. Moreover, tealeaves are the most important part of a tea presentation setting. A tea caddy of good quality shows our attention and passion towards the tealeaves. The quantity depends on the state of the tealeaves – whether they are loosely or tightly packed – and the number of brews required. We may use our hands, or a tea scoop, to transfer the tealeaves from the big tin to the small tea caddy.
When we take out the tealeaves, we will be able to assess their characteristics, and the best way to bring these out. This way, we will be equipped with the knowledge to choose the right brewing utensil, the size of which is determined by the size of the teacups and the number of drinkers.
The brewer must bear this in mind.
泡茶步驟一 : 準備茶具 Tea Brewing Step 1: Preparation of Tea Utensils
Step 1: Preparation of tea utensils: Prepare the tea utensils in the tea preparation room (or kitchen). Tea utensils can be divided into three categories:
Category A. Auxiliary Utensils – tea caddy (with tealeaves), tea receptacle, pincer, tea scraper, tea towel, cup saucer, crucible and tea serving tray. Put all the auxiliary utensils on the tea serving tray.
Category B. Main Utensils - tea brewing utensils (teapot saucer and lid saucer included, if used), pitcher, tea cups.
Category C. Stove and kettle (lighter included, if alcohol is used as the fuel for the stove).
When all tea utensils are put together, bring them out to the tea presentation setting following this order: Category A; then Category B; followed by Category C. Place utensils under Category A on the right; utensils under Category B at the front, immediately facing the brewer; and utensils under Category C on the left. The brewer takes his/her seat, and arranges utensils under Category A according to their designated position. This step is completed once the utensils are in place.
If tea is served within one’s reach, the tea serving tray can be put away.
If tea is served beyond one’s reach, keep the tea serving tray on the tea presentation setting.
泡茶步驟二 : 備水 Tea Brewing Step 2: Preparation of Water
Step 2: Preparation of water: How to prepare water? If an electric kettle is used, normal water will do as water boils faster with an electric kettle and you don’t have to wait long. Have two bottles of water by the side, which can be added to the kettle where necessary.
If alcohol stove is used, it may take a long time before the water boils. In this case, prepare flasks filled with hot water, and the brewer may pour hot water into the kettle. Determine the required water temperature. If it is necessary to boil the water, the temperature can be adjusted higher by lighting the fire.
Direct the spout of kettle away from the tea drinkers so as to avoid the steaming vapour from spraying onto them. Shift the spout so that it points slightly inwards but not directly pointing at the brewer. Hot air will also vent through a small hole on the lid when the water is boiled; as such, align the small hole and the spout. This is to avoid hot air from scalding the brewer’s hand when holding the kettle.
When the water and brewing utensils are in place, we enter the stage of ‘Getting Ready’. The brewer will be in the right position -- he/she is seated with both feet firmly on the floor and both hands on the table immediately at the front, and the shoulders and elbows relaxed. This posture allows us to keep our body steady and move at ease. Once ready, the brewer should look around at the tea drinkers, nod and smile or bow as a gesture of greeting before tea brewing begins; avoid staring at the tea presentation setting and appeared preoccupied. The drinkers will feel ill at ease if the brewer begins right away without addressing their presence..
泡茶步驟三 : 備茶 Tea Brewing Step 3: Preparation of Tealeaves
Step 3: Preparation of tealeaves: Bring the tea receptacle to centre front (with the brewing utensil right behind it). Remove the lid of the tea caddy and put the lid beside the tea receptacle. Using a tea pick, put some tealeaves into the tea receptacle; then put back the tea pick (in this case, ‘last in, first out’). Put back the lid of tea caddy and return the tea caddy to its designated position (in this case, ‘first in, last out’).
泡茶步驟四 ：賞茶 Tea Brewing Step 4: Appreciation of Tealeaves
Step 4: Appreciation of tealeaves: The tea brewer moves on to invite the tea drinkers to appreciate the tealeaves. He/she does so by placing the tea receptacle (which holds the tealeaves) in front of the first drinker on the left (and not passing it around hastily). When the first drinker has finished viewing, he/she passes the tea receptacle on by placing it in front of the second tea drinker, and so on. When the last drinker has finished viewing, he/she returns the tea receptacle by putting it in front of the tea brewer. The brewer then picks up the tea receptacle, appreciates the tealeaves, and then returns the tea receptacle to its designated position.
泡茶步驟五 : 開始泡茶程序 Tea Brewing Step 5: Start Brewing
Step 5: Start brewing: Flip over the teacups. Place the thumb and the index finger at fixed points on the rim, and use the middle finger (which gives the momentum for turning) to gently push the base of the teacup until it flips over. Put the flipped teacups back to their designated positions. Do not change the positions. The order of the teacups begins with the first cup on the left of the brewer.
