Preparing Tea Gongfu StyleThe Chinese way of making tea in a Yixing pot is referred to as gongfu, meaning something that requires great skill and discipline. The gongfu style of tea is a way of making, serving, and appreciating tea that started over 1000 years ago and still thrives today in China and Taiwan. Regarded as an artful practice, the goal of gongfu is to create a brew that tastes great and is satisfying to the soul.
The gongfu style of tea preparation is somewhat informal and very flexible in terms of actual mannerisms and particular style, but there are some commonly held principles.
Use good water. Spring water with natural minerals works well.
Wash the pots and cups. Pour hot water into and over the Yixing pot. Let the pot warm briefly and then pour the water into the cups. Discard the water. In addition to warming the pot, this purifies the pot and signifies the beginning of the tea making.
Show/Measure the tea. Display the leaves to the guests and measure it into the pot. For a tightly-rolled tea (eg. Green Dragon), use enough tea to cover the bottom of the pot. For a larger leaf tea (eg. Formosa Choicest), fill the pot 1/3 to 1/2 full.
Appreciate the aroma. Add dry leaves to the pot and put the lid on. Wait 10-20 seconds. Remove the lid and inhale the aroma of the leaves. Share with guests.
Wash the tea. Fill the pot with water and cover. Immediately pour the water off into the waiting cups and discard the water. This allows the leaf to start expanding and starts to add flavor to the pot/cups.
Serving the tea. Add water to the pot and steep tea 20-30 seconds.
Pour tea into a serving vessel. (Referred to in Chinese as a chahai).
Pour tea into aroma cups. Aroma cups are tall, slender cups that are made for the sole purpose of appreciating the aroma of the tea. Let the tea sit in the aroma cup for a couple of seconds and transfer the tea to the tasting cups. Lift the aroma cup to the nose and inhale deeply. If aroma cups are not used, simply pass the tasting cup under the nose (from left to right) and inhale to appreciate the tea's aroma.
Taste the tea. Pay attention to the initial taste, aftertaste, and texture of the tea as you sip. Traditionally, the tea cups used for gong fu service are very small and it is considered polite to finish the cup in three sips.
Re-steep the leaves. Steep each set of tea leaves multiple times, adding around 30-60 seconds to each steeping. You may also increase the water temperature slightly each time the tea is steeped. To indicate that you are satisfied and do not wish to have another serving, leave a small amount of tea in your cup.