Gong Fu tea origin
We all know Gong-Fu is a martial art and Gong-Fu (Cantonese version of Gong Fu) Panda is a movie. What is Gong Fu tea then?
The concept of Gong-Fu in Chinese means ‘in depth’ or ‘highly skillful’. It refers to skills acquired through extensive practice, often combined with knowledge accumulated over long periods and/or passed down by many previous generations.
Gong-Fu tea is not an exception. Tea originated from China and has been consumed for over 2000 years. Every single aspect of its production and consumption has been refined, including the tea brewing process and accessories used.
Sometime during the long history of tea consumption in China, Gong-Fu tea was invented in certain areas of the Fu-Jian and Guang-Dong province, especially around Chou Zhou area. It is believed it was first used for Oolong tea tasting, and extended to other teas such as green tea and Pu-erh tea. The tea lovers noticed that the tea steeping was such dynamic process that the best way to explore it's various layers was to segregate the various stages.
We all know by now that the premium loose leaf teas can be used repeatedly for several times. The tea drinkers at the time discovered that although produced from the same lot of the tea leaves, the various infusions each had a nature of its own, in its colour, aroma, texture, taste and after taste. Instead of using a big pot to brew a large quantity at a time, they started using small teapots and tea cups:
- A small teapot allows to brew a small amount of tea at a time
- Due to the limited amount of tea produced from each teapot, it required frequent top up of hot water to produce the next infusion
- It was subsequently discovered that this freshly brewed and served tea was by far superior to the tea brewed in a large pot, sat and soaked
- The small tea cups allowed the tea brew from each infusion to be tested indenpendly
The Gong Fu tea set was born to facilitate this process. The essential elements of a Gong-Fu tea set include: a small teapot, several small tea cups (depending on how many tea drinkers presented) and a tea tray. The tea tray offers a platform to brew the tea and catch any residual water during the tea preparation for later dispose. The ideas of Gong-Fu tea sets and Gong-Fu tea were quickly spread into places like tea houses, where groups of people gathered to socialise while enjoying a pot of tea.
Gong-Fu tea is therefore a unique method of tea brewing
Gong-Fu tea is therefore a unique method of tea brewing and serving. A Gong-Fu tea culture gradually developed: widely used in tea ceremonies; gone into family homes; become an essential part of tea testing before a purchase etc.
As a matter of fact, many Chinese premium tea accessories such as YiXing ZiSha teapots are only made in small sizes.
A few hints and clarifications:
- Gong-Fu tea is used in tea ceremonies, but more widely used under other circumstances, such as family homes. There is almost a Gong Fu tea set in every family in China. When the dinner is over, the tea set is on the table and the evening tea starts.
- Gong-Fu tea does not have to be complicated, it is just a different way of brewing and serving tea. All it requires is a tea set, some good tea and a pot of hot water. Instead of drinking tea from a big cup/mug, it is served as many mall cups. It is actually not as tedious as it sounds. I thoroughly enjoy putting on a pot of tea after dinner, being the 'tea lady' and serve while the family members enjoy a chat over a pot of tea.
- Gong-Fu tea brings the best flavour and quality out of a premium tea. It however does not make a lot difference to a low quality one.
Some ancient wisdom:
Water – natural mineral water is supreme.
Fire – open charcoal fire is ideal.
Tea accessories – small ones are the best.