Traditional Gong Fu Tea - 'Cha Dao'
Cha dao tea ceremony or gongfu tea ceremony is an intricate part of life within the South Eastern province of FuJian, especially ZangZhou and QuanZhou. GongFu or as it is sometimes written Kong Fu means skilled, hence Gong Fu Cha Dao, is being skilled in the way of tea. Below is a step by step guide how to use a Chinese tea tray and tea wares.
First step is to prepare the water. As we described in the Tea Art section of 'About Tea', this is a critical stage. The nearly boiling water should be used to rinse the tea wares to ensure that each item, gaiwan, tea cups and gong dao bei are at least of a similar temperature.
Temperature is critical throughout the process and it should be the case that none of the tea wares is significantly cooler than any other. The tea should be added to the gai wan, or lidded pot. These gai wan's come in a variety of sizes such as 7g, 8g, 9g or 10g which indicate the amount of dry tea leaves that can be added. Normally, Wan Ling uses 7g & 10g gai wans. The one shown in the series of photographs at the bottom of this page, is a 10g gai wan. Although you can use scales to calculate the tea this is obviously arduous, as such, the Oolong, Tie Guan Yin tea that Wan Ling sells is usually pre-packaged in 10g or 8g vacuum packs, otherwise it is part of the skill that is developed over time to judge the correct amount.
Pouring the water, hold the kettle up high so that the water can mix fully with the tea leaves in the gai wan. This speeds up the process of dissolving & infusing the tea and water. When adding the water sometimes a film of bubbles will form on the surface. This film should be removed by skimming the lid of the gai wan across the surface. The bubbles will collect on the lid which can then be rinsed using the kettle.
The tea is poured through a strainer into a clean vessel to remove any loose or fine tea. The first infusion, which is immediately poured out, is for washing the tea leaves and to help tea leaves especially those of Tie Guan Yin to open. This will improve later infusions. It is important to remember that this liquor is not for drinking, although this may seen a waste, it is also a sign of politeness to guesses of cleanliness. This tea liquor is used to clean & disinfect the cups and wares but equally importantly to ensure a consistent warmth between the teawares.
The second infusion is called the 'actual infusion'. When preparing the second & third infusions of Oolong tea such as Tie Guan Yin the water should be left in the tea leaves for 10-15 seconds before being poured through the strainer. Forth & fifth infusions, 20 seconds then the sixth & seventh infusions should be around 60 seconds. After this the tea is usually 'spent' though in many places people will continue to use the leaves. If this is the case then normally the water must be kept in the tea leaves for more that 2 minutes. When using other tea types such as Pu Er and Long Jing / Green tea then the times will vary. Other factors such as the quality of the tea, the hardness of the water and altitude will also effect the duration.
Tea sets in China vary from province to province. The set here is typical of the Fujian province in the South East of China. Pictures of a complete set can be seen in the 'Tea Trays' and Tea Sets sections. The set normally comprises of small, fine china cups that ensure a clean taste and are popular for scented, green or Tie Guan Yin teas, though can be used for Pu Er and other black teas. The two vessels pictured here are the main pot where the tea is placed, appreciated and prepared before pouring into a secondary vessel ready to be given to the guests.
When pouring tea, keep the teapot close to the cup in order to prevent the loss of tea fragrance and the splashing of tea water.
The cups are purposely made to have a wide open mouth so that the full aroma is immediately noticeable. Another advantage of the white or pale porcelain is that the full colour of the tea can be appreciated.
The act of pouring tea into the guest's teacups one by one is known as "the fabled Lord Guan making an inspection of the city". You drip the leftover tea respectively into the cups drop by drop and this act is called "the fabled General HanXin mustering troops for inspection". These acts are to reflect the gathering and sharing of tea between people.
Throughout the long history of tea, its presence as a drink to be enjoyed in a social environment is evident. Whether as a drink to enhance people's thoughts & ideas in academic circles, to elevate one's mind, as Buddhist & Taoist monks monks have done for centuries, or merely to be enjoyed after a long day's work. People of all backgrounds join in a common enjoyment and appreciation of tea.
So sit back, sip your tea and savour the pleasure of your preferred tea of the day.