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The Kong Fu Tea of Chaozhou and Shantou

Thane are different opinions about the name of kong fu tea. Some people think that it is called thus because it takes a lot of time to process the tea leaves; some think that it derives its name because it takes a long time to taste mouthful by mouthful this strong and bitter tea contained in tiny teacups; and some think that it is called because it stresses the method of tasting and needs special opiating skills, All these opinions seem reasonable, but the third one is the most rational.

Kong fu tea is popular in Fujian and Guangdong provinces and other places southeast of China. Now let's take the Chaozhou and Shantou kong fu tea an example.

The Chaozhou and Shantou kong fu tea has an integrated ceremony encompassing the reflected spirit, the etiquette, the skills of both making tea and pouring tea for guests, and the appraisal of the quality of the tea.

Generally speaking, there are altogether four people, including the host or hostess, in a Chaozhou and Shantou kong fu tea ceremony, This limitation of the number of the people is similar to the ideas of the tea drinkers of the Ming and Qing dynasties, who thou^it that tea drinkers should keep quiet, have few desire and share the same views. Starting from the right side of the host or the guests sit on both sides of the table according to their generation or status, just like the feudal order of importance ear seniority in China's ancient religious communities and temple.

After the guests sit at the table, the host or hostess begins to operate in strict accordance with the old tea rules, particular about tea sets, water quality, tea leaves, and the ways of making and drinking tea.

The tea set includes the teapot, teacups and the utensil for containing tea dregs. The teapot is tiny, just like a persimmon. The c^amic teacups have very thin walls. The ceramic utensil for containing tea dregs,like a drum, is composed of a plate, which looks like the surface of a drum, and a tube-shaped porcelain ware. The plate has small holes, through which the tea to rince teacups at the beginning of the ceremony leaks. Boiling water poured on the lid of the teapot to keep the inside tea warm also leaks through the utensil for containing tea dregs also holds the remaining water and tea. The kong fa tea ceremony is particular about the teapot After the Ming and Qing dynasties, teapots made from purple sand were specially used because of the idea that tea art should return to its original nature, but the teapot used in the Chaozhou and Shantou gong fu tea ceremony is made from the soft earth of Chaozhou, for this kind of teapot absorbs the fragrance of tea more easily. Talking of this, we should know that different teas need to be poured into different teapots. For example, scented tea needs porcelain teapots to keep its fragrance; it is better to use needs porcelain teapots to keep its fragrance; it is better to use china teapots or glasses, rather than sand pots, to hold weak green tea so as to keep the fragrance of the tea and observe the shape and color of the tea leaves. Red tea (black tea) or semi-fermented (oolong) tea needs sand tea pots, which give an impression of primitive simplicity and can easily send forth the fragrance of the tea. Before a new teapot is formally used,it must first be soaked in first-made tea water for over three months to keep the teapot fragrant all over. Teapots made of Chaozhou earth contain a fragrance themselves. The teacups are exquisitely small like walnuts or almonds, but are simple and strong.

A Classified Collection of Writings on Various Subjects of the Qing Dynasty, a sketchbook written by Xu Ke, was classified into 92 subjects, such as seasons, geography, diplomacy, customs, craft and literature, and included more than 13,500 items. It collected hundreds of notes by writers of the Qing Dynasty, with newspapers as its reference material. The book tells an interesting story which demonstrates the importance of soaking the teapot with tea water before it is formally used. It was said that a rich man of Chaozhou liked tea very much. One day, a beggar came up to his door. Leaning against the door, the beggar begged for tea instead of food, saying, "I hear you have the nicest tea. Could you give me a pot of it?" The rich man felt it ridiculous to hear this. He said, "Could it be said that you, a beggar, have an idea of tea?" The beggar said "I was once rich. But as I indulged in tea all day I became a beggar. Now I have to make a living by begging to support my family Hearing this, the rich man readily gave him a cup of quality kong fu tea, for he bought that he had met a bosom tea friend. After tasting the tea, the beggar said, ''Sure enough you made nice tea? but it is not mellow enough,for you used a new teapot." Then the beggar took out an old light, colored teapot out of his sleeves. When the pot lid was opened, fragrance struck the nose. The beggar said that though he was penniless and often suffered from cold and hunger, he took the teapot with him all the time. The rich man liked the teapot so much that he wanted to pay 3,000 taels of gold for it But the beggar hated to part with it. He said, "I want only half of the money you offered, but could we two share the teapot?" The rich man gladly accepted it. From then on they became close friends. This story tells us that it takes a lot of time to soak the teapot with tea water before tea is made.

