Gong Fu Brewing: Tea and Mindfulness
If the title of this blog brings martial arts and fancy kung-fu moves to mind, you're not alone, and you wouldn't be entirely wrong. Like martial arts like Kung-Fu, gong fu brewing embraces mindfulness and meditation. Both can be a healthy morning ritual, and both originate in Asia. However, one has to do with fancy moves and the other with drinking tea.
This article explains what gong fu cha is and how it originated. It defines mindfulness and explores how this practice perfectly connects with tea drinking, especially loose-leaf tea.
In a previous article, we explored different types of tea and how to brew them. This article will show you what you need to practice gong fu cha brewing and give you step-by-step instructions and a handy guide for basic measurements, steeping times, and water temperatures based on the type of tea you use.
What is Gong Fu Brewing?
Gong fu cha literally means "making tea skillfully." It refers to making and drinking tea using refined processes with multiple steps. It is a ceremony steeped in tradition and requires skills and techniques.
The gong fu tea-making method demands time, focus, effort, and energy as you slowly start brewing your loose-leaf tea. You also need tea utensils like a teapot, tea cups, and more. Your goal will be to create the ultimate pot of tea by taking time to adjust each component of the tea-making process, including:
The quality and quantity of tea leaves to use.
The quality and amount of water you use.
The water temperature.
How long to steep the tea for.
The teaware you use.
How you pour the water on the tea.
How you pour the tea from the pot.
Furthermore, the process requires you to brew large amounts of leaves in a small brewing vessel. Your teapot may even be filled to the brim with leaves as you observe the perfect brewing times. Sometimes this will be as short as 10 seconds per brew, and other times a little longer.
The loose-leaf tea will evolve with each infusion as the flavors develop and become more interesting. The goal is to make the perfect cup of tea that showcases all the tea's best qualities. Tea masters have studied all the tea-making components for centuries. You can use their time-tested methods or experiment and perfect your own tea brewing methods.
The Benefits of Gong Fu Cha
With gong fu brewing, you can extract a wider range of flavors from the tea than with western brewing. It is a multi-sensory experience. You use your sense of taste, smell, touch, hearing, and sight as you slowly move through every step.
The simple act of filling a teapot or traditional gaiwan with loose-leaf tea and hot water can be a type of meditation or art form. Or it can be a fun and interactive activity to enjoy with friends or family. You can experiment with different teas and blends or stick to your favorites. It is also a fun way to experience the different nuances of a new tea you may not have experienced before.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness has a simple definition, but it can be challenging to achieve! It is about being completely present and in the moment at that particular time, knowing where you are and what you are doing. According to research, it can help you to deal with stress!
Mindfulness is also about avoiding feeling overwhelmed or acting overly reactive in response to our surroundings. Some people achieve this through meditation, while others need different ways to achieve mindfulness.
How Drinking Tea the Gong Fu Way Promotes Mindfulness
Tea is a beverage for every occasion and provides the perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness and meditation. There is something about the focus required for brewing the perfect pot of tea. From boiling the water and measuring out the perfect amount of tea leaves to waiting for it to steep until the infusion is just right - brewing tea is a process that requires patience and mindfulness.
When you brew tea with the gong fu cha method, it requires more focus and patience because it takes longer. But the benefits make it worth every moment. The result is a process that can promote mindfulness and reduce stress while providing you with a delicious pot of tea.
Adjusting each component of gong fu tea making becomes a meditative art form as you focus on the moment in time and the task at hand. Then, as you sit down in a calm space and begin sipping your tea and savoring the aroma and flavor, you'll feel the stress wash away. With every sip, you can focus on that moment in time.
How to Brew Tea With the Gong Fu Cha Method
If you love the idea of tea and mindfulness and want to try this amazing tea practice, this short guide will show you what you need to start with the gong fu cha method and the steps you should take.
What you need for gong fu brewing
The basic items for gong fu tea making are:
A brewing vessel like a teapot or gaiwan. A gaiwan is a type of cup with a lid used to brew tea. It is usually a relatively small cup made from porcelain, glass, or clay, with a capacity of between 70ml and 250ml. Here's a great alternative teapot you can also use!
