Chinese Tea Culture & Gongfu Tea
The term "gongfu" denotes any skill that is developed through great practice such as chinese painting, martial arts or chinese tea making. Gongfu tea generally refers to the more formal preparation of chinese tea using small, unglazed teapots made of purple sand from Yixing, China. Gongfu tea preparation uses short, multiple infusions of a single batch of leaves, which brings out the maximum flavor of tea. It is a precise and thoughtful ritual that allows the tea lover to fully appreciate all the sensory aspects of tea, the beauty of the leaf and its subtle flavor and aroma.
This method of brewing is recommended for unscented black and oolong teas. Because of the high temperatures used and the absorbency and insulation of Yixing teapots, green and scented teas are not recommended for this style of presentation.
The following guidelines apply to Black and Oolong teas:
Arrange your utensils
The key accessories needed to prepare tea in the gongfu style are a small Yixing teapot, a clay tea boat or shallow dish, a serving pitcher, small tasting cups and a wastewater bowl or draining tray. Prepare the tea leaves and have them ready to be placed into the teapot as soon as it has been warmed.
Rinse the teapot and cups
This step signifies the beginning of the tea making ritual and represents the purification of the pot so that it is free of dust and residue. Place the teapot inside the tea boat or shallow dish. Pour hot water from the tea kettle into the empty teapot to fill completely and then pour the water from the teapot into the serving pitcher and then into the tasting cups. After rinsing, the water should be discarded into the wastewater bowl or draining tray.
Rinse the tealeaves
This step removes any dust from the leaves and opens them up to release the tea's aroma. Add enough dry leaves to the teapot to fully cover the bottom of the teapot. Pour hot water over the tealeaves and immediately pour this water into the wastewater bowl or draining tray. Remove the lid and savor the aroma of the leaves.
Infuse and serve
Fill the teapot completely to the top with hot water and cover. Then pour hot water over the teapot and the spout until a little water comes out of the spout. This indicates that the pot is full and heated to the right temperature. Let tea steep about 1 minute for oolong teas and 3 minutes for black teas.
When the leaves have infused, pour the tea out into the serving pitcher and then into the tasting cups.
One of the benefits of using high quality, loose leaf teas is that they can be resteeped up to 2 or 3 times. To resteep, increase the steeping time slightly with each infusion. Experiment with steeping times to accommodate your taste. However, excessively long steeping can result in a bitter infusion. It is not recommended that tealeaves be left for a long period of time between infusions.