The Tea Detective
Uncovering and Exploring the Facts About Tea
The Chinese Gong fu Style of
Brewing and Serving Tea
China's Guangdong Province, near the border with Fujian Province is where the
gong fu tea service first began.  In China serving tea "gong fu style" means
preparing and serving tea in a precise manner using a set of special skilled
steps.  A gong fu service calls upon the senses of sight, smell, and taste to
fully appreciate the many nuances of tea.
When performing a gong fu
service special teaware and tools are
required.  Traditional gong fu tea sets come
with a clay or ceramic washing bowl called a
cha chuan as well as a round clay or ceramic
platform and a remov- able drain plate that
sits on top.

Modern or new gong fu tea sets come with
wooden or bamboo trays that have a built-in
removable plastic slide-out tray that catches
the wash water.

In addition to the gong fu tea set, other
tools you will need are:  a set of wooden
tools - one for handling dry leaf, the other
for wet, a tea measuring scoop, presenta-
tion bowl to present the selected tea and
guide it into the teapot, small Yixing teapot, small strainer, dispensing pitcher for pouring
brewed tea, tall, narrow aroma cup (called a wen xiang bei), a short, wide drinking cup (called a
cha bei), and a small clay tray to held the two cups each guest will use.

                                                 A
gong fu service is meant to include the guests, engaging them
                                                 in the process with the sense of sight and smell as the dried tea
                                                 is presented, and also the wet leaf, and then to see, smell, and
                                                 taste the brewed tea.

                                                 The steps of gong fu should be done carefully and precisely for
                                                 your guests to enjoy your skills  as tea master and host, as well
as to keep to the original concept and principal of gong fu.  It's also important that the table be
perfectly set, with all required tools close at hand because once seated, proper tea etiquette
doesn't allow for the host to rise to retrieve forgotten items.

The following is just one method of perform-
ing a gong fu service:  Once the guests are
seated, the host begins by preparing the
cups,
teapot, and tea-dispensing pitcher by
washing them with hot water (this is to res-
pectfully cleanse and purify them in anticipa-
tion of the tea).

1.  Place the teapot and all cups you will be
using on the teapot platform (best if serving
no more than four guests at one time).

          2.  Fill the teapot w/hot water and
          pour additional hot water over cover-
          ed teapot.  Let teapot stand and be-
          gin washing the cups.  Pour hot water
          into both the aroma and teacups, lett-
          ing excess water overflow and drain away.

          3.  Using tongs pick up first cup by lip, draining the water into the tea platform.  Turning
          the cup on its side, wash in the water from the second cup, repeating by washing third
          cup w/water from fourth cup.  Rinse last cup w/water from teapot.  Repeat w/each
          aroma cup and tea dispensing pitcher.
                                                        
                                                         4.  Scoop the required amount of (oolong) tea into the tea
                                                         presentation bowl, showing to each guest starting with
                                                         the most senior guest, and start a short discussion about
                                                         the tea, its origin, style, and flavor.

                                                         5.  Place the tea into the teapot using one of the
tea tools
                                                         and fill teapot three-fourths full, place back on clay tray,
                                                         then fill to overflowing with hot water.  Place the lid on the
                                                         teapot and pour additional hot water over it, then let
          stand for about a minute.

          6.  Lift the teapot from the tray and set it on a discreetly folded tea towel to dry the
          bottom, before pouring an equal amount of tea into each teacup.  To do this correctly do
          not fill each cup one at a time, but rather by using a swift motion to quickly pour the tea
          in a continuous stream, moving the teapot back and forth over all the teacups until they
          are equally filled and the teapot is empty.  By using this method each cup of tea will be
          alike, with the same flavor, aroma, and color.

          7.  Using the tongs pick up each teacup and discard this first infusion
          of tea.  Known as "foot tea" in China, this first infusion is done to rinse
          and prepare the leaf.  Refill the pot with hot water, again pouring hot
          water over the covered teapot and
brew tea for one minute.

          8.  Pour the second infusion of tea into the tea-dispensing pitcher or
          pour directly from the teapot into the tall aroma cups using the same
          decanting method described above.  Once the aroma cups are filled,
          place the drinking cup over the top of the aroma cup, and holding them
          tightly together, quickly flip each set over so the tea from the aroma
cup drains into the drinking cup.  Leaving the cups in this position, place each set on individual
trays and present one to each guest.
cup drains into the drinking cup.  Leaving the cups in this position, place each set on individual trays and present one
to each guest.                                             
                                       
9.  Invite the guests to carefully lift out the aroma cup and enjoy the fragrance of the tea.  After proper appreciation is
given of the tea's delightful fragrance, the guests should be invited to sample and sip the tea from the drinking cups.

                                              10.  The host can use this opportunity to discreetly discard the rinse water in the clay
                                              bowl or catch basin (in China a bucket is kept under the table for this purpose).  Once
                                              the guests have finished their first cup of tea, the leaf can be reinfused for as many
                                              times as it remains flavorful, which depending on the
type of tea, especially oolong and
                                              
pu-erh, can be as many as 16  to 30 times.  It's up to the host as to whether to refill
                                              the aroma cup each time or not.  

                                              This is just one method of gong fu service.  The steps as well as the tools used may
d                                              differ depending on the region (for example Taiwanese style gong fu cha uses several
                                              additional tools, such as tweezers and a tea strainer).  
Enjoy.
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