How to Brew Tea Without the Equipment

How to Make Tea Gongfu-Style

No gaiwan, no problem! Learn how to make fine tea in small infusions without any fancy equipment. Watch the video above or just follow the easy pictures below.

What is the point of Gongfu Tea Brewing?

Maybe you have seen videos of Chinese tea ceremony, or maybe you have the equipment and do gongfu yourself. “Authentic” Gongfu brewing varies dramatically across China. It is important not to get caught up in the little details and remember that gongfu tea is first and foremost about leisure. It is a celebration of free time, and a celebration of seeing beauty in the little pleasures of sight, taste, smell, and texture. Gongfu brewing focuses on steeping the same leaves many times to hear their full story of flavor.  You certainly don’t need yixing pots and gaiwans just to appreciate the beauty of tea over a long brewing session.

Want more information? Check out the following full-length articles:
Tea Ceremony
How to Taste Tea
How to Brew Tieguanyin
Tea CupStep One: Find two smaller cups, ideally 6-8 ounces each.

Tip: Even for improvisational gongfu, it is fun to use your nicest cups. Beautiful objects brew beautiful tea!


Tea Tray

Step Two: Find a plate to act as tea tray, catching drips when you pour tea. Make sure it is big enough to hold two cups.



choosing a loose leaf tea

Step Three: Choose your loose leaf tea.

Tip: Usually higher quality teas can be steeped out through more infusions, so they are a better candidate for gongfu brewing. In this case, Tieguanyin.


Tea leaves for brewing

Step Four: Add four-five grams of tea to your brewing cup

Chinese gongfu brewing needs a lot of leaf with a little water to really shine.


Pouring waterStep Five: Pour freshly boiled filtered water along the edge of your steeping cup, over the leaves. Steep for about five seconds.

Note: The first light steeping can be sipped, or discarded as a rinse.


Straining the tea

Step Six: Pour the steeping off into a pitcher or second cup, straining with a fork.

Tip: When making green tea, leave just a bit of water to cover the leaves between steepings.


Pouring TeaStep Seven: Pour the tea into a small cup or bowl, sip and enjoy.

Tip: save your leaves and steep at least five to six times. Taste the flavors change with each infusion.


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Published on by David Duckler

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Posted Comments

  1. Juanita

    Any thoughts on bamboo charcoal to purify water for cooking and drinking?

    • David Duckler

      That will definitely help. I have seen that used in China pretty frequently. I know that it is common now to just put bamboo charcoal into water for a few minutes and call it filtered, but even better is to get charcoal-based filter systems that the water runs through.

      • Juanita

        I was considering the environmental impact of reusing an item which is abundant as fuel but I suppose that is negated if one considers the transportation of importing a foreign item. I will continue using my carbon filter for home but bamboo charcoal could be handy on camping trips.

  2. Charlotte

    This is more or less how I brew Gong Fu. I like to call is gaiwanish! It works well enough for me that I haven’t bought myself a gaiwan yet.

  3. Paul

    This is really terrific. I do this–sort of. Pyrex measuring cup–small amounts of water, lots of tea leaves and very short steeps strained from one cup to another with whatever happens to be handy, cos I am moving fast! All of this is about to change soon with new tea ware! I am very excited. Also, I live in the country on the side of a small mountain. I have a spring fed well and I use this water for my tea. I have tried purchasing spring water and I have also tried water that is filtered. I like my well water the best.

  4. Frank

    This is why I love David Duckler, Because he keeps it real! understanding that not everybody has the proper tools and cups and all that, but is willing to show you how to improvise and still make it beautiful, traditional and stylish without compromising flavor or the integrity of the tea!

  5. JD

    It’s good to know that I don’t necessarily need all the equipment to have gong fu tea

  6. Julie

    Thanks for this video. I will use some of these tips when I am away from home.

  7. Joely (Azzrian) Smith

    Great video and helpful to those who are starting out or don’t want to pay for the accessories. Thanks!

  8. Connor

    It’s also worth noting how inexpensive gongfu teaware can be – I bought a gaiwan in SF’s Chinatown for $6, and the small cups were $1 each. The strainer and pitcher were about $2 each. This stuff isn’t expensive and they’ve paid for themselves 1000 times over. I’m sure most major cities have Chinese markets where these items would be available and inexpensive

  9. yssah

    ah, ive been holding off on brewing that good oolong for too long! gonna do this asap

  10. Anonymous

    Superb! Generally I never read whole articles but the way you wrote this information is simply amazing and this kept my interest in reading and I enjoyed it.

  11. Cj

    you are creative, respectful, and your products are delicious. I love your way of doing business. Thank you for a great service.

  12. Katherine

    I never thought of using a fork to strain the leaves. It’s brilliant, While I’ve been doing my own makeshift gong fu style brewing very similar to this post I’ve always assumed I needed a small strainer but this makes tea making while traveling much easier.