THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO
GONG FU CHA BREWING
aka GONGFU BREWING
Gong Fu Brewing and I share the same birthplace--Chaoshan, China. Like many other cities in China, it’s packed with history and culture, with “Gongfu Fu Brewing” being one part of it. However, most tutorial blogs or videos online are, in my mind, somewhat inaccurate.
CHAOCHA was born with the core to promote the true practice and ritual of this becoming lifestyle, that has over one thousand years history. As we always like to make things practical for you, instead of dumping the out-of-date version of 21 steps from the standard process, we will only show you 9 necessary steps that urbanites in Chaoshan are doing today.
What is "gongfu"?
First, let’s get to know the name a little bit. Many, when hearing of Gong Fu Cha (Gong Fu Brewing), think of the movie Kung Fu Panda, especially when people sometimes pronounce it as Kung Fu Tea.
So it would usually get associated with the ancient Chinese martial art and that scared many, thinking it is a special skill required tea activity.
Some think it must be a kind of special tea, probably very tasty and good for people who practice Kung Fu.
The truth is, it is really just a way of brewing and serving tea.
The translation for Gong Fu is not martial art, but--“effort.” This way of preparing and serving tea gives you a chance to show effort for your loved ones in this world where people do so little of that.
To start with, let’s go over the tools! Don't be scared off by the photos you found online that show a million gadgets on the tea tray. What you really need is just these 3 things:
A porcelain gaiwan (a bowl without handle, a lid, and a saucer) for the water and the tea leaves to hang out and make a nice tea baby.
It will need to be a little outward on the rim, so to make sure our fingers don't burn when holding it with hot water or tea inside.
Three porcelain gongfu cups, they are like half of a ping pong ball size, 25ml-30ml, perfect for 3 sips and are a little outward on the rim for you know why.
And, a tea tray that has a container for wastewater or spilt tea underneath. It could be any kind of shape, size, material, but it has to have a surface with holes for wastewater to go under the container. This is the traditional Chaoshan style tea tray that is good for collecting tea drips and the water from sanitizing the gongfu cups round after round.
Let’s move on to the process of brewing (finally)! Here are the 9 steps in a practical fashion:
Step 1: Boil the Water
Fill the water kettle with spring water or purified water--the choice of water should be given careful consideration as it might affect the taste of the tea.
High content mineral water, distilled or extremely soft water needs to be avoided. Hard water needs to be filtered.
Step 2: Warm Tea Ware
When the water is boiled, warm the gaiwan by pouring the hot water in and over it, so to make sure the gaiwan is heated as it helps to push out the aroma of the tea to 100%.
Warm the gongfu cups with boiled water too, so the porcelain is not cold and reducing the temperature of the tea liquid when it got poured in.
Step 3: Put in Tea Leaves
Put one pao of tea in the gaiwan, or 5-8 grams depending on which tea.
The amount of tea leaf is essential. The best suggestion of tea leaf amount should usually be listed at the front of our zip package.
Step 4: Quickly Rinse the Tea
Pour hot water into the gaiwan (except for green tea), usually 80% full, and pour out to the tea tray within a few seconds to discard the first infusion.
Step 5: Infuse
Pour water into the gaiwan. Adjust the brewing time depending on the tea and the number of infusions.
Gradually increase the brewing time as the tea leaf goes through more infusions.
Step 6: Smooth Out the Bubble
Use the gaiwan lid to smooth out any bubbles on the surface of the tea.
The bubbles are believed to be coming from the oxidation of the alkali in tea leaf and might affect the taste of the tea liquid if not removed.
Step 7: Decant
Nudge the gaiwan lid to the side to allow a small opening between the lid and the bowel. Place your thumb and middle finger on the rim and your index finger on the lid.
Tilt the gaiwan to pour, discard the first bit of tea with the bubble and pour tea into the 3 cups evenly by moving the gaiwan quickly above them.
Step 8: Serve
Use the strongest last few drops of the tea liquid to balance the tea color, which represents the strength of the tea, make sure every drop is dripped into the cups, and announce tea is ready (finally)!
Step 9: Enjoy Multiple Infusions
Repeat steps 5-8 to for another round of tea.
Keep the kettle water heated to ensure the temperature for a great brew.
For our teas of 6 grams, depending on the tea type, each serving could be infused (or brewed) 7-15 times or more.
*Please do not leave any tea in the gaiwan each time you pour, or the next infusion will be quite bitter.
Discard any tea left if the gongfu cups are full.
Tasting, of course, has its own process:
First, bring the gongfu cup closer to your lips and as it's right under your nose.
Sniffing the aroma from the steam of the hot tea becomes very natural and pleasant.
Second, pout your lips and drink.
Sipping and slurping the tea is commanded not just to savor the taste but also to be cautious of the high temperature.
Sniff in and gently blow out to the tea helps cool it. This is where you breathe in, breath out, and calm down.
Lastly, finish all of the tea and smell the gongfu cup. The aroma is slightly different when from the porcelain gongfu cup than from the tea.
After the tea is enjoyed to the fullest, the gongfu cups go back to the tray.
The tea host should usually wash the gongfu cups before serving another round, even though the new round of tea is going to be for the same guests and people might simply use the same gongfu cups again.
Gong Fu Cha always go the extra mile to make sure the best of the tea is brought out. Washing the gongfu cups ensures the taste of the tea is always pure in case of any leftover odor on the gongfu cups from the contact of lips and fingers.
I know, some of you might be thinking why would people go through so much trouble just to make tea?
But once you are familiar with the steps, which shouldn’t take you and more than two sessions of tea, the process is really just asking 15 extra minutes from what you would usually spend on making the same amount of tea.
These 15 minutes can be saved easily from not scrolling down that Instagram feed or Facebook page. This is 15 minutes to be present, asking your loved ones how their day was while making and enjoying some quality tea with them.
This is the quali-tea time you deserve.