Face it: Drinking copious amounts of wine isn’t really helping you relax.
Sipping tea is a healthier alternative, and the eighteenth-century ritual known as gong fu cha lends ceremony to the practice. It’s traditionally a complicated, 21-step affair, but newer companies like Steep L.A. and Three Gems Tea, both of which opened in 2019, are simplifying and modernizing the process for a younger generation. “What we realized was that people literally drank tea to socialize,” says Steep L.A. cofounder Samuel Wang. “It was just a medium to get everybody together . . . like an after-work type of experience where people can stay sober and relax and still have a great conversation.”
Here’s a step-by-step guide:
1. The gaiwan, a lidded bowl, is used to brew the tea leaves with hot water for infusions lasting from ten seconds to a minute, with steep times depending on personal preference and the type and amount of tea.
2. When the tea is finished steeping, it gets poured into the “fairness pitcher” to ensure it stops brewing. “It all mixes together, so then everyone gets a fair pour,” says Diana Zheng, the cofounder of Three Gems Tea.
3. Decant the tea from the fairness pitcher into the teacups and enjoy. “[You can] immerse yourself in something that can transport you to a different time or place at a time when we can’t travel,” says Zheng
4. Repeat the process with the same leaves, experimenting with different steeping durations. To deepen your experience, smell the lid for the tea’s aroma, which changes with each brew; and watch the leaves, which are sometimes rolled into balls, unfurl.