When brewing tea gong fu style in a gai wan you will often see the brewer discard the first brew. This often leads to a lot of questions, such as: Why do we do that? Do you always ditch it? What happens if I don’t? We’re here to help answer some of these questions regarding the first brew.
Red, Wu Long (Oolong), Pu Er, and White, are brewed in a gai wan. This brewing tool is a lidded bowl that traps the heat and acts as a filter when pouring out the tea broth (liquid). You can dive deeper into the tools used for gong fu brewing in our article on it here.
Why Do We Discard The First Brew?
In the first brew, the tea leaves are still waking up. Enzymes are starting to shake and the leaves are receiving their first touch of moisture. This first brew is considers a “rinse” - it primes the leaves to produce flavorful and consistent brews. We ditch it because it doesn’t hold much flavor and is mostly aroma.
We do not rinse the leaves because they are old, or need to be cleaned. This is a very common misconception of the use of rinsing the tea leaves.
How Do We Ditch It?
Typically, we use the first brew to warm up our cups, which also enhances the tea’s potential. Once you’ve brought the tea from the leaves in the gai wan to the fairness pitcher, you can place the first brew into each cup and then using a tong, ditch each cup individually. This also allows your guests to enjoy the aroma of the tea from the porcelain walls of the cup. Tea is a full sensory experience, and aroma is a key factor in maximizing our senses.
Sometimes people will take the first brew from the cups and feel it to their tea pet, who’s clay bodies will soak up the tea and create a desired patina. The tea is then discarded over a tea tray or into a bowl.
Is There Ever A Use To Drink It?
When you taste tea in a true tasting, you actually want to drink the first brew because it is a way for us to grade the quality of the tea. High quality tea should always have a ‘clean’ mouth feel, and tasting this is a rinse brew is an important step to judging teas.
Okay, But… Do I Have To?
No, of course not. Nothing states it is a mandatory step of gong fu brewing. It is just a common practice that many follow to maximize the tea drinking experience and highlight the tea’s best potential. You will always see us do this at the tea house, unless we’re tasting teas for quality.
Your Own Tea Set
There are many different types of teaware to choose from, and you will undoubtedly be collecting more on your tea journey. We recommend starting with the set we use at our East Village tea house, which is both functional and versatile. Pick up your first tea set and start brewing Gong Fu today!