Time to try going gongfu? Then you need to know the five “must have” accessories for your gongfu tea time.
Strictly speaking, gongfu is not a ceremony but a method of steeping tea. The more you explore fine teas, the more you want to look into this and other traditional ways of preparing them. Often, these methods have developed over decades and even centuries as ways to get the best flavor and most infusions from those tea leaves.
In essence, the goal of gongfucha is a brew that tastes good and satisfies. The term “gongfu” (alternately, “kungfu”) generally means “done with skill,” and for tea this means that a small teapot or covered bowl (gaiwan) is usually used. Thus, gongfu tea (or gongfucha) is also called “small teapot method” and “old man’s tea.” Some teas are developed especially for this type of steeping and are thus labeled as “[tea type] gongfu [tea style]” — for example, “keemun gongfu black tea.”
So, what are those five essentials? Well, the one was already mentioned, but let’s take them in order. (Note: this is for a Chinese gongfu tea time; the Taiwanese and other Asian countries have variations.)
1 — Drip tray — A water catching tray or a bowl for the tea pot during water pouring (Chinese: traditional 茶盤, simplified 茶盘, Pinyin: chá pán). (Gongfu is not the prissy, fussy, neat as a pin style of tea preparation used by European and American tea drinkers most of the time.) Sometimes these are called “tea tables” and are meant to serve both to catch drips and set the teawares on.
3 — Sipping cups — Three cups, each with a 30 ml capacity. (Chinese: 茶杯, Pinyin: chá bēi).
4 — Cha Hai — A little pitcher to pour the steeped tea into out of the steeping vessel. This assures that the tea does not oversteep and that each cup gets the same quality of tea liquid.
5 — Kettle — A kettle (preferably made of clay or glass, in order to determine the temperature of the boiling water, although some more modern tea masters use electric kettles).
|(photo used with permission)|
There are also some items to use that will make your gongfu tea time more authentic and further improve the taste of your tea:
Table — The table should be large enough to hold the rest of the items listed here, including the drip tray. If you want to be authentic, make it a short-legged table where you can sit on the floor (on cushions) when preparing and enjoying your tea.
Water — Don’t forget the water. And not just any water. You need water that is not overly hard, but yet not overly soft. If your local water has chlorine and/or chloramine added, you will want to have a water filter that removes these (most on the market do not) or use bottled water.
Best Quality Tea — Yes, this seems obvious, but it can be the one area where people skimp.
Clean cloth — A clean cotton cloth to wipe off any water on the table.
|(photo used with permission)|
Gongfu companion — This is usually a little statue that sits on the drip tray and oversees the gongfu tea preparation. They come in a variety of designs, including humans and animals (usually, the animals are based on the Chinese zodiac).
Assemble your teawares and then enjoy your tea gongfu style!