Extracted from Cafe Culture Magazine: GONG FU CHA by Green Boar Organic Tea

Gong Fu Cha means Tea brewed with labour and skill. The Chinese can be transliterated as Gong Fu as well as Kung Fu. The meaning is the same for both the tea practice and the martial art. If you have seen the small clay Chinese tea pots and small Chinese tea cups, you might have wondered what symbolic use they have. But you probably didn’t think that they actually use these utensils to create the most wonderful concentration of the teas finest essence. They do !

Gong Fu Tea is used for Oolong Tea and Puerh Teas. Different ceramic teapots are used for different teas. This is because different teas need a different temperature to extract the taste. Different clays support heat at different levels. It truly is a fine art. And it is one method amongst many for brewing Chinese tea, whose history is reputedly 5000 years old.

Tea in the 3rd Century AD was picked, pressed into a cake, roast, pounded to a powder and boiled with spring onions, ginger and orange peel. The great Tea Teacher of the 8th Century, Tang dynasty, was called Lu Yu. He wrote The Classic of Tea in which he codified the method of growing, harvesting, analysing, preparing, and brewing tea whilst considering the best type of water, utensils, fuel for the fire and almost every other aspect of tea. He wrote, All there is to making tea is to pick it, steam it, pound it, shape it, dry it, tie it, and seal it. After this the cake would be roast, ground to powder, sifted, boiled in an iron pot, perhaps with a pinch of salt, infused and foamed and then poured into a bowl for drinking. It was about this time that Tea was exported to Japan, when they started developing their own way of tea Chanoyu.

The methods of tea processing developed in the Song Dynasty of the 10th to 12th Centuries. After processing, the cake was ground to a powder, sifted, placed in a container, then in a bowl, then hot water was added, and it was whisked. This method was very popular and gave rise to many whisking contests amongst the literati and poets, known as Doucha. Creating patterns in the froth was an artform, much in the same manner that barristas create images within the coffee.

As the methods of preparing and drinking tea developed into the Ming Dynasty, (14th – 17th Centuries) so did the nations predilection for using loose leaf and heating the freshly picked buds to a high temperature, thereby stopping the enzymes from fermenting and darkening the leaf. Using the loose leaf was increasingly popular. Some Monks of Anhui Province (SongLuo Mountains) discovered that stir-roasting them in a hot wok added colour, fragrance and flavour. All that was needed now was a teapot. The purple clay (zisha) teapots of Yixing were perfectly suited for the task of brewing the loose leaf.

The monks of Songluo were brought to the Wuyi Mountains. There they realised that if you let the leaves wither awhile and then bruise them, by rubbing and tossing, an amazing fragrance is released which could be kept by roasting them at the right moment. This was the basis for Oolong, and a very important step to developing Gong Fu Cha. This evolved in Chaozhou, in North Eastern Guangdong Province, not too far from the Fujian border.

This is the way to brew Tea in the Gong Fu style, mainly for Oolong and Puerh Tea

1.Warming the pot and heating the cups. Set out your equipment: tea, kettle, tea pot, tea cups, tea jug, draining board. Pour boiling water over each item to clean and prepare them thoroughly
2.Focus on the clay tea pot, pour boiling water to fill it up and overflow, then place the lid on the pot.
3.Appreciate excellent tea. Take time to appreciate your tea leaves and then pour out the hot water from the pot on the tea, leaving an emptiness within the tea pot.
4.The Black Dragon enters the Tea House. Place the desired amount of tea into the tea pot.
5.Rinsing from an elevated pot. Pour in the water at the correct hot temperature and rinse the tea leaves for about 15-20 seconds, pouring on the water until the pot overflows. It is rude to offer guests tea that has not been rinsed.
6.The Spring Wind brushes the surface If there is anything floating on the surface of the water in the pot, it is important to remove it and then place the lid on the pot
7.There is some discussion as to what is to be done first. Bathe the Immortal twice One theory is to steep the tea for a short while then to put it in the cups. Others think that it is important to have no steeping time and to put the tea in the cups immediately.
8.A row of clouds, running water. This first steeping is generally not drunk, it is to rinse the leaves.
9.Direct again the Pure Spring Refill the pot to the brim. Pour in the hot water, and pour in enough so that it overflows. Put on the lid and continue to pour tea over the tea pot. Let the tea steep for about half a minute. Then pour out the tea into the small tea jug.
10.Pour the tea from the jug into the guests small cups.
11.The Second Steeping: This steeping should be slightly shorter. Fill the pot with hot water, put on the lid and continue to pour hot water over it and around it and leave for about 15 seconds, then pour into the tea jug.
12.Continue in this manner; steep after steep, extending, each steep, the time of the steeping of the leaves and the temperature.

Drinking Tea in Todays Tea House or Hotel, Cafe and Restaurant.

Unless you have a dedicated space set aside for Gong Fu Cha, it will not be suitable to perform this tea making method. This does not mean that speciality loose leaf tea making is not feasible within a cafe, hotel or restaurant. GREEN BOAR offers the magnificent range of Organic and Fairtrade teas and teaware which facilitate the pleasure of tea making and drinking in a practical manner for a busy environment, such as a cafe, hotel or restaurant.
If you have any questions or requests, please contact Henry Virgin at GREEN BOAR .
With thanks to Mair and Hoh’s The True History of Tea.

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