The Gong Fu Cha Ceremony

The Chinese symbols for gong fu are the same as those representing the martial arts: they represent mastery of time and movement. The literal meaning of gong fu is “the time for tea,” and it refers to the time that is needed to achieve mastery of the art.

The first mention of this ceremony can be traced back to the early 17th century in China. At that time, four utensils were used: a teapot, a charcoal burner; an earthenware kettle and a few small porcelain bowls. Over time, the method has undergone several developments that have led to better control of the infusion.Today,for example, a sniffing cup is used, allowing the taster to follow the development of the aromas that stabilize on the rim. This method of infusion, ideal for the preparation of wulong and Pu er teas, enables repeated infusions of the same leaves so that each stage reveals a different characteristic. Tasting a tea prepared in this method is both a journey and a discovery.

THE GONGFU TEA SET USED FOR GONG FU CHA

As many as 11 utensils may be needed for the preparation of tea following the gong fu cha method Here are the most important ones:

• A small, 1/2- to 1-cup (100 to 200 ml), teapot
• A cha chuan bowl into which the teapot can be placed
• A cha hai (a container equipped with a spout) or a spare pot
• A sniffing cup or a tasting cup (wen xiang bei or cha bei)
• A kettle

To these objects one can add a spoon, a small napkin and a box in which to place the tea.

Here are the steps of the gong fu cha method:

• Heat the utensils. Place your teapot in the cha chuan and pour a little simmering water into it Put the lid back on and pour the contents into the spare pot Once your teapot is well rinsed, add the required quantity of tea (2 or 3 teaspoons / 10 to 15 ml).

• Rinse the leaves. Pour simmering water over the tea leaves and then discard this water At this point you can smell the first aromas released by the moistened leaves.

• Infuse the leaves. Refill the teapot with simmering water until it overflows, place the lid back on the pot and pour water over the outside of the teapot to get rid of the foam. Meanwhile, empty the spare pot to prepare it to receive the liquid.

• Wait as long as you wish. The first two infusions should last only 20 to 60 seconds, but the following infusions can last one to three minutes. Note that a bubble will usually form at the end of the teapots spout and after a short while it will slide back into the teapot as if it is being sucked in. This phenomenon is due to the fact that the leaves soak up the water and are “drinking” the liquid, so to speak. This indicates it is time to transfer the infusion.

• Pour the liquid into the spare pot. Be sure to drain the teapot so that no liquid remains inside.

• Fill the sniffing cup, which has an elongated shape then transfer the liquid into the tasting cup. Inhale the different fragrances that emanate from your now empty sniffing cup. Linger over the aromas that cling to the sides of the cup.

• Taste.

This tasting technique will allow you to infuse the same leaves several times and to discover different fragrances every time. The fundamental principles require patience, attentiveness and meticulousness. However, there is no set rule for a successful gong fu cho tasting. Tasters can adapt the technique to suit their own specific approach, bearing in mind that it is by taking time and paying close attention to the task at hand that the most sublime moments can be lived.

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