泡茶步驟六 : 溫壺、溫茶海、溫杯
Tea Brewing Step 6: Warming the Teapot, Tea Pitcher and Teacups
Warming the teapot – remove the lid of the teapot, pour hot water from kettle into the teapot, put the lid on and let it warm for a while.
Warming the tea pitcher – pour the hot water from the teapot into the tea pitcher; let it warm for a while.
Warming the teacups – pour the hot water from the tea pitcher into each teacup. Leave the hot water in the teacups until the tea is brewed.
Skip this step if warming is not required. Please note that this is not for cleaning the teacups. All teacups should have been cleaned before they are put on the tea presentation setting.
步驟七 : 置茶入泡茶器
Tea Brewing Step 7: Putting Tealeaves Into the Brewing Utensil
Step 7: Putting tealeaves into the brewing utensil: Lift up the tea receptacle and use the tea pick to put tealeaves into the teapot. Return the tea pick and tea receptacle to their designated positions.
步驟八 : 第1道茶開始沖泡 Tea Brewing Step 8: Making the First Brew
Step 8: Making the first brew: Lift up the kettle and pour hot water into the teapot until filled. Put back the kettle and put on the lid of the teapot (make sure the water does not overflow when the lid is put on)
While the tealeaves are infused, be seated quietly. The brewer should stay still instead of jiggling from side to side, looking for something up and down, or appear restless.
泡茶步驟九 : 第1道茶泡好了，將泡好的茶倒入茶海。
Tea Brewing Step 9: When the First Brew is ready, Pour the Tea infusion into the Tea Pitcher
Step 9: When the firs brew is ready, pour the tea infusion into the tea pitcher: When the time for infusion is up, the tea is brewed (where necessary, keep a timer by the side as a guide and for tracking the time. It may be easy to keep track of 20 or 30 seconds by heart; but it becomes harder for any stretch of time over 1 minute). Lift up the teapot. Place it on the tea towel briefly in order to catch any drip (The tea towel should stay at its position; don’t pick it up). Pour the tea infusion into the tea pitcher.
There should be no haste. Let the tea infusion flow out in a steady stream. Do not shake the teapot. Wait until the last few drops has come out, and stop pouring when they take longer than two seconds. Put back the teapot.
Make sure the tea infusion in the teapot is completely poured; otherwise, it may affect the next brew.
泡茶步驟十 : 倒掉溫杯水
Tea Brewing Step 10: Emptying the Water from the Cups
Step 10: Emptying the water from the cups: Starting from the left of the brewer, pour out the water for warming and put the cups back one by one.
Do not hurry. Make sure each cup is completely emptied before putting it down. Any water left in the cup will affect the flavour of the tea.
泡茶步驟十一 : 提茶海分茶
Tea Brewing Step 11: Distributing Tea with the Tea Pitcher
Step 11: Distributing tea with the tea pitcher. Pour tea into each teacup; starting with the first cup on the left all the way to the last cup on the right. Fill each cup until it is 70% or 80% full. Once done, return the tea pitcher to its designated position.
泡茶步驟十二 : 奉茶
Tea Brewing Step 12: Serving Tea
Step 12: Serving tea: Take the tea saucer and put a teacup on it before serving. Put a teacup (with saucer) on the table, right in front of each drinker; do not hand it directly to the drinker.
When serving, look at each tea drinker with a nod or bow, from the first to the last drinker.
The last cup is reserved for the brewer. Put it on the right side of the tea towel.
Note that the kettle is on the left. Avoid serving tea over the kettle. Serve with the right hand will do.
泡茶步驟十三 : 品茶 Tea Brewing Step 13: Savouring the Tea
Step 13: Savouring the tea: One can savour the tea when he/she thinks the temperature is right – there is no need to wait until everyone is served, as the tea may become cold after a while.Before savouring the tea, nod and greet the drinkers on the left and right as a gesture of courtesy.Place the thumb and the index finger on the rim, and the middle finger at the base of the cup for support and balancing. Avoid raising any finger up.
Sip and hold the tea in the mouth. Appreciate the flavour and the look of the tea infusion at the same time. After savouring the tea, put the teacup back onto the saucer.
泡茶步驟十四 : 第2道茶、第3道茶、第4道茶的泡飲
Tea Brewing Step 14: The Second, Third and Fourth Brews
Step 14: The second, third and fourth brews: Pour hot water into the teapot. Put the lid on and let the tealeaves infuse.
