Congou, also known as gongfu hongcha in Chinese, is a variety of black tea that was commonly used by tea importers in America and Europe during the 19th century. It was also used as the base for the popular 19th-century English Breakfast tea blend.
The word “Congou” originated from the Chinese word “gongfu,” which means “skill,” via the Hokkien pronunciation “kang-hu.” Gongfu is also the same word used in the Gongfu tea ceremony, and congou is typically consumed in this style.
The popular variety of Congou is the Panyang Congou, also known as Panyong Congou, which is a variation of the Tanyang tea produced in the small village of Fu’an, Fujian. Once considered the most expensive style of black tea in the West, it was exported to more than twenty countries and even received a gold medal at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915. Nowadays, a state-owned factory established in 1958 still produces small amounts of Congou.
Importers in the West also referred to Congou as “Cangou,” which was actually the Amoy Kanghu tea or Teochew Kanghu tea. This tea is also known as Chaozhou Gongfu cha or Chao Shan Gongfu cha, which is the “espresso” of Chinese teas. Another type of Congou is Keemun Gongfu or Congou, which is produced with careful skill to create thin and tight strips without breaking the tea leaves.
In conclusion, Congou tea is a skillfully crafted black tea variety with a rich history and is still enjoyed by tea enthusiasts worldwide.