Background image
    Methods of brewing: Pin cha
  1. Home
  2. The Second Circle
  3. Methods of brewing: Pin cha

Lesson #8. Methods of brewing: Pin cha

Pin cha (品茶) translates as «to taste tea» and is considered to be most common traditional brewing method. This is an elementary brewing enabling to deliver the flavor of the tea.

For a session you will need a chahe, chapan (or a tea pool), gaiwan, chahai and teacups. These are our basic tools. In time you will get «overgrown» with other tea utensils, or on the contrary — retain just a small gaiwan and a small teacup for it. Initially the weight of tea is better to be measured by scales, or using our picture tips.

Look at the table again:
Type of TeaWeight 
per 100ml
Temperature °C
Green5 gram70-80GlassYixing clay
Yellow5 gram80-90GlassYixing clay
White5 gram95-100Porcelain, clay 
Red5 gram90-100Porcelain, clayGlass
Oolong7 gram95-100Yixing clayGlass
Dark (pu’er)7 gram100Porcelain, clayGlass

When brewing pu’er and oolong the first steeping is discarded as insufficiently saturated.

Toy around with water temperature beforehand. Boil up water: pour it in some vessel and keep watching over its condition measuring the temperature with the thermometer. Find out how water behaves at each stage. How it warms up a teapot, gaiwan, chahai and teacups. How fast it cools down. Keep your hand over it and sense what heat radiates at different temperatures. At the time of brewing thermometer is inappropriate. It becomes opportune when you familiarize yourself with water. If you are using a glass kettle attempt to bring it to a boil with a thermometer. You will notice what kind of bubbles appear at one or another point. In a word, take a time with water and thermometer prior to the tea session.

Chapan may be replaced by a tea pool. For the latter a simple plate or a bowl and a specialized tea-ware will serve you well. Before you start brewing feel the gaiwan and learn how to hold it. You will master it after several steepings but at first it may appear not vary handy.

Brewing stages:
  1. Measure the required amount of tea and cast it into chahe.

  2. Set out tea-ware.

  3. Boil water.

  4. Acquaint yourself with the tea leaf in chahe. In China it is customary to contemplate the tee and for us is more common to smell it. The aroma is inhaled as follows: approximate the wide side of chahe to your nose holding it in both palms. Inhale and after a short pause exhale warm air onto the tea leaf, inhale and hold your breath again. To estimate the depth of the aroma you should inhale up to three times.

  5. Preheat the tea-ware. It prevents tea-ware to draw heat from steepings. This should be done as follows: pour some water in empty gaiwan, then from gaiwan to chahai and from chahai to teacups. Afterwards water from teacups is dumped in a chapan or a tea pool. You may immediately take advantage of this procedure and find out if the capacity of gaiwan is suffice for all guests. Should you fill the teacups full, to the middle or just cover the bottom slightly. Don’t forget that by the third steeping the tealeaf in there will take up 1/3 of gaiwan.

  6. Cast the tea in the warmed gaivan, shake it a little, cover with the lid and try the aroma again which now is much brighter even without in-and exhaling.

  7. Steep the tea with water of the respective temperature.

  8. Pour the tea into chahai immediately. The lid should be crack open slightly not to let tea leaves slip out. If this is hard to do so or the tea leaf is too small you can use the sieve. There is no disgrace to put the tea back in gaiwan from the sieve if it slipped out in abundance.

  9. Firs steeping of oolong and pu’er is to be disposed of. You may use it for repeated preheating of cups, pour it off in a chapan or a tea pool, or offer a cup to a tea deity. Next steeping with no delay is poured into chahai.

  10. From chahai the tea is distributed between teacups. There are several options if the cups are full but there’s some tea still remaining in the chahai. First — pour it off in the chapan or shower the tea deity. Second — evenly add the tea to all teacups. Third — retain it and drink another round. This is appropriate when the tea is plenty and the guests are few. So to say, the extra tea is not a problem. It is much worse when one of guests is left deprived. Every time pay attention to how much tea should be poured in tea cups in order to distribute it evenly. And do not forget that the tealeaf may keep swelling up to the 6-th steeping and occupy the internal space increasingly with each steeping retaining less space for water.

  11. Generally the first cup is handed over to the guest and the rest he takes by himself. In China the teacup remains with the guest and the tea is filled up wherever he leaves it.

  12. Proceed with the steepings. Pour in water and at once pour off the infusion into chahai. If after 5-10 steepings you will sense that the flavor has reached its climax and started to decline you may sustain each consecutive steeping by adding 10, 20, 30 seconds to it.

  13. Keep steeping to the moment which you consider appropriate for the given tea. Control temperature of the water. Thermos will help you to conserve the required temperature. Using the kettle maintain the temperature by periodic heating to the respective level thereof. Otherwise you tea will brew incompletely.

  14. Normally teas withstand the following number of steepings:

    • Green — 8 times
    • White — 15
    • Yellow — 8
    • Red — 7–10
    • Oolong — 7–15 times, depending on their type and grade rating
    • Pu’ers — 10 times at least

    However in practice the number of steepings depends on a number of factors such as tea variety, water temperature, choice of tea-ware, steeping time and your taste preferences. Many teas will wear off smoothly, some will end up unpalatable. Therefore mind you own senses.

  15. Concluding the tea session express gratitude to your guests for sharing this tea and time with you.

  16. Do not postpone washing of tea-ware especially when it comes to sieves and chapans. They may be spoiled by dried out tea. Use detergents only for teacups, for the rest of tea-ware rinsing and wiping is sufficient.

Everyone works out own brewing practices. Some like to do it most natural way with the minimal set of utensils. Some, on the contrary, are keen to acquire any article that could be used in the brewing process. This majorly depend on the mentality of a person as both this approaches are not axiomatic. But the set of tea utensils is better to be enlarged in steps. For example, if you feel that wet foot of a teacup distracts you, buy a tea towel and wipe the bottom of a cup before handing it over. If you dislike tea leaves slipping into chahai — buy a sieve. But if you disregard the following inconveniences, then you need neither a sieve nor a towel. Pin cha does not impose any strict rules of provisions.

The First CircleLesson #5Lesson #6Lesson #7Lesson #8Lesson #9The Third Circle