A brief introduction
The ancient art of the Chinese tea ceremony is known to be a ceremony of the highest esteem that a host can offer a guest. While the Chinese tea ceremony is remarkably simpler compared to the Japanese version, (the Japanese version tends to be more rigid and pays a lot of attention on the structure of the environment whereas the Chinese tea ceremony pays more attention on attaining the perfect brew) there are fixed steps to be followed as well.
Though there are many versions of the Chinese tea ceremony, the one that is considered the most sophisticated among all is the Gongfu tea ceremony. It is thought to originate from either Guangdong or Fujian. This tea ceremony suits oolong teas best and is occasionally used for pu’er tea as well.
There are six factors to take into consideration when performing a tea ceremony:
The host should be cheerful yet calm to create a relaxing ambience.
2. Tea Selection
Besides having a great taste, shape and fragrance, it should have an elegant background (i.e. name and story) as well.
3. Water selection
Hard and distilled water should never be used to boil tea. Distilled water gives the tea a “flat” taste while hard water makes it taste bad. Optimally, clean and clear spring water should be used.
4. Tea ware selection
True, lacquered tea ware looks beautiful but the pots that brings out the best in fermented teas are the Yixing teapots, which do not glaze, remaining porous even after being fired in the kiln. One pot should be used to brew only one type of tea, as the pot absorbs some tea and the flavour of the tea will be enhanced as time goes by.
The tea ceremony area must be clean and spacious enough to not feel cramped. Ideally, it should be quiet as well. Incense, music or artworks are sometimes used to enhance the environment, though it might not be necessary since a tea ceremony can be performed outdoors.
The host should have a graceful manner while performing the tea ceremony which can be seen through the hand movements and facial expressions.
This timeless ceremony blends the three teachings that have shaped China. The Buddhism’s Middle Way, the Confucian Golden Mean and the Taoism’s Way of the Tao. It requires one to have a calm demeanour, good ethics in aspects such as tea serving; and respectful interaction among one another. A tea ceremony fosters good relations among one another as well as bringing a sense of serenity by reminding mankind of their relationship with nature.
Process of a typical GongfuTea (工夫茶) Ceremony
- 闻香杯 (wén xiāng bēi)
Narrow snifter cup (shown on the left) used to appreciate the tea’s scent. Tea is not drunk from these cups.
- 品茗杯 (pǐn míng bēi)
- 茶托 (chá tuō)
A small saucer for the teacup (sometimes smaller than what is pictured; being just enough to hold the teacup)