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Preparing Tea Gongfu Style

The Chinese way of making tea 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 1,000 years ago and still thrives today in China and Taiwan. 

The gongfu style of tea preparation is informal and very flexible in terms of actual mannerisms and particular style, but there are some commonly held principles.

GONGFU PREPARATION

Use good water. Spring water with natural minerals works well. 

Rinse the pots and cups. Pour hot water into and over the gaiwan or teapot. 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. 

Measure the tea. For a tightly-rolled tea, use enough tea to cover the bottom of the gaiwan. For a larger leaf tea, fill the pot 1/3 to 1/2 full. 

Appreciate the aroma. Add dry leaves to the gaiwan 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 pitcher. After you decant the liquid from the gaiwan into the pitcher, lift the lid of the gaiwan and waft it in front of your nose to check the aroma of the steeped leaf. A small gongfu infuser is a handy tool to sift out any small leaf particles.

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.

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