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Tea Trays

Chinese tea trays are a central point in many Chinese homes and the centre for formal and informal tea ceremonies.

Much as in the West we offer visitors a cup of tea or coffee, the same is true for many Chinese. People will gather round the tea tray, chat and drink tea. This can be a brief one or two GongFu tea cup affair or a whole day or evening. Good examples of these water tea trays in use can be seen in our Making Tea: Traditional GongFu Cha Dao and Making Tea: ZiSha Tea Pot pages.

The range of tea trays available range from the simple, easy to clean stainless steel tray that you will find in almost every FuJian home, to large carved tree roots that form a complete table with many levels to display different tea ware. Stone such as granite and Chinese 'Ink Stone' can be used, with the latter often incorporating beautiful carvings that accentuate natural colouration in the stone.

As we have touched upon many times during our look at tea; tea, art and nature have a close relationship.

Specialist teas scream out for unique and beautiful complementing accessories and the tea tray is the central focus.

Bamboo Tea Trays

Simple, elegant, robust, resilient are among a few of the characteristics that describe bamboo. One of the most versatile materials found on the planet, bamboo is still the preferred choice for many tea drinkers when buying a tea tray (cha pan).

Trays come in sizes from those suited for the avid tea drinker who entertains numerous guests or for use in tea houses, down to those, small, compact tea trays that can be kept at the side of a computer, or discretely tucked away for occasional use.

For those using a lot of water in their tea preparation then the external water hose is must. The hose, which runs into a plastic or bamboo bucket (tong), prevents regular trips to dispose of water. Those less frequent drinkers or who do not constantly rinse tea wares then the deeper tray with its own compartment for storing water is often a better option. Such Chinese water tea trays means that an external bucket or container is not required. This can often be a god-send for those with children, animals, limited space or a concern for aesthetics.

The quality of bamboo gongfu tea trays vary hugely. Unfortunately there are a lot of these tea trays on the market and many look very similar. The downside to bamboo tea trays is that ones that have been poorly made, either when the material was compressed, joined or finished are prone to splitting.

A well made bamboo tea tray, will have tight joins and will have been varnished around 5-6 times to ensure a solid finish. A well made bamboo tea tray can last a decade and beyond, with the colour maturing over time turning a deep amber/red. Unfortunately a poorly made tea tray may only last a matter of weeks or months.

Make sure you buy from a trustworthy vendor. They should have experience of the quality of individual brands and can also offer guarantees.

Ornate Ink Stone Tea Tray

China has a long history of arts & crafts. One of the most renowned is that of calligraphy. From this beautiful art, a need for specialist tools grew. To complement & enhancing the air of creativity, artisans produced from the finest materials, intricately crafted ink stones on which to mix ink. The most suitable and so desirable of all stone for this purpose is that of GuangDong, DuanYan and AnHui, SheXian.

The life of many artisans is often closely entwined through their way of thinking; love of beauty & in North East Asia the joy & tranquillity of tea. May be because the ability of tea to relax or to invigorate the mind & body, or merely the desire of the accomplished carvers to express their skill in form that also encompassed another love, tea, we are fortunate to stock & to have sold some delightful ink stone tea trays.

It is wonderful to see how such skill can transform a seeming common piece of stone in to such a piece of art, and in many cases a very practical piece of art that can be used & admired daily. Seeing how natural variation in the stones colours are encompassed in to the design never ceases to amaze.

As each of these Duan Yan tea trays is unique, those pictured are examples of specialist tea trays Wan Ling Tea House has previously stocked. Please contact us and we can provide you with images of tea trays currently available. These delightful tea trays are something you can cherish for life or an amazing, unforgettable gift.

It is important to note, that when using stone trays, it can be advantageous to use straw mats on the main tea making surface. This is especially important when using very fine China such hand made Jing-De-Zhen wares. These are very easy to chip on the hard stone surface. Also if you are based in extremely cold locations, be careful when pouring boiling water on fine tea wares that have been stood/stored on very cold stone.

Wooden Tea Trays

From the solid, heavy, single piece tea trays to those made from cut and bonded wood the range of artisan wooden tea trays and hand-crafted wood tea trays is extremely varied.

From small, compact trays that can be subtly tucked away, to those that are a central feature in room or garden.

As with many maturing markets, the wooden tea tray market is increasingly become standardised. On the plus side this means that availability is greatly increased and quality considerably more reliable than had been in the past. Many of these larger manufacturers now offer warranties, which enable good tea shops to pass on this guarantee to customers.

There is still a thriving artisan wooden tea tray market, though in recent years with the increasing scarcity of quality wood, prices have risen dramatically, this coupled with the cost of transportation, often means these tea trays can be out of the price range of many in the west.

Ceramic Tea Trays

Ceramic GongFu tea trays are another option. There are a range of options depending on your needs. Again, they follow the two basic types of a tea tray with water pipe or a tray which can store the water.

Complete sets can be purchased that include matching cups, gaiwan or teapot with a two piece tea tray that captures the water. Alternatively you can buy a separate ceramic tray.

The main downside is really weight. Depending on the origin and quality of the material, some of the mass produced tea trays can be bought very cheaply, however shipping can be relatively expensive.

Chinese GongFu ceramic tea trays can be found, from the simple finishes of FuJian DeHua white porcelain, to the vibrant coloured and patterned mass produced sets available in many of the world's China towns to exquisite handmade tea trays and complete sets from JingDeZhen.

As was noted with the stone tea trays, care should be taken not to drop or be heavy handed with cups and tea wares as ceramic is not as forgiving as wood and bamboo.

Selecting a Chinese GongFu Tea Tray

How should you pick a Chinese tea tray for your tea making and GongFu tea preparation?
There are a few key points which should help you decide;

Size of Tray

  • How will you use the tea tray? Just for yourself? Or for small or large groups of friends?
  • Where do you want to keep your tea tray? Will it be permanently laid out or will you be storing it when not in use?
  • What type of tea wares are you going to use? Small or large gaiwan or YiXing teapots. Will you want to have tea pets?


With water pipe or water compartment or water tray

  • Review the points relating to size.
  • Will having a water pipe permanently be practical and safe (animals/children).


  • Personal preference.
  • Setting.
  • Existing room decoration.
  • If you are uncertain or it is your first tray, bamboo is probably the best starting point, followed by wood.


As ever if you have a question or would like some personal expert advise please contact Wan Ling Tea House for advice buying a Chinese gongfu tea tray online. Contact us, we are here to help.

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