Sunday, 5 July 2009

Gong Fu Tea

In China, there is a special kind of way of drinking tea. Gong Fu Tea has nothing to do with karate chops and flying kicks, it is a very refined and cultured way to drink tea. In Chinese, the word Gong Fu (功夫) means a skill attained through hard work and perseverance. The first character, Gong, is made up of the particles work and strength, which implies what I said above.

So Gong Fu tea is a method of preparing tea which takes skill. It is also a way of clearing the mind of troubled thoughts and getting back to nature. The sound of pouring water has a calming effect and and the delicate flavour and smell of tea is symbolic of purity. Another name for Gong Fu tea is the tea ceremony, or Cha Dao (way of tea), but these are more often associated with Japan, whose tea culture is very different. The Japanese tea ceremony (correct me if Im wrong) seems to be more about the preparation as a ritual or an art in itself, whereas in China, it is more about the tea that is drunk.

Different teas all have their own brewing methods, using different shape teapots and different temperatures of water. A full set is required, a teapot, Yixing Zisha is the best, a pouring jug, small drinking cups and sniffer cups. The tea is poured from the pot into the jug and then into the sniffer cups, which are long, thin cups that hold the fragrance of the tea inside. The small cup is then put on top of the sniffer and it is turned upside down, the sniffer cup is taken away and then it is drunk.

The Yixing Zisha teapot I mentioned is made of a special purple clay from Yixing region in Jiangsu province. Zisha means purple clay. The teapot should never be washed with soap, as the clay absorbs the colour and flavour of the tea. Instead it should just be rinsed with water. If you dont use the teapot for a while, you should occasionally leave some tea and hot water standing in it for a night.

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