What is Grandpa Style tea brewing?

Have you been hanging out with your tea head friends and wonder what they mean when they speak of "grandpa style"? Maybe you overheard someone talking about the great experience they had brewing it "farmer style." What do these terms mean, you ask? Let's find out!

Grandpa (or farmer style), left. Photo credit: Heather Jerdee

Grandpa (or farmer style), left. Photo credit: Heather Jerdee

The first time I went to China to explore tea growing regions, I had only heard of steeping leaf for a certain amount of time and then pouring off the tea liquor and re-steeping again in the same fashion. One day, when I was in the West Lake region, I was at an outdoor restaurant and observed 3 old men sitting and playing cards. I watched as the server measured the green tea leaf into 16 oz glasses, poured in hot water and left the men to their card game. Over the course of 15 minutes or so, the leaves slowly sank to the bottom and they began to drink. I remember thinking about how bitter the cups of tea must be and how it went against what I had learned about tea brewing up until that moment.

This is how many people, myself included, often drink tea. It’s a great way to consume more of the beneficial elixir and it’s as simple as it gets. While those men were letting the leaf sink to the bottom, the tea was also cooling, and when the glass was cool enough, they could pick it up and not burn their hands. As they drank and the glass was about 1/3 full (the seed tea), the server came around and poured more hot water in the glass and so it went during the entire time I was there. 

In China, this style of brewing is affectionately referred to as “grandpa” or “farmer” style brewing.  Rest assured, you don’t have to be of an older generation or a farmer in order to enjoy your tea this way, and typically this form is used for white, green, and yellow tea. That’s not to say that one cannot brew other teas in this fashion and we give you permission to experiment as you like. 

While brewing openly in a glass or cup is fun, some leaves just don’t sink to the bottom and one must get skilled at either drinking around the leaf or using their teeth as a strainer to prevent chewing on tea leaves. This is where the Chinese tea tumbler (as seen above) comes in handy as there is a strainer between the leaf and mouth, making grandpa style much more enjoyable for most folks. In this way, you also have the option of pouring off the tea and setting the leaf aside for the next steep! Sure, some people find this way of brewing produces the bitter edges of green tea and many enjoy their tea in this way. There are other teas such as our Dragon Pearl green jasmine or our Valley Peak green that have much less tendency to become astringent even in the longer steeps that grandpa style makes for. 

For travel, at the office, while doing chores or for pure enjoyment and hydration, grandpa style is a simple and joyful way to brew your leaf! Experiment and enjoy!