What is Gong Fu Cha?

What is Gong Fu Cha?

The best state of mind to drink tea in is deep meditation. The second best time is while looking at a beautiful scenery or while listening to music. The third best time is during a stimulating conversation. In all cases, it is necessary to strive for a quiet and peaceful state of mind.

Pai chang, Chinese Zen Master




"Gong Fu Cha" is a method, for preparing a cup of tea, that originated from China, the home country of the tea plant, and has, over the years, become a classic method of brewing tea leaves in the east. This method, this brewing technology, allows us to prepare our tea in the best possible way for consumption, making the warm drink a part of ourselves. Gong Fu Cha infusions reveal the complete profile of the tea leafs, through which we literally blend taste and health into a cup of tea.


Gong Fu Cha can become an art, a ceremony or a ritual, but it is essentially an opportunity to enjoy the full potential of the tea and get to know its character by exploring: the shape of the leaves, the colour of the brew, the nuances of taste and aroma.


In the traditional sense, gong fu (or kung fu) is the path to realizing all human potential, harmonizing the life of the body and the spirit. The term Chinese itself has many meanings - "prepared with care", "skill that comes with practice", "the ability to do something right". Gong fu can actually be applied to any art, including wu shu (or Chinese martial arts, often called kung fu in the West), painting, music, or anything else that is done with care and appreciation. In terms of tea, gong fu means "the ability to make our tea well" - with attention and as a series of precise movements. 


In the preparation and serving of Gong Fu Cha Tea, the tea itself takes first place - its aroma, taste, aftertaste. This distinguishes Gong Fu Cha from a Japanese tea ceremony, for example, where symbolism and ritual activities are in the spotlight. Of course, as a tradition that has stood the test of centuries, Gong Fu Cha also has a certain ritual, except that in Gong Fu Cha it is not an end goal in itself. The process can be as ritualistic or elaborate as the leader of the tea experience desires it to be.


Gong Fu Cha can be a bridge between the host and his guests to a world of elegance, serenity, clarity and harmony. On the other hand, Gong Fu Cha can be a much more informal act whereby one prepares a cup of tea for themselves, fully committed to the process and then finds time to enjoy it or share it with a loved one. That is why we say that Gong Fu Cha is basically a method of making tea and more discipline and attitude than ceremony.


In the following lines, we will tell you a little more about the ritual aspect of Gong Fu Cha. In order for the magic of Gong Fu Cha to happen, attention is paid to each component - the tea master and his guests, the creation of a pleasant and relaxed atmosphere, properly selected tea utensils and supplies, good water and, of course, tea. And when it comes to the quality of the cup of tea served to the guests - what is important is the quality of the tea itself, the amount of leaves, the quality of the water, the water temperature and the brewing time. We discuss these things in more detail in the Cup of Chai Malko article


There are several separate stages that flow seamlessly into each other in the preparation of tea and the communication between the leader of the experience, the guests and the tea itself:



The first step is the meeting between the water and the teaware. Tea Master pours pre-heated water into the pot and cups, water warming them well inside and out. This way the teaware wakes up - the walls get hot and when we add the leaves for the first infusion a little later, the dishes will not reduce the water temperature. In addition, hot water practically sterilizes the vessels and ensures that nothing will interfere with the experience nor take away from the characteristics of the tea.



The aroma of tea deserves equal attention with the taste of tea. Using a wooden or bamboo spoon, the tea leaves are added to the kettle, after which the master hands the tea to the participant sitting on the left, who opens the lid of the kettle, inhales its excellent aroma and then passes the kettle to the next participant.

The aroma can reveal the quality of the tea, its age and even the ways in which the tea masters have handled the leaves during the processing of the tea leaves.



The process of familiarizing the tea leaves with water is an important point and requires special care. The Tea Master fills the kettle with hot water and a slightly sliding motion that resembles a spring breeze, covering it with the lid so that the water overflows. In this way, air bubbles and small particles from the surface of the water are cleared. This first infusion or wash is a very short but obligatory step and it is not served to the guests but poured away.

In China, it is said that the water from this wash is not served even to your enemies. This is a process that not only demonstrates our attitude towards tea and our guests, but also has a purely practical purpose:

  • we wake up the dry tea leaves, which absorb water and begin to open up, preparing to release their aromas
  • we wash away the super fine dust off the tea and tiny broken petals to make it even infusion
  • we wash the tea leaves just as we wash our fruits and vegetables



After we have awakened the tea, from now on, it is ready to surprise us with its flavour and complex aromas. Next, the Tea Master opens the kettle and sends the wet tea leaves clockwise between the participants so that they can smell the tea before tasting it. Traditionally, guests are invited to smell the lid of the kettle, as the delicate nuances of its aroma can first be felt there.



It's time for the first sip. The tea master pours water into the kettle and serves the guests the first real brew. Understanding the aroma of tea occupies an important place in the tea tradition and guests are invited to continue exploring it before tasting the tea for the first time. There are different variations on how you can smell the first brew, but very often pairing of two tea cups, one long and one short, are used.

The tea master pours the tea into the tall cup and covers it with the short one, passing it to the guest on the left. The guest rolls over the cups, raises the tall cup, and pours the tea into the short cup. Thus, the aroma of the first infusion remains "locked" between the walls of the narrow and tall cup and we can enjoy it before we taste the tea.

Next comes the first encounter with the taste of tea - the first sipping small sips and dipping into its delicate notes. Good tea leaves a deep, all-encompassing aftertaste in your mouth.



With Gong Fu Cha, we use a large amount of leaves relative to the volume of water and the same leaves are used for several consecutive short brews. Depending on the type of tea and volume of liquor prepared, the number of actual infusions can vary (e.g. 4 to 8 in standard 250-300mL cups), with each subsequent infusion increasing the infusion time over the previous infusion. This is how we get to know the tea - each subsequent infusion reveals a little more to the profile of the tea, offering us different palettes of delicate shades of flavours and aromas.



At the end of the ceremony, the tea leaves are removed from the kettle and displayed to the guests again clockwise. Participants in the ceremony can look at the wet leaves, pay their respects to the tea and thank the tea master for the peaceful relaxation and meditative state of body and mind during the ceremony.


Gong Fu Cha can be filled with symbolism in every single action, imbued with both Chinese philosophy and legends, and subtleties of purely practical meaning. It is these subtleties that are the subject of our greatest interest - how to preserve the most valuable of the tradition that has stood the test of time for centuries, and adapt it to our modern way of life without compromising on quality.

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