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Fujian tea ceremony

The Fujian tea ceremony, also known as 功夫茶 (gong1 fu1 cha2) is a specific way of preparing tea -- specifically oolong, although sometimes used also for black teas. The process is considered inappropriate for the much more delicate nature of green teas.

Unlike the Chanoyu from Japan, in which the tea is almost, but not quite, incidental to the ceremony, gongfu cha is very much about the tea. Showy, tourist-oriented tea houses in big Chinese cities will include many long, fanciful, but ultimately questionable stories about why each step was created, giving each one names like "Dragon Bows to the Water", but in reality the steps of the ceremony are oriented toward extracting the best possible flavour from the brewing process.

Table of contents
1 Equipment
2 Ceremony procedures
3 External links


For the ideal execution of this particular tea-brewing system, there are several key components required: Note that having an especially high-quality tea is not a prerequisite to this brewing ceremony. A mediocre tea brewed properly will taste better coming from the gongfu cha ceremony than will a high quality tea brewed improperly.


The teapots used in this ceremony are best made from unglazed yixing clay, not porcelain. This is primarily because clay pots hold heat for a long time, thus keeping the temperature even and high for a long period of time. It also has the additional effect of melding the flavours from previous brews with the current one as the oils in the tea fill in the holes of the unglazed clay.

Ideally the pot should be small and paired with a second serving pot to help evenly blend the tea flavour. The equivalent of approximately one teacup of tea is brewed at a time in this approach and the tea is consumed from very small cups. This permits very fine control of temperature vs. brewing time.

When such specialty pots are not available, regular-sized pots are also usable, but they suffer from a lack of control over brewing times and temperatures, reducing the quality of the ensuing tea as a result.


The water should be "just boiled" (about 98 degrees Celsius) for oolong and black teas. It should be filtered of chlorine, salt and other such treatments, but it should not be distilled nor demineralised -- distilled/demineralised water results in very "flat"-tasting tea. A constant supply of such water is needed for the ceremony as the water is used to: When the water is used to brew, the pot, whatever the size, is filled to the brim and the lid used to sweep away any foam (considered very unattractive in the tea) or floating tea leaves. Water is then used on the closed pot to help keep its temperature up.

Drip tray

A drip tray is used for brewing the tea because of the constant use of water to warm, wash and brew. An almost constant supply of water spills over the pots and cups as the ceremony progresses and this is caught by the drip tray to prevent it from spreading over the table. In the absence of an actual drip tray, a bowl can be used instead. The bowl must be big enough to contain the brewing pot (whatever its size).

Ceremony procedures

For detailed instructions, an external site will be best.[1] A brief summary, however, follows.


A suitable space must be provided. A table large enough to hold the tea-making utensils, the drip tray, and the water is the minimum necessary. Ideally the surroundings should be peaceful and condusive to relaxation and socialisation. Incense, flowers and low, soft, traditional music will all add to the ambience, as will songbirds.


Water should be brought to a boil and transferred to some kind of portable stove to keep it on the edge of boiling. The pots should have their lids removed and placed on the drip tray. The cups and aroma cylinders (the latter only if present) should be also placed face-up on the drip tray.

The brewing pot is filled to the brim with hot water, its lid placed on it, and then more hot water is spilled around the outside to raise the temperature quickly and evenly. The water is then transferred in turn to the serving pot, the aroma cylinders (if present) and finally to the serving cups. This is done to bring the temperature up to appropriate levels while washing out any dust which may have accumulated in the utensils.

Tea is measured and placed into the brewing pot. The pot is filled full of water and left for a short time (under thirty seconds) before once again being emptied in turn into the serving pot, the aroma cylinders and the serving cups. This serves to wash the tea of unpleasant fragments which tend to leave the tea bitter and also to help remove some of the tannins in oolong teas.

Brewing (first round)

The first round of brewing begins with filling the pot full of near-boiling water. The pot is filled to the brim and excess foam and tea leaves are simply swept aside by the lid before placing it firmly on top. A little extra hot water poured over the top helps keep the temperature high. The tea is brewed for approximately one minute and then quickly transferred to the serving pot to mix it evenly, avoiding uneven flavour from cup to cup. A narrow, metal filter can be used to catch fine particles that would spoil the flavour of the tea.

Serving with aroma cylinders
Once the tea is in the serving pot, it is transferred to the aroma cylinders, filling them approximately 70% full. The serving cups are then placed over the cylinders as lids and the assembly is turned upside down, leaving the tea suspended inside the cylinders now upside-down in the cup. The assembly is then placed on a small serving tray and given to the tea drinkers.

When everybody has received their teacups and cylinders, the cylinders are lifted from the cups, spilling their contents into the serving cups. They are then held underneath the nose for appreciation of the aroma. (A common technique is to hold the cylinders between the hands under the nose and rolling the cylinder rapidly between the hands.)

The tea is now consumed. Tea should not be sipped lightly in tiny bursts. The cup should be emptied in at most two gulps. For maximal impact, the tea should be swished around inside the mouth quickly to bathe every part of the tongue, thereby activating all taste buds as well as bringing the aroma to the back of the nose.

Subsequent brews

A quality oolong tea is good for anywhere from five to six brewings with the best being traditionally the second and third. Each subsequent brewing follows basically the same format -- a minute brewing and transfer to the serving pot. The aroma cylinders are not used in subsequent brews, however, and tea is served directly to the serving cups as they are emptied.

See also:

External links