|Preparing and Serving Tea
Chinese Gong fu style
|In China "gong fu" means a skillful, labor intensive practice, and that's exactly
what preparing and serving tea "gong fu style" is all about. In gong fu the tea
master prepares and serves tea in a practiced and precise way, awakening the
sense of sight, smell, and taste by viewing and smelling both dry and wet tea,
and finally by tasting the prepared tea.
|The origins of the gong fu
ceremony began in China's Guangdong
Province, near the border of Fujian Province,
originally designed for big leafy oolong teas
such as Fenhuang Don Cong, and in Yunnan
Province for sampling costly aged pu-erh teas
made from the broad dayeh leaf.
Small earthenware Yixing teapots are used
to brew the tea, which is traditionally drunk
from tiny clay cups. Using smaller cups
allows tea drinkers to enjoy the changing
flavors of the tea through multiple infusions
of the same leaf.
Adding to the sensory experience of gong fu
are tall aroma or smelling cups used to cap-
|ture the fragrance of the leaf while brewing, and likewise create anticipation of the delicious
flavor of the brewed tea to come.
Traditional gong fu sets come with a clay or ceramic washing bowl
(called a cha chuan), and a round clay or ceramic platform with a
removable drain plate which rests on top. Modern or new gong fu
sets come with wooden or bamboo trays with a built-in plastic slide
out tray to catch the wash water.
In addition to the water catch basins needed for a gong fu tea
service, you will also need the following: a pair of wooden tools-one
for handling dry leaf, the other for wet, a tea measuring scoop, a tea
presentation bowl for the selected tea, and for pouring it into the
teapot, a small earthenware Yixing teapot, small strainer, tea
dispensing pitcher for pouring the brewed tea, a tall, narrow aroma cup (called a wen xiang bei),
and a short, wide drinking cup (called cha bei), and a small clay tray that will hold each of the
two cups each guest will use.
When performing a gong fu tea service it is
important to engage your guests in the pro-
cess, bringing their sense of sight, smell,
and taste into play. Present the dried leaf
for them to see and smell, as well as the
wet tea leaf, and finally to see, smell, and
taste the brewed tea.
It's also important for your guests to
enjoy your skills as tea master and
host, as you carefully and precisely
perform the steps of gong fu for their
Before beginning be sure to have the
table set perfectly, with all the tools you'll need at hand, because as the host you will be
seated and proper tea etiquette doesn't allow for you to rise to get forgotten items.
Once everyone is seated you will begin by preparing the cups, teapot, and tea-dispens-
ing pitcher by washing them with hot water (this is to respectfully cleanse and purify the
utensils in anticipation of the tea). You will begin the gong fu tea service by performing
these steps: (Note: this is an abbreviated version; for complete step-by-step instruc-
tions visit our "Complete Gong fu Brewing Guide" page).
1. Begin by pouring hot water into the small earthenware Yixing
teapot to warm it; then drain water away.
2. If brewing black, oolong or pu-erh teas (but not green tea),
rinse the leaves to prepare them for brewing. Measure the tea
into the teapot and add enough hot or boiling water to fill half
way. Put the lid on the teapot and drain off all liquid.
3. Warm drinking cups by pouring hot water in them, then drain
4. Add more water to the teapot, replace the lid, and pour
more hot water over the teapot. If brewing oolong tea
steep for approximately one minute; black tea, about
three minutes, or green tea, two to three minutes.
5. Immediately strain the tea into dispensing teapot, before
pouring it into the straight sided smelling or aroma cups.
6. Place the small drinking cup or bowl upside down over the
smelling cup and quickly and carefully invert it so the tea
flows into the drinking cup/bowl. While sipping tea from the cup the fragrant aroma
of the tea in the smelling cup can be enjoyed.
7. Add more hot water to the leaves in the teapot for multiple infusions.
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| The most important step is that both you and your guests enjoy the gong fu tea
service presentation and sharing a cup of tea together. This is both a relaxing and
entertaining way to enjoy a new tea or an old favorite, taking the time to fully
appreciate the nuances in flavor and aroma, along with a centuries old tea ceremony.
Remember to visit our Complete Gong Fu Brewing Guide page for step-by-step
instructions on serving tea gong fu style, and possibly even surprise friends and
family with your own gong fu tea ceremony. And as always, Enjoy.