A Detailed Step-by-Step Guide to the Art of Gongfu Tea

The term “Gongfu” in Chinese encompasses various meanings, including skills, artistry, dedication, and effort. Just as the name suggests, Gongfu tea preparation requires time and expertise. It transforms the process of making and presenting tea into an art form.

Previously, we provided a comprehensive guide to the traditional Gongfu tea ceremony, which explored its significance and the necessary brewing tools. In this post, we present a detailed steps Gongfu tea ceremony.

Step 1 – Preparation and Introduction: Setting the Mood for the Tea Ceremony

Begin by practicing good hygiene and washing your hands before starting the ceremony. This ensures cleanliness and a respectful approach to the ritual.

Next, light incense to create a serene and peaceful atmosphere in the room. Burning incense has a spiritual significance and helps to cultivate a sense of calmness and gratitude. Take a moment to appreciate the rich cultural heritage passed down by our ancestors.

As the incense slowly burns, it’s an opportune time to introduce your guests to the tea ceremony process. For those who are attending for the first time, it can be overwhelming, so providing a brief explanation and setting expectations can enhance their experience.

Step 2 – Presenting the Tea Leaves: Engaging the Senses in Tea Appreciation

As the tea ceremony unfolds, the tea artist selects a suitable jar that complements the ambiance of the ceremony. Using a special spoon, the artist delicately retrieves the tea leaves from the jar, ensuring careful handling and respect for the tea.

The tea leaves are then artfully arranged on a plate, inviting each guest to observe their appearance and indulge in their enticing aroma. This moment of sensory engagement allows for a deeper appreciation of the tea, as the guests immerse themselves in the beauty and fragrance of the dry leaves, setting the stage for the upcoming infusion.

Step 3 – Preparing the Teapot: Enhancing the Tea Steeping Experience

In the tea ceremony, a beautifully crafted Yixing purple clay teapot, renowned for its quality, is frequently employed. This teapot, attributed to the ingenuity of renowned potter Shi Da Bin in the 17th century, adds elegance to the ceremony.

To ensure optimal tea brewing, the tea artist carefully pours hot water over and into the teapot, gently warming it. This initial step of warming the teapot serves a vital purpose, as it helps to create an ideal environment for steeping the tea, allowing for better heat retention and a more satisfying infusion.

Step 4 – Adding Tea Leaves to the Teapot: Achieving the Perfect Balance

The next step in the ceremony involves adding an appropriate amount of tea leaves to the teapot. When steeping teas like Da Hong Pao or Dancong, it is recommended to fill the small teapot about 4/5 full. This may initially seem like a generous amount, but it’s important to note that Da Hong Pao tea leaves, unlike tightly rolled Tieguanyin oolong, occupy more space due to their looser form when dry.

For other teas, a general guideline is to add around 8 grams of leaves, allowing for a well-balanced infusion. By carefully measuring and adding the right quantity of tea leaves, you can ensure a harmonious brew that brings out the desired flavors and aromas.

Step 5 – Pouring Water into the Teapot: Embracing the Essence

In the tea ceremony, the water used is typically heated in an iron tea kettle. Once the water reaches the desired temperature, carefully raise the kettle to an appropriate height and direct the flow towards the rim of the teapot. Gently pour the boiling water into the teapot until it overflows slightly.

As the water cascades into the teapot, its soothing sound resembles that of a serene mountain stream, adding to the immersive experience. This step serves the purpose of moistening and rinsing the tea leaves, preparing them for the upcoming infusion. Take a moment to appreciate the meditative ambiance created by this graceful act.

Step 6 – Gentle Touch, Serene Surface

Take the lid of the teapot and delicately skim off any bubbles that have formed on the surface of the water. With a light and tender motion, let the lid caress the surface, akin to a gentle spring breeze gliding across the face. Don’t be alarmed if you notice a foamy layer on the water (also known as tea scum); it is a natural result of the chemical interactions between the tea leaves and the hot water.

Step 7 – Cleansing the Teacups

Utilize the initial steeping to cleanse the teacups, and if desired, to cleanse your tea pets as well. Pour the infusion into the teacups, allowing it to gently swirl and wash away any impurities. Once done, carefully pour the drained infusion into the tea tray, completing the cleansing ritual.

Step 8 – Replenish the Teapot with Water

Once more, pour boiling water into the teapot, allowing it to overflow slightly. Place the lid back on the teapot, and then pour boiling water over the exterior of the teapot. This additional step enhances the insulation of heat within the pot, ensuring optimal brewing conditions.

Step 9 – Transfer the Infusion to the Fairness Pitcher

Each tea has its own specific steeping time. Since gongfu sessions involve a higher ratio of tea leaves to water, the steeping duration is typically only a few seconds. For each subsequent brew, you can gradually extend the steeping time by a few seconds.

Once the tea has reached its desired strength, pour the infusion into the fairness pitcher. These pitchers serve a practical purpose of ensuring that every cup served maintains a consistent flavor profile.

Step 10 – Pour the Infusion into the Fragrance-smelling Cups

In addition to the drinking cups, there are special “fragrance-smelling cups” designed to savor the lingering aroma of the tea. Pour the tea from the fairness pitcher into these cups swiftly and evenly, ensuring that each cup receives an equal amount.

Step 11 – Pouring Drop by Drop

As the amount of tea in the fairness pitcher becomes limited, pour it drop by drop into each fragrance-smelling cup. This method allows for precise and controlled pouring, ensuring that each cup receives a delicate and measured portion of the tea.

Step 12 – Covering the Fragrance-Smelling Cups

Place an empty teacup upside down over each fragrance-smelling cup, covering it completely. This step helps to trap and preserve the aromatic essence of the tea, allowing it to fully develop and intensify within each cup.

Step 13 – Transferring the Tea to Tea Cups

Using your index and middle fingers on both sides, hold the aroma cup and the tea cup. Press your thumb against the bottom of the tea cup. With a swift motion, invert the two cups, transferring the tea from the aroma cup to the tea cup.

Step 14 – Serving the Tea

Gently serve each guest a teacup filled with tea, accompanied by an upside-down fragrance-smelling cup placed inside it.

Step 15 – Delight in the Aroma

Gently lift the fragrance-smelling cup, allowing any excess liquid to drip back into the teacup. Hold the cup with both hands and bring it close to your nose. Take a moment to savor the rich and intensified aroma of the tea.

Step 16 – Graceful Teacup Holding

Demonstrate and explain the proper teacup holding gesture to your guests. Use the thumb and index finger to lift the cup gracefully, while the middle finger supports the bottom of the teacup, known as the ‘Three Dragons Guarding the Ding’ technique, symbolizing stability and elegance.

Step 17 – Appreciate the Liquor Color

Observe the color of the tea liquor, which should be a deep orange hue for Da Hong Pao. Note that depending on the type of teacup used, there may be variations in color between the rim and the bottom of the teacup.

Step 18 – Savor the Tea

Take three sips of the tea, allowing it to coat your mouth and fully appreciate the flavor. Once enjoyed, pour the remaining tea into the designated tea tray.

Step 19 – Embrace the Aftertaste and Aroma

Indulge in the lingering and delightful aftertaste of the tea. Inhale the captivating aroma that lingers in the teacup.

Step 20 – Explore Further Infusions

Continue the tea ceremony by repeating steps 8 to 19, extracting the full range of flavors from the tea leaves. Notice the subtle nuances in taste with each subsequent infusion.

Step 21 – Express Gratitude

Extend your gratitude to the guests for their presence and participation in the ceremony.

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