It was not long before tea expanded its reach and was incorporated more and more into daily life, and began to be enjoyed solely for its own pleasures. Since the beginning of the Ming dynasty, teahouses sprung up all over the country, and people of all ages would come at all hours of the day to drink tea and enjoy each others’ company. In this way, tea was never confined to a strict time of the day, but could be taken at any time. Besides mealtime, tea is served to welcome guests as a form of respect, and is a long-held tradition in all classes.
The Chinese practice a form of tea ceremony called Gong Fu. In a Gong Fu style tea ceremony, the tea master preparing the tea for the group is considered an artist in his or her own right. Styles for pouring the water and tea vary individually, and many devote a lot of time practicing difficult and artistic manoeuvres. The equipment for this tea ceremony would be a clay Yi-Xing pot and several small teacups, a tea sink or shallow bowl for draining water into, and a few bamboo tools for handling the hot objects. Arranging the teapot and cups in a circular fashion over the tea sink or in the bowl, the tea master pours hot water into each to rinse the objects and to warm them so that the temperature of the tea is more consistent. This rinse water is discarded, and then a generous helping of tea leaves, usually oolong, is measured into the pot. More hot water is then poured into the pot and the tea leaves will begin steeping.
Every infusion of the tea leaves in Gong Fu ceremony is very quick, about 20 to 30 seconds. Hot water is usually poured over the outside of the teapot, and when the water is seen to be fully evaporated, the tea is ready to be poured. Then the tea master will begin pouring in a continuous flow around to each of the teacups, a little at a time, resulting in each person having the equal amount and strength of tea in his or her cup. After enjoying this first round of tea, the leaves may be re-steeped for many more infusions.
Gong Fu Tea Ceremony
With or without ceremony, we hope you enjoy your tea just the way you like it in tea ware that suits you!