What is Gongfu Tea?

What is Gongfu Tea?

What is Gongfu Tea?

Gongfu tea is a traditional style of making tea that uses multiple smaller infusions of a tea using a gaiwan or teapot, a fairness cup and small “three sip” cups.

Making tea in a mug using a teabag is convenient, but the charm and complexity of most well-crafted teas are best revealed through the gongfu style.

The gongfu style allows you to fully control the “life” of a tea, to adjust the taste according to your preferences, and most importantly — to reveal the full potential of the plant and characteristics of the terroir.

Time and Effort

Gongfu tea was developed and adopted in the Chaoshan area (modern day Fujian / Guangdong) of China during the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644). It’s said that people from Chaoshan were so into Fujianese tea that they came up with this specific way of tea appreciation where they could gather and take time to taste and observe the change of a pao (one of the many infusions) of tea. Gongfu, meaning “time and effort” (工夫) has the same pronunciation as the martial art kungfu (功夫) in Mandarin. It’s called gongfu because it takes time and effort to make, sip and appreciate tea.⁣ 

You can use a Gaiwan or a Zisha pot to make tea, and there are three sipping cups putting in a shape like this in the picture. Each cup’s shape is similar to 口(kou, which means mouth in mandarin), three Kous 口 together is pin 品(which means to taste).⁣

Most people incorporate a fairness cup into Gongfu tea-making, which reduces the difficulty of tea-making and makes it easier to share tea with people you're sharing tea with.

An open vessel is enough to make a green tea, for a vessel with a lid or cover would create an environment where the steam of the hot water over-brewed the green tea, and the green tea would turn out very bitter.

Written by Rong Gao for Shifing Senses.