Ms. Bai prepares a Yixing clay teapot by warming it with hot water.
A tea bag delivers an acceptable pick-me-up on a busy morning.
Even a lover of tea and tradition such as Fang Bai of Perrysburg has those convenient little packets in her kitchen.
But when speed doesn't matter, Ms. Bai reaches instead for the fine, loose leaves she gets from China, her homeland, and brews tea using a process that dates back to the 16th century.
For her, this tradition is only four years old. She says she learned the process in the jade and tea markets in Beijing where she shopped.
Tools of the ancient Gongfu tea ceremony.
‘‘The tea tastes best this way,'' Ms. Bai says as she stands at the island in her suburban kitchen with the tools of the ancient Gongfu ceremony before her: small, handmade Yixing clay teapots, tea cups, a clear-glass pitcher, mesh filter, and wooden tongs and scoop. It all sits on a shallow, rectangular wooden box that has a slotted top and a flat pan at the bottom to catch the runoff of discarded tea and hot water.
Ms. Bai's husband, Jiang Liu, fills a kettle with filtered tap water and places it on the stove. As the water heats, Ms. Bai shows off several of the six clay teapots she brought with her when she moved here from China with their daughter, Genna, two years ago. Mr. Liu, an assistant professor in the department of medicine at the University of Toledo Health Science Campus, moved to northwest Ohio about 10 years ago.
Because the porous clay of the Yixing teapots absorbs flavor, each of the vessels is reserved for a particular type of tea. For the same reason, the clay teapots are washed with hot water — never soap — after they're used.
Her teapots vary in size and thickness, but all have a snug-fitting lid, simple rounded shape with graceful spout, and a soft sheen that comes from steady use.
‘The tea tastes best this way' says Fang Bai of the ancient tea ceremony preparation.
Today, Ms. Bai is making Puerh tea with leaves that have been aged seven to eight years. The ‘‘younger'' the tea, the more that is needed for brewing, Ms. Bai says, adding that if you like your tea strong, use more tea, not more steeping time.
Once the water is hot, Ms. Bai warms the teapot by pouring the water over and into it. She swirls the water inside, then pours it out onto the tea tray. It runs through the slots and into the pan below.
She weighs the tea and shakes it into the warmed pot, then fills it again with hot water. She's ‘‘washing the tea,'' she says.
After a moment, Ms. Bai tips the pot and pours this first infusion through a filter into the glass pitcher. This, too, ends up in the pan under the tea tray.
She then repeats the process: adding hot water over the tea leaves in the teapot, then pouring the tea through the filter into the pitcher.
Ms. Bai also pours hot water over the teacups to clean and warm them.
Finally, it's time: She fills three teacups.
It's not just a delicious cup of tea. It's a state of mind.
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