A gong dao bei. A gong dao bei or "fairness cup" is a vessel you use to pour the brewed tea into before serving it. The idea is to ensure that you distribute the tea evenly. If you don't have a traditional gong dao bei, don't worry! You can use a cup like this one instead.
Small cups. The cups should hold around three sips of tea. The purpose is to help you smell the aroma and taste its flavor as you drink tea.
The type of teaware you use is important because the material it is made from can affect the taste. A teapot or gaiwan manufactured from porcelain, glass, or clay should not adversely affect the flavor of your pot of tea.
If you love gong fu brewing and want to have a more advanced setup, you can include the following:
A cha pan. This draining tea tray makes it easier to pour the tea and helps avoid a mess.
A strainer. Using a strainer will help prevent whole tea leaf particles from getting into the cup.
A chachong. Also known as tea pets, these fun clay figurines absorb excess water and tea. Tea pets come in various shapes and change color and scent over time.
Smelling cups. These long cups are shaped like cylinders, making it easy to smell the tea's fragrance before you drink it.
A tea pick or knife. This tool is typically used to break up Pu'er cakes.
A tea towel. Some tea masters prefer to have a special tea towel for their gong fu cha sessions. It's to wipe up spilled water or hold a hot pot or kettle when pouring the water.
Utensils. There are various utensils available for handling and serving hot cups.
Mindful gong fu brewing - step-by-step
Before you begin your gong fu chan session, take a moment to slow down and gently contemplate the world around you. Clear a space for your tea-making session.
Be mindful of the following information for suggested water temperature, amount of tea leaves, and infusions.
White tea - Use water at 185°F with 4 grams of tea for every 100ml of water. Steep for 10 seconds for the first infusion and 10 seconds for each additional infusion.
Green tea - Use water at 176°F with 4 grams of leaves for every 100ml of water. Steep for 10 seconds for the first round and 10 seconds for each additional infusion.
Oolong - Use water at 203°F with 6 grams of tea for every 100ml of water. Steep for 10 seconds for the first infusion and 5 seconds for the additional infusions.
Black tea - Use water at 203°F with 5 grams of leaves for every 100ml of water. Steep for 10 seconds for the first round and 5 seconds for each additional infusion.
Choose which dry-leaf tea you want to enjoy, fill up your kettle, and turn it on. Bringing the water to a full boil before you use it, even if you make teas at lower temperatures, is essential.
Place your teapot or gaiwan, gong dao bei, and tea cups in the basin. Pour boiling water into the teapot or gaiwan to rinse it out, and do the same for the gon dao bei, the cups, and any other teaware you're using. This exercise is called "waking up" the teaware.
Place the loose-leaf tea you've selected in your brewing vessel. If you prefer to rinse the tea, pour hot water into the teapot over the leaves, allow it to steep for a few seconds, and pour the infusion out. Although rinsing is optional, many tea masters with a passion for perfection enjoy this step. It helps the tea to steep evenly and can help open tightly rolled teas.
If needed, boil the water again. Pour the hot water over the leave leaves for your first brew. Leave it to steep and pour the first steeping into the gong dao bei. Also known as the "fairness cup," gong dao bei ensures everyone gets tea brewed for the same amount of time.
Repeat step 5 until you have completed your gong fu cha session. Most teas will attain optimal flavor around the 4th to 8th steeping. From then, you should lengthen the steeping time. Depending on the tea, you can continue the session for up to around 20 infusions.
Are You Ready to Drink Tea Mindfully?
Whether you enjoy drinking an energizing cup of loose-leaf tea as part of your regular morning ritual, enjoying a blend that aids digestion after your dinner, or unwinding with a tea that's also a sleeping aid, the act of preparation can be meditative. Drinking tea can be a solitary pleasure, or you can enjoy it with friends. It is a magical beverage with physical and mental health properties.
Mindfulness and tea go hand in hand, especially with an ancient tea-making process like gong fu brewing. You can make any dry-leaf tea with this method, including oolong or green tea like these. With it, you'll find that tea drinking is more than just enjoying the taste. It is also the calm and gentle adventure of preparing the perfect cup.