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The Essential Guide to Chinese Tea Service: Gong Fu Cha

Feb 23,2023 | TeaTsy Team

You may have heard us talk a lot about the idea of Chinese Tea Service or Gong Fu Cha…

 

Well, here we are going to break down some of the fundamental ideas and principles behind this traditional form of steeping tea. 

 

There is a LOT to this subject, but here is a general overview…

 

Let's get into it…

 

  • What is Gong Fu Cha?

 

Gong Fu 功夫 means “skill” or “effort”, and it’s the same as “Kung Fu” used in Martial Arts. And Cha 茶 means Tea. 

 

So Gong Fu Cha 功夫茶 is the acquired skill we use to make tea. 

 

Tea requires skill to make because tea leaves are not in a liquid form, and we need to extract the flavors by using hot water…

 

Other beverages like wine or beer are already in their liquid form and don’t require any additional work. 

 

Tea leaves can have a HUGE variety of flavors, fragrances, and sensations associated with them. And depending on the methods we use to steep tea, the outcomes can be vastly different. 

 

We adjust each of the following components when steeping tea:

 

  • Quantity and Quality of water
  • Quantity and Quality of tea
  • Water temperature
  • Length of time tea is steeped
  • Type of teaware used - different mineral compositions can affect the flavor
  • How the water is poured onto tea

 

  • What are the benefits of Gong Fu Cha?

 

Gong Fu Cha is a way to produce the best cup of tea possible. 

 

Drinking a cup of tea by using Gong Fu Cha is like watching a movie in a high-definition movie theater. You have the best quality audio and visual experience while sitting in comfortable leather chairs. 

 

And steeping a tea bag using “western style” steeping might be like watching an old black and white TV in an alleyway. 

 

Additionally, Gong Fu Cha can be viewed as a form of meditation. You are utilizing all of your 5 senses to interact with the tea leaves, water, and teaware to make the most optimum cup of tea. 

 

  • How is Gong Fu Cha steeping performed?

 

Gong Fu Cha steeping typically uses a small vessel, a large amount of tea, and we perform many short and intense steepings. 

 

We can usually steep tea leaves around 10-15 times depending on the type of tea. Each steeping will change and develop and new flavors will unfold throughout the session. 

 

  •  What tools are needed for Gong Fu Cha?

 

These are the essential 3 tools:

 

  • The primary vessel - A Gaiwan or Teapot is typically used (sizes range from 60ml to 300ml)
  • A secondary vessel - A Gong Dao Bei. This is used to decant liquid from the primary vessel. It stops the steeping process and homogenizes the concentration of tea. 
  • Cups - Tea is poured from the Gong Dao Bei into cups for serving.

 

These are additional tools to enhance your tea service:

 

  • Strainer - Stops whole leaves from entering your cup
  • Cha pan - Allows for easy pouring and no liquid mess
  • Tea towel - Used to easily wipe up water
  • Tea knife/pick - Used to break up compressed teas
  • Tea pet - a clay sculpture that you can “feed” with excess tea
  • Smelling cups - long cups used to enhance the fragrance of tea

 

  • What about water temperatures, steeping times, and amount of tea leaves?

 

Each tea is unique and will have its own suitable water temperature.  

 

However, here are some guidelines that serve as a good place to start: 

 

Tea 

Water Temp

Amount (g/100 ml)

1st infusion (seconds)

Additional infusion (seconds)

Avg. # of infusions

White

85°C (185°F)

4

10

10

6

Green

80°C (176°F)

4

10

5

6

Oolong (strip)

95°C (203°F)

6

20

5

8

Oolong (ball rolled)

95°C (203°F)

8

20

5

8

Black

95°C (203°F)

5

15

5

8

Puerh (raw)

95°C (203°F)

5

10

5

15

Puerh (ripe)

99°C (210°F)

5

10

5

20



  • What are the steps to get started with Gong Fu Cha Steeping?

 

  1. Heat up your water. Use the chart above for a temperature recommendation.
  2. Pour water into your empty vessels. In the same way you’d heat up a pan before cooking, this primes the teaware to be used. 
  3. Rinse the tea leaves. Put your tea leaves into the primary vessel. Refer to the chart above for the amount of tea leaves. Pour hot water over the leaves and immediately pour out this infusion. This infusion will not be consumed. It is meant to open up the tea leaves, and remove any dust from the tea processing. 

Now we’re ready to steep …

  • Pour hot water onto the tea leaves and allow the leaves to steep for 5-10 seconds. 
  • Decant the liquid from the primary vessel. Pour out the tea into your secondary vessel like a Gong Dao Bei or “justice cup”.
  • Pour the tea from the secondary vessel to individual cups. 
  • Drink! Notice if the tea is too weak or too bitter. Was the temperature perhaps too hot or too cool? Pay attention and use this information to guide your next steeping. 
  • Repeat steps 4-7. Depending on the type of tea, you should achieve around 8-15 steepings. 
  1. When finished: empty the vessels and pour hot water to rinse them 

Gong Fu Cha Steeping is a process that can take a lifetime to master. And since each individual tea is different, it will require its own unique steeping parameters. 

>>>If you’re in need of teaware, you can explore our selection here

And if you have any questions, feel free to ask at hi@teatsy.com

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