If you’ve ever visited China or lived here, you may have noticed that many people – especially older locals – enjoy drinking their tea from a cup or a thermos, leaving it to brew all day and occasionally topping it up with boiling water. Taxi drivers, repairmen, small shop owners all share this love for what has become known in the west as ‘grandpa style’ tea brewing.
But why is it called Grandpa Style Brewing?
This term can be attributed to a famous tea blogger, a reference among real teaheads, ‘Marshal’, whom we had the pleasure of meeting back in 2019 in Hong Kong where we discussed tea research, tea sutras and tea study while drinking Hong Kong stored and aged Puer. Here is an extract of his blog post on the subject:
“In a nutshell, grandpa style means the brewing of tea in a large cup, with no filters or teaballs or bags or anything else in it, with water constantly refilled without much regard for infusion time or temperature. The only three things necessary for grandpa style brewing are tea leaves, water, and cup, preferably a large one. I named this grandpa style, because this is how my grandfather drinks his tea, and is one of the first memory I have of people drinking tea.”
Using this method often leads to your tea being over-infused (what Chinese call “cooked soup flavor “ 熟汤味 ) so it is usually not favored by Chinese tea professionals, but Grandpa Style Brewing can actually turn out not so bad if you respect a few basic brewing tips.
For the purpose of this post we will be focusing on the use of a Thermos or Tea Bottle instead of a tall or lidded glass, but the concept is pretty similar.
Choose the right Thermos:
We recommend the use of a borosilicate glass thermos which seem to retain heat better. We also prefer the ones with metal bodies instead of plastic. Make sure they seal properly. The best are the ones with a pouring button that does not require you to open the lid at the risk of wasting aromas and heat.
Brew the right amount of tea leaves:
The easy way is to use a third of what you would use in a gaiwan with 3 times the amount of water. But the exact amount depends entirely on your tea, so ask your supplier, or as we always say: try, try and try, until you find the right ratio water:leaves.
Control the water temperature:
First, use boiling hot water to ensure that the dried tea buds and leaves are fully imbibed and infused; in a second stage of brewing, prefer a lower water temperature 90-95℃ during winter months, 60-65 ℃ in summertime.
Know your tea:
The first Grandpa style infusion probably won’t be great, but this doesn’t mean it cannot be achieved. Just keep documenting your trials and errors until you hit that sweet spot when brewing your tea grandpa style !