Gongfu is an old-fashioned way of preparing tea that accompanies multiple infusions of the same type of tea in one small teapot. This way of preparation made its way from Chaozhou during the Song Dynasty, which is where its other name ‘Chaozhou Gongfu Cha’ originated.
Origin and Meaning: Chaozhou GongfuTea
The Chinese have a saying, “In places where Chaozhou people congregate, there you will find a reflection of Gongfu tea.” This saying proves the relevance the tea, it’s meaning to the people and why the customary steps in preparing the tea have held meaning.
Gongfu has a similar pronunciation to the word Kung Fu, an art the Chinese are famous for using. When people not familiar with the Gongfu, they tend to examine its relation to martial arts. Well, Kung Fu is more than a fighting sport. In layman’s terms, brewing the tea is an artistic endeavor which also extends to tasting the tea.
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Gongfu Tea and Culture
Many people have this belief that Gongfu is a type of tea. This notion, however, is a complete opposite. Gongfu is a way of brewing tea. Its artistic characteristics have set it up as one of the high tea cultures in Chinese tradition. During ancient times, people used this as a form of self-cultivation. The skill and chronological order of the preparation brought a sense of satisfaction.
Like Kung Fu, Gongfu is an involving art that intertwines the spirit with the mind which in itself helps in setting an excellent moral compass personally. This sort of perfection is achieved through the movement of the body and focusing while brewing the tea. The real goal here is to become aware of the cha qi’ (tea energy), to have an experience that is beyond just taste and aroma but an experience inclusive of the mind body and soul.
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Teas suitable for Gongfu Brewing
The suitable options are oolong, Pu erh, and a handful of black teas often prepared the Gongfu way in China. This choice doesn’t necessarily disqualify other drinks from this list as stated Gongfu is beyond tea tasting but its also about connecting with oneself. As the number of people who can afford good tea rise today, the concept of steeping tea is flourishing with room for experimentation and growth going hand in hand with brewing tea.
Preparation of Gongfu
Step 1 – Burn the incense
Incense burnt before everything increases the spirituality in the room. This setting brings in a soothing aura. At that moment, you feel less tense, and your body mind and soul find peace. It is the right moment to be grateful the ancestors passed this down generation after generation.
Step 2 – Presentation of the tea leaves
Teas used for Gongfu are stored in specific jars, so choosing one that suits the ceremony’s setting. The tea artist must pick a special spoon and pull the tea leaves from the pot. The leaves are then put on a plate and shown to each guest. The presentation of the tea leaves spreads the aroma across the sitting, improving appreciation of the tea.
Step 3 – Heat the teapot
In most cases, the recommended teapot is the Yixing clay pot. This particular utensil was designed by Shi Da Bin, a renowned potter back in the 17th century for this specific purpose. The one conducting the ceremony pours hot water onto the teapot to warm it up. This action allows better heat isolation when steeping the tea.
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Step 4 – Add tea leaves into the teapot
A substantial amount of tea leaves is needed. For the size of the teapot, fill it 4\5 when steeping with Da Hong Pao or the Dancong. It might feel like much, but it is feasible compared to Tieguanyin oolong, the Hong Pao leaves are loosely packed and can, therefore, take up much space when dry. For other teas, feel free to add close to 8 grams of tea leaves.
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Step 5- Add water into the teapot
During these ceremonies, hot water is boiled in an iron kettle. When ready it is then lifted to a certain height aimed towards the rim of the teapot and poured into the teapot till it spills out. While streaming, a soothing sound that feels like mountain steam surrounds the room. This point shows the leaves are getting moist. The steam guides the artist on when the leaves are ready.
Step 6 – Scrape away the bubbles
Make use of the lid on the teapot to scrape away bubbles that are on the surface of the water the put the top on the teapot. Make sure the movement is as gentle as the sea breeze while stroking the surface. Rarely, a form will appear on the surface. Don’t fret. It is normal. The fluid is often referred to as tea scum. It happens because of the chemical reactions that occur when the tea leaves come into contact with water.
