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21 steps Chaoshan Gong-fu Tea Ceremony

Updated: Nov 20, 2020

Chao Shan Gong Fu tea has a history more than 1,000 years, which shows the essence of Chao Shan diet culture. It takes a lot of effort to make out the best tea with more than 8 procedures. At the same time, Chao Shan people also found out the best cooking and brewing way and tea set for this unique style tea.

Gongfu tea is famous in every household in chaoshan district. It is often the case that they make tea and serve their guests. Chaoshan gongfu tea is very well-known custom in China culture and it is one of four Golden Flower in the southern place. The fundamental spirit of it can be seen as the following: peace, love refinement and nobleness. Peace represents the harmonious atmosphere. Love represents the kindness, refinement represents the beauty of tea set and the particular way of making tea and nobleness represents the nobility of the mind.

Officially, the Gongfu Tea Ceremony is a 21-step process which takes careful practice, hence the name gong-fu, a play on words kung-fu. Whenever you visit an authentic Chinese tea shop, they will undoubtedly offer some form of gongfu tea service, often with exaggerated hand motions or entertaining tricks.

For your reference, here are the official 21 steps for Chaoshan Gongfu Cha:

1. Explain the tea service to the guests.

2. Wash your hands.

3. Light the charcoal (traditionally olive pits) in the clay tea stove.

4. Pour the water into the tea kettle (a long-handled, clay teapot).

5. Bring the water to a boil, using a feather fan on the coals to sufficiently heat them.

6. Warm the serving teapot by pouring the hot water in and over it.

7. Warm the tea cups in the same fashion.

8. Place the tea to be infused on a piece of white paper.

9. Use the paper to guide the tea leaves into the teapot.

10. Wash the tea leaves with hot water, pouring this first infusion over the tea cups and teapot (to keep them warm). Be sure to then discard this fist infusion by dumping all tea in the cups and teapot out on the tea table.

11. Pour hot water into the teapot a second time (this time to be consumed), being sure to keep the kettle 20 centimeters (8 inches) above the teapot.

12. Use the teapot lid to smooth out any bubbles on the surface of the tea in the teapot.

13. Put the lid back on the teapot and warm the teapot again by pouring hot water over it.

14. Warm and wash the cups again by pouring hot water over them and rolling one inside another using tea tongs, being sure to get all the edges submerged in the hot water. Cup washing should only take seconds to perform.

15. Pour the tea from the teapot into the first cup, being sure to keep the teapot 4-5 centimeters (1.5-2 inches) above the cups.

16. Quickly move the teapot to the second and third cups, being sure to pour the tea evenly into every cup.

17. Make sure every drop is dripped into the cups.

18. Serve the guests by gently moving a tea cup in front of each one and politely asking them to drink. Extra guests beyond three must wait for the next round, and the same three cups are reused.

19. Before sipping, guests should first smell the tea. Hosts will also often offer the teapot lid for guests to smell. Smelling is very important because 90% of the taste of tea is in the smell.

20. Everyone is to take sips of the tea and savor the taste. Connoisseurs often loudly slurp the tea and swish it around in their cheeks to be sure all taste buds are engaged.

21. Everyone should smell their empty cup after drinking. The teapot or gaiwan lid will often be offered as well.

This process is repeated each time the tea is served, and a single serving of tea (3-8 grams) can be reused 4-8 times, until the flavor has faded. Depending on the speed of consumption, the warming steps may be left out if not needed.

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