There is nothing more mystical than the ceremony of kungfu tea (gongfu cha). It is both art and science – from the theatrics of rinsing the tea leaves to the precision of the water temperature. The ceremony is part of the philosophy of Tea, a small cup of which at any time of the day will make one feel that life is really just about tea.
Kungfu tea literally means ‘making tea with efforts’.  It is a ceremony that brings out the full flavours of the finest tea. Its origins are often traced to my father’s hometown in the Chaoshan region of southern China, where it is part of everyday life.

As a science, the process depends very much on the right type of water (usually a clean local source of spring water) and the appropriate water temperate which will react with the tea leaves to extract their essential oils. The temperate will depend on the type of tea. The tea-making utensils go way beyond simply a teapot and a cup, with a fine-quality porcelain or clay teapot, pitcher, brewing tray, small delicate tea cups (you can physically fit one inside your mouth), strainer, tea holder, tea spoon, tea towel, a kettle and a timer! Beginners of kungfu tea should probably also throw in a cooking thermometer.

As an art, kungfu tea is an elaborate ritual. The first stage of preparation involves warming and rinsing the teapot and cups with hot water, appreciating the scent and appearance of the tea, filling the pot with tea, rinsing the leaves with hot water from a height above the pot until the pot overflows, scooping away any bubbles or tea fragments at the top before closing the lid on the pot.

The first brew is normally poured into the cups but not drunk. The pot is refilled with hot water at a lower height than the earlier step of rinsing the tea. This is because when the water is poured closer to the leaves, its force is softer to ensure the flavour from the leaves is not extracted too quickly. The tea is then emptied over the outside of the pot.

Tea is served after the second brew of around 15-45 seconds (depending on the tea), where it poured evenly into the teacups in a circular manner around the guests. A quality oolong tea can be brewed for around 5-7 times. Each subsequent pot repeats the same procedure but with longer infusion time. Some forms of kungfu tea involve an additional stage of aroma appreciation in a special scent cup.

The ceremony ends with placing the used tea leaves into a bowl for guests to appreciate its form.

Finally, the pot, cups and utensils are cleaned thoroughly and rinsed with hot tea, then polished with a dry linen cloth and dried naturally.

As with anything in life, the most important feature of the ceremony is the company of your guests. Good tea and good friends are essential parts of  a good life.

8 Comments

Chrisflaherty June 22, 2021 at 9:33 pm

Cracking into some Mao Jian green tea as I type. Unfortunately no teapots or mouth-sized cups; am brewing in one of those plastic bottles everyone carries around. Practical! No cake but I do have a few Tunnock’s Caramel Wafers – if you ever get going on a Scottish food tour, I recommend you do a special entry on them.
Very interesting entry – Will have to fulfil my promise to myself and grab a few bings along with a wee teapot this week.

Archcook Info June 23, 2021 at 8:08 am

Amazing!! I went to china and I could taste a lot of kind of tea, jasmine tea..the best!!

Hearing Aid June 23, 2021 at 4:30 pm

Excellent post. It sounds unusual .Well written article.I appreciate your writing skills.Its great.You have done a great job by sharing this post with us.I like this post.Keep sharing with us in future too.

e cigarette starter kit June 25, 2021 at 3:09 am

All; the pics are awesome.Its really a great ceremony. I really like the concept of this post and I feel that this is a very unique and rare information that you have managed to compile. It is quite interesting to read about this very rare topic.

mimi June 26, 2021 at 9:42 am

Happy birthday Chris!!! Hope you’re enjoying a cup of heavenly pu-er cha with your birthday cake!

Alexa June 27, 2021 at 3:43 pm

I’ll definitely be coming back here to read more blogs in the future, really liked the post.

Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) June 27, 2021 at 6:21 pm

I’ve only ever seen this done on tv shows and have yet to have the chance to witness it in real life. It is a ritual, as you said, but also an experience to be enjoyed especially when everyone seems so busy with the mundanities of life.

Apple @Polkadotsandchopsticks June 29, 2021 at 5:29 am

What a beautiful ceremony. the tea set is just gorgeous as well!

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