When the infusion time is up, lift up the teapot and place it on the tea towel briefly in order to catch any drip. Pour the tea infusion into the tea pitcher. Put the tea brewing utensil back at its designated place.
Pour tea from the tea pitcher into each teacup.
There is no need to move the teacups. They should stay right in front of the tea drinkers. Once his/her cup is filled, the tea drinker can continue to savour the tea.
泡茶步驟十五 : 品水 Tea Brewing Step 15: Savouring the Water
品茗者拿起品杯，慢慢品飲溫水。 Step 15: Savouring the water. After taking the last brew, pour the hot water from the kettle into tea pitcher, then pour the hot water from the tea pitcher into each cup.
The tea drinkers pick up their teacups and take time to savour the warm water.
泡茶步驟十六 : 收杯
Tea Brewing Step 16: Collecting the Teacups
Step 16: Collecting the teacups: Find out in advance the agreed number of brews. The tea gathering comes to an end after the final brew. It is time to largely clean the teapot and the tea pitcher.The brewer returns his/her cup to the designated position, then collect the teacups and cup saucers in front of the tea drinkers, one after another. All teacups should be placed in their designated position in front of the brewing utensil; and the saucers on the lower left of the tea setting presentation.Press the folded tea towel gently against the cup saucers if there is any drip – there is no need to open up the tea towel and wipe the saucers in and out.
泡茶步驟十七 : 取茶渣
Tea Brewing Step 17: Clearing the Used Tealeaves
Step 17: Clearing the used tealeaves: Remove used tealeaves from the lid saucer, if any, by using the pincer. Discard tealeaves into the crucible.
Pick up the lid of the teapot. Check if there are any used tealeaves on it. If so, use the tea scraper to remove the tealeaves into the crucible before putting it back on the lid saucer.
Scrape used tealeaves from inside the teapot. Loosen them by scraping left and right; do it in an orderly manner to prevent the tealeaves from falling onto the table.
After removing the used tealeaves, rinse the residue on the tea scraper, if any, into the crucible using the hot water in the kettle. Put down the kettle. Dry the scraper by pressing it against the tea towel. Return to the designated position.
If it is agreed that used tealeaves are to be appreciated after tea drinking, there would be a white porcelain plate for this purpose on the tea presentation setting. Empty the used tealeaves onto the plate, and pass it around, starting from the first tea drinker on the left, after which he/she will put the plate in front of the second drinker and so on, until the last tea drinker has finished viewing. He/she will return it to its original position, where the brewer may pick it up for viewing.
泡茶步驟十八 : 潔壺 Tea Brewing Step 18: Cleaning the Teapot
Step 18: Cleaning the teapot: Should there be any tea residue after the used tealeaves are removed from inside of the teapot, lift up the kettle and pour hot water into the teapot. Lift up the teapot; swirl lightly until the residue is dislodged. Empty the residue by pouring it out along with the water into the crucible.Turn the teapot upside down. Do it swiftly so any residue left behind will be emptied along with the water. Once finished, put the teapot back at its designated position.
泡茶步驟十九 : 清茶海、清品杯 Tea Brewing Step 19: Cleaning the Tea Pitcher and Teacups
Step 19: Cleaning the tea pitcher: Lift the kettle and pour hot water into tea pitcher. Put back the kettle. Pour the warm water from the tea pitcher into teacueach p, from the left to the right. Return the tea pitcher to the designated position after pouring the water.
Empty the warm water in the teacups into the crucible, one at a time. Put teacups back in the designated position, upside down.
Tea Brewing Step 20: Putting Back the Auxiliary Utensils and Preparing for the Ending
Putting back the auxiliary utensils and preparing for the ending. If alcohol stove is used, place kettle on the kettle rest first, and use the wick cover that closes over the canister to extinguish the flame (put out the fire). There is no need to put the kettle back onto the stove. If electric kettle is used, simply disconnect it from the power supply.
Put the utensils under Category A onto the tea serving tray.
泡茶步驟二十一 : 結束、行禮 Tea Brewing Step 21: The End and Bowing
The end and bowing: Return all tea utensils under Category A, Category B and Category C to the tea preparation room (or kitchen), in the following order: Category C: Stove and Kettle; then Category B: Main Utensils; followed by Category A: Auxiliary Utensils. It is ‘last in, first out’ for the stove and kettle as a precautionary measure since this category involves fire, electricity and hot water.
After removing all utensils, the brewer comes back to bow at the tea drinkers, who bow in return and express their gratitude by saying ‘thank you’. The tea gathering comes to an end.