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Gong Fu Tea

Gong Fu Cha, or 'making tea with great skill', is the name given to tea made in the traditional Chinese tea ceremony. The name comes from the same root as 'kung fu', the umbrella term for a huge variety of Chinese martial arts, but the term is referring to the level of skill and care used rather than any acrobatic or athletic requirement.

The ceremony itself is deceptively simple. Originating in southern China especially around the city of Chaozhou, the ritual involves preparing tea in small clay pots using relatively large amounts of leaf, with the aim of maximising the flavour, the aroma and the potential to re-infuse the tea. Unlike the Japanese tea ceremony, the Gongfu ceremony was never restricted to the political elites, and has been used for centuries to celebrate special occasions, to appreciate the very best teas or just for personal enjoyment.

If you are looking to offer this special method of presentation, it doesn't have to be too complicated. There are a few key requirements, but once you have those in place you can add this special service to your business.

The first requirement is the teaware. The Yixing clay teapots traditionally used are very rare and expensive, but teapots in the same style using similar clays are available and serve as well. As well as a teapot, a 'fairpot' is needed. This is a small jug ideally about the same size as the teapot, which you first decant the tea into once it is ready. This keeps the tea from over-infusing and makes sure that everyone who is drinking gets a tea of the same strength. Then, a selection of small drinking bowls will be needed. Finally, for the full traditional ceremony you will need a box tray, ideally bamboo.

The basic elements of the process are to rinse the implements with hot water, fill the teapot with the right amount of leaves, fill with the right amount of hot water and then pour over some extra hot water to cover the now-full teapot. Wait until the clay teapot has gone dry on the surface and then pour out into the fairpot, and then serve tea into the drinking bowls. If you are serving yourself as well, always make sure to fill your own cup last.

Finally, once you have the right teaware and the knowhow, you will need to select the right teas to serve in this way. Traditionally, the method is used to enjoy roasted oolongs and high-end Fujian Province black teas. Sometimes pu-erhs and other black teas are made this way as well, but it is almost unheard of to try green or white teas in this way - those teas benefit from cooler water and longer infusion times, and would be better served in glass teaware or a gaiwan, another traditional Chinese tea preparation bowl.

With the teaware, the tea and the tea knowledge in place, good Gongfu tea is then just a matter of practice.