rmark25 said

Gong-Fu Style

So, I want to get into brewing tea the traditional Gong-Fu way, but I’m fairly ignorant. I’ve only done it with tea pots. Any suggestions with web sites and can anyone point me in the right direction? Websites? Books? thanks

7 Replies
Cannabuzz said
Will said

That’s a complicated question; I think the term means different things to different people, and there’s a lot of conflicting information (if not outright misleading information) out there.

I think you could say that in a general sense, it refers to brewing of tea with skill and effort. Generally, as used on forums like this one, it refers to brewing tea using small implements, and a relatively high proportion of tea leaf to water, with short infusions. Yixing teapots or gaiwans are both common brewing devices.

As to what you consider gongfu tea or not, what practices are orthodox, well, I think there are a lot of differences of opinion there. I tend to use the term to refer specifically to Chaozhou style gongfu as I’ve been shown it, however, I’m sure other people have their own definition. I put some thoughts about this subject a while back here:

You can also read an old post by Tim (of The Mandarin’s Tearoom) about his experiences here:
[note: in this post, pallets refers to pellets, not to building a ‘pallet’ of tea]

Brandon, of chahai.net, demonstrates brewing some 90s raw pu’er (note – the water shouldn’t actually be so tranquil – he used cooler water so that people could hear his voice).

I think the most important thing is to keep an open mind and be willing to experiment; while sometimes you may do something “just because that’s how it should be done”, it is worth questioning “why do we do things this way”, and, more to the point, trying doing things another way and seeing if you can tell the difference.

While the Chinese meanings are not too far apart (and pronunciation identical), I believe that 工夫茶, not 功夫茶 (same 功夫 as is used for martial arts) is most correct.

Wonks said

One word of advice since I was in your shoes not too long ago. Get a pot that can hold as much as you want per cup. I like about 4oz of tea in a cup, so I got a 4oz yixing. You don’t want a bigger yixing than what you’ll use per cup (unless you are making multiple cups) because it will be very very bitter if it sits in the pot.

The pots look tiny, but just remember that the idea is you make a new steep per cup. This is weird for english drinkers.

SunnyinNY said

That explains why I keep finding the Yixing pots so small! I was looking at a few at various places & I was annoyed that they weren’t bigger. This clears it up for me.

Wonks said

I used to like the 28+oz pots… this seemed appropriate to me at the time. After using my yixing for a while I’ve noticed a HUGE difference in my tea drinking. For starters I drink WAY more tea since I’m not committed to drinking 28+oz in one sitting… if I want a single cup I just make a single cup. Also with this you save money since you aren’t required to use as much tea to make a good steep. You also have the whole “everything tastes better in a yixing” part too.

Will is right, there is no simple definition of gong fu cha, but here is what I came to understand in my years in Taiwan and China: the ‘gong fu’ of any action is to seek the perfection of that action, knowing that only the divine is perfect, but to seek perfection none-the-less. Kung fu, or Gung fu, is one and the same. If you think about kung fu, the martial art, and the years of effort to become skilled at it, you will begin to comprehend the nature of this artform. Cha, of course, is tea. So when we drink tea in the gong fu cha tradition, we are essentially striving to prepare and pour the perfect cup. It can get very elaborate, with bamboo tea sinks, supporting an yixing pot, a glass decanter with gourd strainer over top and two cups, one for smelling the tea after it has passed through and the other for drinking. Beside the tea sink might be a ceramic kettle on top of a burner to keep the water at just the right temperature. But the idea behind gong fu is to prepare a tea to its maximum potential and this is not a science, though there is a certain degree of science behind it; this is an art, and as such, it requires a willingness to explore the depths of each tea we try, experimenting with brewing temperatures, times and quantities of leaf. To me, this is one of the greatest things about tea drinking, and it usually allows time to meditate on each cup and focus on each task being performed. It becomes a ritual in time, and second nature, and each new tea brings a new challenge: getting that aged oolong to really open up its aromas to a full and heady honey apricot, or getting the translucent green colour to the liquid of a fresh, high mountain oolong that was most recently picked. As Wonks says, everyting does taste better…. to me anyway!

TeaVivre said

gongfu tea(功夫茶), sometimes called kung fu tea, is not a type of tea, but is a name given traditional Chinese way of making tea. While, gongfu tea( 工夫茶) is a type of tea, that means it needs gongfu( or put much effort to make tea during its process) to make tea. At present, black teas are the typical type of gongfu tea.

Due to the typically higher amounts of tea leaves used, teas made in a Gongfu ceremony typically produces more concentrated tea, that may be a little bitter for newcomers. So Oolong and pu’erh teas are the best choice. The way how to brew and use proper tea sets are also very important to gongfu tea, and the link http://www.teavivre.com/info/gongfu-tea/ can help you figure out this problem quickly.

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