Mar 26, 2014


A gongfu tea/ Kung fu tea table with accessories

The gongfu tea ceremony or kung fu tea ceremony (Chinese: 工夫茶), also known as the Chinese tea ceremony, is a Chinese cultural activity involving the ritualized preparation and presentation of tea. It is probably based on the tea preparation approaches originated in Fujian and Guangdong. The original term gongfu cha (工夫茶) literally means making tea with effort. Sometimes '功' instead of '工' is used thus 功夫茶. Today, the approach is used popularly by teashops carrying tea of Chinese or Taiwan origins, and by tea connoisseurs as a way to maximize the taste of a tea selection, especially a finer one.

The ceremony should be carried out in an appropriate space. A table large enough to hold the tea-making utensils, the drip tray, and the water is the minimum necessary. Ideally the surroundings should be peaceful and conducive to relaxation and socialization. Incense, flowers, and low, soft, traditional music will all add to the ambience, as will songbirds.


  1. The first stage of preparation is known as 溫壺燙杯 (simplified: 温壶烫杯, Pinyin: wēn hú tàng bēi) literally warming the pot and heating the cups. At this point the cups and pot are laid on the table. They are then warmed and sterilized with hot water, the excess is then poured away. When pouring from the cups in the Taiwanese Lăorénchá style, the wooden tweezers may be used instead of bare hands.
  2. The second stage of the preparation is known as 鑒賞佳茗 (simplified: 鉴赏佳茗, Pinyin: jiàn shǎng jiā míng), literally appreciate excellent tea. At this point those who would partake of the tea during the ceremony examine and appreciate its appearance, smell, and its other characteristics.
  3. The third stage of the preparation is known as 烏龍入宮 (simplified: 乌龙入宫, Pinyin: wū lóng rù gōng), The black dragon enters the palace (this term in particular is used when Oolong tea is used for the ceremony). The teapot is filled with tea. For a 150 ml tea pot at least 15 grams of tea leaves are used, however depending on the size of the pot and the strength of the tea the pot may be filled between 1/2 and 2/3 full.
  4. The leaves are now rinsed using hot water poured from some height above the pot, this is known as 懸壺高沖 (simplified: 悬壶高冲, Pinyin: xuán hú gāo chōng), rinsing from an elevated pot. This is done by putting the teapot into the catching bowl. Water heated to the appropriate temperature for the tea is then poured into the pot until the pot overflows.
  5. Any debris or bubbles which form on the surface are then scooped away gently to keep the tea from around the mouth of the pot which is then closed with the lid. This is known as 春風拂面 (simplified: 春风拂面, Pinyin: chūn fēng fú miàn), meaning the spring wind brushes the surface.
  6. At this point opinions differ as to what should be done with the tea. Some suggest that the tea be steeped for a short while, and discarded into the cups (重洗仙顏, simplified: 重洗仙颜, Pinyin: chóng xǐ xiān yán), meaning bathe the immortal twice. This is in order that the temperature inside and outside of the pot is the same. Others recommend immediately pouring the first brew into all of the cups without allowing the tea to steep.


  1. Customarily this first brew is poured into the cups but is not drunk. This is known as 行雲流水 (simplified: 行云流水, Pinyin: háng yún líu shǔi), A row of clouds, running water. It is essentially a slightly extended washing of the leaves.
  2. The pot is then refilled with fresh hot water until the water reaches the mouth of the pot. This is known as 再注清泉 (Pinyin: zài zhù qīng quán), Direct again the pure spring or 回旋低斟 (Pinyin: húi xuán dī zhēn), meaning pouring again from a low height. This second term refers to an important principle in the brewing of Chinese tea ceremonially: Gāo chōng dī zhēn (trad.: , simp. 高冲低斟), high to rinse, low to pour. This is because in the rinsing the tea is rinsed using the force of water poured from a height, whereas in the brewing water is poured closer to the leaves in order not to force the flavour from the leaves too rapidly.
  3. The bubbles which may have formed on the surface are removed using the lid, and the pot is closed. The hot tea from the first brew is then emptied over the teapot's outside. This is known as 刮沫淋蓋 (simplified 刮沫淋盖, Pinyin: guā mò lín gài). Wait for 20 to 50 seconds, depending on the type and quantity of the tea used before beginning to serve the tea.


  1. In most Chinese gongfucha ceremony the tea is poured evenly into the teacups, in a circular manner around the guests. In the Taiwanese style ceremony however, often the tea is first emptied into the tea pitcher (cha hai) before being served to the guests. A quality oolong tea is good for anywhere from 4 to 8 infusions. Some Puerh teas can last for 8 or more infusions. Each subsequent pot follows the same procedure, but requires a slightly longer infusion time.

Aroma appreciation

  1. In the Taiwanese style ceremony, at its highest form, the aroma of the tea is enjoyed as well as its taste. In this case, the tea is first poured into the tea jug, and then into scent cups (聞香杯), or sniffer cup. This is known as 毆杯沐淋 (simplified: 殴杯沐淋, Pinyin: ōu bēi mù lìn), bathing the scent cup.
  2. The drinking cup is placed upside down over the top of the scent cup and balanced there. This is known as 龍鳳呈祥 (simplified: 龙凤呈祥, Pinyin: lóng fèng chéng xiáng), meaning The dragon and phoenix in auspicious union. This is a ritualised action, and is viewed by some as a form of prayer for the prosperity, well-being, and happiness of the guests.
  3. The two are inverted so that the scent cup is upside down in the drinking cup. This is known as 鯉魚翻身 (simplified: 鲤鱼翻身, Pinyin: lǐ yú fān shēn), the carp turns over.
  4. The final stage, 敬奉香茗 (Pinyin: jìng fèng xiāng míng), respectfully receive the fragrant tea, occurs when the scent cup is lifted and the tea is released into the drinking cup. The guest can then enjoy the aroma of the tea from the scent cup before consuming the tea from his drinking cup. In good etiquette the drinker will drink his tea in three sips, no less; the first a small one, the second the main one, and the last an after taste.

End of ceremony

  1. The ceremony ends with the used tea leaves being put into a clean bowl for the guests to appreciate the tea in its used form. Good etiquette dictates that the guests should make appropriate compliments regarding the choice of tea.

Cleaning up

Cleaning up is an important step in the ritual.

  1. Brewed tea and tea leaves should not remain in the teapot after the ritual. The pot must be cleaned up thoroughly and rinsed with hot tea.
  2. Utensils must be sterilized with boiling water.
  3. The teapot should be rinsed with hot tea and the outside should be rubbed and polished with a good linen cloth.
  4. A clay teapot should never be washed with detergents or soaps.
  5. The tea pot must be allowed to dry naturally.
  6. The utensils and serving cups should be allowed to air dry on a tea tray.


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