The term "gongfu" denotes any skill that is developed through great practice such as chinese painting, martial arts or chinese tea making. Gongfu tea generally refers to the more formal preparation of chinese tea using either gaiwans or small, unglazed teapots made of purple sand from Yixing, China. Gongfu tea preparation uses short, multiple infusions of a single batch of leaves, which brings out the maximum flavor of tea. It is a precise and thoughtful ritual that allows the tea lover to fully appreciate all the sensory aspects of tea, the beauty of the leaf and its subtle flavor and aroma.
Gongfu brewing with a gaiwan is recommended for all types of tea. Because of the absorbency and insulation of unglazed teapots, gongfu brewing using Yixing teapots is recommended for oolong and pu-erh teas.
Follow these guidelines:
Arrange your utensils
The key accessories needed to prepare tea in the gongfu style are either a gaiwan or small Yixing teapot, a serving pitcher, small tasting cups and a wastewater bowl or draining tray. Prepare the tea leaves and have them ready to be placed into the brewing vessel as soon as it has been warmed.
Rinse the teapot and cups
This step signifies the beginning of the tea making ritual and represents the purification of the brewing vessel so that it is free of dust and residue.
Pour hot water from the tea kettle into the empty teapot or gaiwan to fill it completely and then pour the water from the teapot into the serving pitcher and then into the tasting cups. After rinsing, the water should be discarded into the wastewater bowl or draining tray.
Rinse the tealeaves
This step removes any dust from the leaves and opens them up to release the tea's aroma. Add enough dry leaves to the teapot to fully cover the bottom of the teapot or gaiwan. Pour hot water over the tea leaves and immediately pour this water into the wastewater bowl or draining tray. Remove the lid and savor the aroma of the leaves.
Infuse and serve
Fill the teapot or gaiwan to the top with water of the appropriate temperature and cover. Let tea steep about 1 minute for the first brew.
When the leaves have infused, pour the tea out into the serving pitcher and then into the tasting cups.
One of the benefits of using high quality, loose leaf teas is that they can be re-steeped up to 2 or 3 times for green and white teas and up to 6 times for oolong and pu-erh teas. To re-steep, increase the steeping time about 15-20 seconds with each infusion. Experiment with steeping times to accommodate your taste. However, excessively long steeping can result in a bitter infusion. It is not recommended that tea leaves be left for a long period of time between infusions.