Did you know that you can make loose-leaf tea with only a cup or a bowl that you already have at home? In this post, I’ll be sharing everything you need to know to get started with grandpa style and bowl brewing. These fun and easy preparation methods are as simple as it gets!
Grandpa style is a term that was first coined by a tea blogger known as MarshalN. The inspiration for the name is because that’s how he saw his grandpa drinking tea. People commonly drink tea this way all over China. It’s a very affordable and fun way to make tea. It works perfectly for when I want to have tea by myself, but I also don’t have the attention span for a dedicated gongfu tea session.
To get started, all you’ll need is a tall heat-proof cup. I prefer glass so that I can watch the leaves, but any kind will do. Teas with larger unbroken leaves work best for grandpa style brewing, especially green and white teas. It is popular to prepare Dragonwell and Tai Ping Hou Kui in this way. Something like a sencha or a CTC black tea would not be ideal because they typically have more broken leaf pieces.
There’s no need to measure the leaves for grandpa style tea. You can just eyeball it. A good rule of thumb is to use slightly less leaves than you think you might need. There should be just enough to cover the bottom of the cup. You can always add some leaves after if you find the taste too weak.
I like to use water that’s a little bit cooler, about 175℉, just to make sure that I’m able to drink the tea sooner rather than having to wait for it to cool. The leaves will slowly open up as they sit in the water. Brewing the tea this way avoids bitterness because it uses a much lower leaf-to-water ratio. If it tastes unpleasant or too strong, it would be best to reduce the amount of tea leaves.
Using your teeth as a strainer can be a little weird if you aren’t used to doing it. The good news is that tea leaves are edible, especially green teas like dragonwell because they are very tender. If a leaf slips through you can either put it back into your cup or chew it up a bit. You can refill with more hot water once you’ve got about 1/4 of your cup left.
I love grandpa style for its simplicity. It’s my go-to when I’m traveling and don’t have all of my wonderful teaware with me. The flavor is lighter when making tea this way, but I do find that it enhances some of the sweeter characteristics. You’ll know that the tea is done when it starts to lose its flavor. The leaves will also settle on the bottom of the cup rather than float on top.
Bowl brewing is another fun and personal way to make tea. I love that it gets you up close and personal with the leaves. Instead of tall glass, you’re going to use a wide bowl. I use an old rice pattern bowl that I picked up in Chinatown, but a lot of people use ones that are more similar to matcha chawans.
I prefer teas with leaves that are long and spindly, like dancong, for bowl brewing. Since the vessel is smaller you’ll need even fewer leaves than with grandpa style. A small pinch is all you need. When you add on the water you can let them swirl around a bit. Just like grandpa style. you’re going to use your teeth to strain the leaves. They will start to settle to the bottom fairly quickly.
For visual learners, here is a video I made on this topic that you might find helpful.
Have you ever tried grandpa style or bowl brewing? What are your favorite teas to make this way? Let me know in the comments below!
This post was originally published on September 8th, 2015. It was revised and updated on January 8th, 2024.
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