This traditional Chinese brewing method originates from the south-western province of Guangdong, but is now ubiquitous throughout China. The meaning is to “prepare tea with skill”, enabling multiple successive tastings of the same tea leaves to help you appreciate the unfolding nuances in the taste and aroma.
Each infusion involves a high leaf to water ratio along with a short steeping time. The concentrated liquor that is produced offers a fleeting snapshot of the profile of the tea for your enjoyment. Preparing tea in this matter is a testament to both nature and the tea master.
Gongfu Cha can mean a highly elaborate, formal ceremony with many tools and traditions to abide by, including incense and traditional music. In this guide, we've opted to show a condensed, semi-formal approach that is perfect for everyday tea appreciation and personal training.
Gaiwan or Yixing teapot
Micro scales for weighing
5–7g loose leaf tea
10-30 second first infusion. Increase by 5-10 seconds for subsequent infusions.
Measure the required amount of tea leaves, and put aside on a tea boat or small holding recepticle. Take the time to appreciate the aroma and appearance of the dry leaf before you begin.
Warm all of the vessels with boiling water for a few seconds, and discard.
Fill the gaiwan with the tea leaves, and refresh with hot water for 3 seconds. Distribute the tea liquor into the drinking vessels, and then discard.
This step preheats and aromatises the vessels, flushes the tea of impurities and softens the leaves for their first infusion.
Slowly pour the water into the gaiwan in an spiral fashion; begin pouring just below the rim and continue downward until you reach the centre of the vessel.
Don't worry if you slightly overfill the gaiwan.
Use the edge of the lid to push any stray leaves into the water. Cover the gaiwan and time your infusion.
When it is time to pour, carefully hold the gaiwan along the rim with your thumb and middle finger. Retract the lid with your index finger to make a small pouring aperture.
Decant through a tea strainer into a serving pitcher.
Serve into drinking vessels. Repeat steps 2-4 for subsequent infusions.
After the leaves appear to be spent, carefully remove them from the gaiwan and admire how their 'bloom'.
Deceptively simple, the gaiwan requires precision and care when serving to avoid burning yourself. If you are not feeling confident handling the gaiwan, remember to go slow. You may consider practising with room temperature water first.
Don't be afraid to check the strength of the infusion by first pouring some of the liquor from the gaiwan into a tasting vessel.
Just before decanting the liquor from the gaiwan, inhale the aromas from the inside of the lid. This will help to paint a subtle picture of the tea, even before your first sip.