Making tea needs superior skills.

After the guest is seated, the host puts Tie Guanyin, a variety oolong tea, into a small teapot. The tea leaves may account for 70 percent of the volume of the teapot,so that they extend to the top of the teapot after soaking. The tea made the first time is used for washing cups rather than drinking, creating an artistic atmosphere of tea In every sense. Then the host pours boiling water into the teapot This time the tea leaves are exposed and send forth their fragrance. The host begins to offer tea to the guests. He places four cups in a circle, and then shuttles among them with the small teapot in his hand until each cup is filled 70 percent of its volume with tea. At this time the tea made for the second time is precisely .This way of serving tea is called "Lord Guan Patrolling the City." The rest of the tea is poured into the four cups little by little,which is called "Marquis Han Xin Gathering His Troops." The four cups put together implies the gathering of host and guests. Guan Patrolling the City" shows not only superior skills but also complete success according to Chinese philosophy, and "Marquis Han Xin Gathering His Troops" indicates the great harmony reflected in the sharing of the essence of tea. In the pouring, the host's expertise is demonstrated if the tea in the four small cups have the same color in different layers. If the tea has different colors each time the host adds boiling water, he is really a master tea-maker.

The host then holds the small cups of tea before the guests. He first serves the chief guest, and then the other guests according to their generation and age. Finally the host himself joins them. There are special skills of tasting this kind of tea. Instead of drinking the tea in one mouthful, you should let it turn around your tongue and fully realize its fragrance before you swallow it. Then you must show the bottom of the teacup to the host to express your sincere gratitude as well as your praise for his superior skills.

After several rounds of drinking, which display the friendship between the host and the guests as well as the pleasure of tasting tea, the tea has sent forth nearly all its fragrance. In the last round of drinking, the host takes the tea leaves out of the teapot with a bamboo clip and puts them in a tiny cup to let the guests enjoy the beautiful natural tea leaves and at the same time to show them that he will not make tea with these used tea leaves again. This kind of kong fu tea is not made only by the rick Small workshops and stalls in Chaozhou and Shantou sell it by the roadside. Even farmers there who carry produce down the mountains pull out tea sets, teat up water and make tea in the mountains when they take a rest And it is routine for them to make this kind of tea when they arc at home resting. At hotels and restaurants in modem cities and towns, kong fu tea is also made at counters to receive guests. People present the tea as gifts to those whom they ask for help, or sell the tea in small bags, each of which contains the amount used in one teapot. It can be seen from this that kong fu tea is well popularized in Chaozhou and Shantou as a genuine folk art. In addition, kong fu tea demands particular water requirements. Mountain farmers are not very rich, but still quite a few old people of Chaozhou and Shantou buy mountain spring water to make tea.

People of Chaozhou and Shantou are tightly bound to the simple tea sets, which create profound friendship. Once drinking this kind of tea, farmers toiling at work all day will feel as if fragrance has arisen from below their tongues, and feel no longer tired.

The Chaozhou and Shantou kong fu tea is rich in connotations. It has the courtesy advocated by the Confucian spirit, beautiful tea sets and brilliant tea culture, the complete unity of the spiritual and the material as well as of form and content, the philosophy of the co-existence of smallness and bigness, cleverness and clumsiness, falseness and truth, and waxing and waning, the Chinese people's pursuit of a happy and rich life and spirit of sharing joys and sorrows. Who dare say that the Chinese tea culture no longer prospers?