The Gong Fu Cha method is the perfect method for brewing oolong teas, but it can be used for great results with any type of tea. It translates to ‘making tea with effort’ and it’s designed to control all the variables that affect the chemical nature of your brew.
You might ask why make such a effort!
Well here at the Exotic Teapot our reply, in chorus, is:
• it’s fun
• it’s a challenge
• you will learn about the unique character of each tea
• your tea will taste better
Gong Fu Cha (the ‘Fu’ means skill, like in Kung Fu) is regarded by some as the only way to brew tea --it’s also how tea sommeliers can exclaim “this tea has hints of geranium & cooked spinach!”
What you will need
You will need to buy a few items. Some can be substituted with other kitchenware, but you might like to build up a set of teaware to entertain guests or just enjoy the aesthetics and feel of these objects.
If you would like to see our range of Gong Fu Cha teaware, we’ve included pictures at the end of this post.
• Tea (kind of goes without saying)
• Kettle (again, you should have seen it coming)
• Teapot --we recommend something good quality, either ceramic, glass or cast iron (although cast iron isn’t ideal for green or white teas). Ceramic & cast iron have the advantage of keeping your tea warmer for longer, allowing for multiple cups.
• A tea pitcher, usually called a cha hai (any pitcher or jug will suffice)
• Sipping cups --Chinese teacups are traditionally smaller than normal cups because they encourage your to savour your brew and allow for refilling over a longer period of time
• Tea scoop (optional, but makes measuring easier)
• Bamboo water tray or tea tray (optional, but use some kind of surface you can get wet)
• Rubber chicken (entirely optional)
• Put your teapot and cups onto the bamboo water tray and boil the kettle. Pour this water into the pot and cups to warm them up. If you have the water tray, pour with wild abandon.
• Put tea into your pot with the ratio 5g/150ml
• Boil your kettle again (preferably with filtered water), let it cool to around 85℃ for green, white and lighter oolong; but use near-boiling for black tea. Now fill the teapot and steep for 5-15 seconds and then pour out holding the lid slightly open (this opens the leaves for the main steeping)
• Boil the kettle as before, and fill the teapot until it is almost overflowing. Some froth or bubbles may spill over. Steep for about 30 seconds.
• Pour the brewed tea into the pitcher (use a strainer if your teapot doesn’t have one). Now transfer to the sipping cups.
• Repeat steps 4 & 5, gradually increasing the brewing time until the tea looses its flavour.
The Gong Fu Cha method is naturally suited to sharing tea with friends. The focus is on serving up the best tea possible for your guests. You sit around the tea accessories, watching, talking and then trying the tea. The smaller cups encourage you to sip and really taste the depth of flavour in your tea.
The tea itself is both calming & stimulating: setting the mood for conversation. Presented on a bamboo water tray, your tea objects form a centrepiece. Splashing water over the teapot is fun and it adds to the sensory experience.
Gong Fu Cha isn’t a ritual as such (it doesn’t employ symbolism), but more of a series of functional steps to make your tea excel.
However, a bonus of any ritualised task is that it sets out a prescribed sequence of actions that require control & concentration: making you slow down & focus on one thing at a time. This means that tea making can lend itself to achieving a state of flow (when you are completely at one with a physical action) and it instils a psychology conducive to mindfulness.
So there is no reason why making a cuppa can’t be a form of meditation, and afterwards, drinking your tea it is naturally calming and contemplative. Taking these two stages together, you have a modern ritual which empties our overloaded digital minds and allows a stitch in time to self-reflect.