Step 7 – Rinse the teacups
The first step is used to clean and rinse the teacups and teapots. Drain the infusion into the tea tray.
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Step 8 – Add some more water into the teapot
Add boiling water into the teapot again till it spills out slightly. Place the lid back then pour some more boiling water on the outside of the teapot once more; this improves the isolation of the heat in the pot.
Step 9 – Pouring infusion into the fairness pitcher
Steeping times for different types of teas vary. Gongfu tea sessions have a higher leaf to water ratio, so steeping time mostly needs a few seconds. Increase the time taken during intervals for subsequent brews. When ready, pour the tea into the fairness pitcher. These pitchers make every brew you make possess the same potency.
Step 10 – pouring the infusion into the cups
This infusion is best served into fragrance smelling cups, which help in making the aroma linger. Pour the tea into these cups fast and evenly.
Step 11 – Step by step pouring
The little amount of tea left in is then poured out drop by drop into each fragrance smelling cup.
Step 12 – Covering the cups
Cover every fragrance smelling cup with an empty cup. This smell keeps the aroma within the container and everything at bay.
Step 13 – Serve the tea
Serve your guests the tea with the fragrance smelling cups covering the cups of tea. Notice that the drink, though hot fill the room with a soothing ambiance of a warm glow.
Step 14 – Enjoy the aura from the tea
Take off the fragrance smelling cups rolling its rim ever so gently against the teacup rim ridding it of its drip. Hold it with two hands and get it closer to your nose and feel the intensified aroma.
Step 15 – holding the teacup
Show your guests how one should keep a teacup gently and elegantly. Use your thumb and index finger to lift the cup while placing the middle finger on the bottom of the teacup. This action is called “Three Dragons Guarding the Ding” (an ancient vessel).
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Step 16 – Liquor color
Da Hong Pao possesses a dark the color may differ from the rim to the bottom orange color depending on the teacups used.
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Step 17 – Taste the infusion
Take a sip of the liquid, swivel it around your mouth, and take time to savor the ingredients. Pour the rest of the tea into the tea tray.
Step 18 – Enjoy aroma and aftertaste
Take your time tasting the infusion. Take in the aroma left in the teacup.
Step 19 – Taste the tea one last time
As you repeat step 8 through to 18, the flavor will be extracted from the leaves, leaving the infusion more potent.
Step 20 – Thank the guests
A cordial form of gratitude goes a long way in Chinese tradition. Give them thanks for showing up.
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Gongfu Tea Ceremony Set: Requirements
- A gaiwan or teapot: the primary utensil for brewing tea leaves.
- A pitcher preferably a fairness pitcher since the tea should first get poured into the pitcher before serving.
- A filter should be placed on top of the pitcher and act as a filter and make sure that even the tiniest bit of leaves don’t end up in the pitcher.
- 5-6 aroma cups: preferably large cups to harness the aroma of the tea.
- 5-6 cups to serve the tea
- An additional tea pet: to improve Feng Shui and bolster luck.
- A tea cloth preferably small to clean the table and some accessories.
- Tea brush to dry and polish the clayware
- ‘Six Gentlemen of Tea’ accessories which come with a wooden holder that includes the following:
- A teaspoon
Leaf strainer which differs from the mesh strainer used with the pitcher. This one placed on the teapot, to avoid tea leaves falling off the pot.
Cha ze: this is a small teaspoon used to remove tea leaves from the teapot. Gongfu teapots have the reputation of getting messy since they have small openings. Moreover, as hot tea expands the pot, the opportunity can get a tight fit; therefore, the spoon can come in handy.
Teacup tweezers: These come in handy when you don’t have to come in contact with the teacups as might be considered unclean.
Needle: this is used to clean the teapot spouts and clear any leaves that might get inside.
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The thing about Gongfu is its social capabilities in bringing people together. An adaptation of this glorious tradition might go the extra mile in reminding today’s generation of its roots. Participation in this ensures social harmony and prosperity.