The Chinese Tea Ceremony


Gongfu Chá, also known as “工 gongfucha” or the “Tea Ceremony 功 Kung Fu” is a relatively famous tradition of Minnan (閩南) and Chaozhou (潮州) or Chaoshan (潮汕).

It makes use of a small Yixing teapot of about 100-150 ml to enhance the aesthetics, and more importantly, to “complete” the taste of the tea being brewed. Infusion by means of a Yixing teapot caters to the formal, and is used for the private enjoyment of tea, as well as for welcoming guests.

Depending on the region of China the steps may be different, as well as the tools used for the preparation of tea (for example Ceremonia the Taiwanese style Gongfu cha which makes use of many additional tools, including tongs and a tea strainer).

This procedure is mostly applicable to Oolong teas, although some use it to prepare Puer and other double fermented teas.

The gongfu tea ceremony or (Chinese: 工夫茶 sometimes referred to as Chinese: 功夫 茶), is a kind of Chinese tea ceremony, is a Chinese cultural activity involving the preparation and ritual presentation of tea. It is probably based on tea preparation approaches that originated in Fujian and Guangdong.

When we engage in tasting and evaluating tea it is very different from drinking tea just for pleasure. In order to evaluate a tea, we need to be aware of all the potential qualities that make the act of drinking both interesting and enjoyable.

Pin Cha then takes on the extra significance of familiarizing ourselves with a tea and with tea as a beverage in general. Most of the time when we will be assessing the quality of tea, we will be using teapots or gaiwans from the Gongfu tea ceremony and small cups called Pin Cha Bei. The reasons for this are many:

When we are tasting tea and trying to evaluate its quality, it is important not to swallow. We must actually spend enough time together with the tea in order to fully enjoy its aroma, taste, sensation on the palate, smoothness and sweetness.

Using smaller mugs means we can’t hold as much tea in our mouths all at once as we could with a mug.

Generally when we taste tea, we will have other people accompanying us in order to get others’ opinions on whether this tea is good or not.

As the teapots in use are usually very small, it is important that the cups are small enough so that everyone in the room can receive a cup of tea.

There are five basic requirements for tasting Chinese tea:

  • Appearance
  • Scent (both before and after adding water)
  • Taste in mouth/feel in mouth
  • Sweetness
  • Softness

When we prepare to taste a tea, we must be careful to keep these five aspects in mind, while preparing the leaves, adding water, smelling their aroma, tasting the tea, and recognizing its taste and aftertaste.

It can be very helpful to suck the tea into our mouths as we drink it. A good idea is to sip the water down the sides of your mouth to cover each part evenly.

In this way we get a more complete idea of what the sensation is like on the palate, whether it tends entirely towards bitterness or acidity, and how much or how little sweetness it brings.

Typically, beginners might want to bring along a small notebook and write down all the sensations they experienced while drinking tea. Those with more experience will be able to tell if the tea is good or not quite quickly.

Although taste is subjective, it is important to recognize that odors such as rotten eggs, fish, or soil are generally not considered desirable qualities in tea. In addition, natural sweetness, lingering aftertaste, a lift in spirits, and pleasant sensations in the body are associated with high quality tea.

Although the process of tea tasting is represented with the two characters, 品茶, these two words carry a world of meanings.

The term literally means “preparation of tea with commitment.” Today, the approach is commonly used by tea rooms that feature teas of Chinese origin, and by tea connoisseurs as a way to maximize the flavor of a selection of teas, especially a more premium selection.


1. The first step in the preparation of Ceremonia is known as “warming the teapot and cups”. At this point the cups and teapot are placed on the table. They are then heated and sterilized with hot water, the excess is then thrown away.

When pouring from Taiwanese-style Lăorénchá cups, wooden tweezers can be used instead of bare hands.

2. The second stage of preparation is known as “appreciating excellent tea”. At this point those who will share the tea during the ceremony examine and appreciate its appearance, smell, and other characteristics.

3. The third stage of preparation is known as “The Black Dragon enters the palace” (this term, in particular, is used when Oolong tea is used for the ceremony, as “Oolong” literally means “Black Dragon”).

The teapot is filled with tea. For a 150 ml teapot at least 5 grams of tea leaves are used, but depending on the size of the teapot and the strength of the tea the teapot can be filled between 1/2 and 2/3.

4. The leaves are now rinsed with hot water poured from a height above the teapot, this operation is known as “rinsing from an elevated container”. This is done by placing the teapot in the collection vessel.

Water heated to the appropriate temperature for the tea is then poured into the teapot until it runs out. Any residue or bubbles that form on the surface are then gently removed with a spoon to keep the tea around the mouth of the teapot, which is then closed with the lid.

This passage is known as “the spring wind lapping at the surface.”

5. At this point, opinions differ as to what should be done with the tea. Some suggest that the tea be left to steep for a short time, and poured into cups, which means “washing the immortal twice”.

This is done so that the temperature inside and outside of the teapot is the same. Others recommend pouring the first brew immediately into all cups without leaving the tea to steep.


Ceremonia Pin Cha (品茶), meaning “to taste tea”, refers to the act of tasting and evaluating a tea but, culturally speaking, contains many other important nuances.

Studying tea only to the level where you get to be a tasting expert, is already a very good achievement on the road to understanding Cha Dao.

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