The tea ceremony is a fascinating event, which is great not only because it involves tasting great tea, but also because it is held with all respect for this legendary drink. In China, the tea ceremony is called gongfu-cha, and the essence of this ritual is woven from thousands of small and seemingly inconspicuous details. The hidden charm of kung fu-cha becomes apparent only when those present begin to notice these important details.
So, what is a tea ceremony and how to get real pleasure from tea drinking? To begin with, we note that gongfu-cha traces its history back to the XV century, and the appearance of this ritual is sometimes associated with the invention of the famous Yixing teapots made of clay.
Tea utensils.
No tea ceremony can be considered complete without special devices and special dishes. For classical kung fu cha, the following items are required:
1) A table on which all the utensils are displayed. Most often, the tables are made of wood. They are boxes with lids in which there are slots for the drain of water spilled during the ceremony. The fact is that during the entire ritual of tea drinking, the table and all the dishes are actively watered with water. Water is a symbol of life for the Chinese, so the more water is spilled during the Kung fu cha, the better.
2) A teapot for brewing (chahu) or a special bowl with a lid (gaiwan), which bears the beautiful name “cup of abundance”.
3) A jug for pouring tea from chahu or gaiwani before the drink is poured into the cups.
4) The strainer used with the jug. It serves to ensure that the tea leaves do not get into the cups.
5) Bowls on stands that will serve as tea pairs. Bowls are usually made of clay and covered with white enamel on the inside.
6) Chahe, or a spoon in the form of a small scoop, with which the dry leaves are transferred to the gaiwan. Sometimes it is used to show dry tea to guests.
7) Wooden tweezers, which are used in the process of shifting the dry tea leaves or rinsing the bowls with water.
8) A special stick with a spoon-shaped cutout at the thickened end, which is used for stirring tea in chahu or gaiwani.
9) Kettle for boiling water.
Note that in China, the uniformity of tea utensils, which is often observed in Europe, is not so fundamental. With a clay teapot, porcelain bowls are perfectly combined, because, whatever it was, the utensils are secondary in comparison with the tea itself and serve only for the preparation of the drink.
Before you start the ceremony, you need to get rid of foreign odors: wash your hands, rinse your mouth, do not use perfume. When all the participants of the ceremony are seated around the table, the performance begins.
Stages of the tea ceremony.
For clarity, we propose to divide the gongfu-cha ritual into several main stages.
Stage 1-boiling water. As a rule, the water is boiled in the immediate vicinity of the tea table.
Stage 2 – demonstration of tea. The owner shows the audience the dried tea leaves that he is going to brew. This stage is by no means a fad, because a good tea is nice to look at! In addition, the leaves have an amazing smell, which begins the acquaintance of guests with tea. In no case should you “poke” your finger into the tea with the words ” oh, how pretty!”, because the tea leaves instantly absorb foreign odors. And anyway-it’s kind of rude.
Stage 3 – rinsing the dishes with hot water. This procedure is extremely important, as the dishes are warmed up, cleaned of dust and evil spirits. You need to wash the dishes both from the inside and outside, and all the water involved in ablution is poured into the perforated lid of the table.
Stage 4 – filling of the brew. Dry leaves are placed in the chakha with tweezers or simply poured out, the main thing is not to touch them with your hands. The amount of brewing depends on many nuances: the number of guests, the type of tea, the preferences of tasters, etc. The standard dose is 5-6 grams.
Stage 5 — the first fill. The water temperature varies depending on the type of tea — from 60 to 90 degrees. The more strongly the tea is fermented, the hotter the liquid should be. The first pouring of tea with water is not yet brewing, as it is drained to wash the leaves. The first filling should not be allowed to infuse, as it will still go to the drain. With this water, the owner also washes the dishes, pouring water from cup to cup, and then pours it into the table.
Stage 6 — the second fill. In chahu or gaiwan again pour hot water, cover with a lid and lightly pour the kettle on top. After that, they usually make a pause — quite a small one. They say that three breaths and three exhalations are enough-and the tea is ready. In general, the duration of brewing is developed by a master with experience, when he gets used to the dishes, learns different varieties of tea.
Stage 7-tea transfusion. Through a strainer, the infusion is poured into a jug, after making several circular movements with a teapot, and then poured into cups. It is necessary to make sure that no tea leaves remain in the teapot after pouring the tea. If it still remains, then it is simply drained into the table. As you know, many types of Chinese tea can withstand several brews, the number of which depends on a number of factors. The main factor is the type of tea. For example, a good oolong can be brewed 5-7 times, pu-erh-up to 10 times. Moreover, with each new filling, the tea will open in a new way, delighting those present with unique shades of the bouquet.
This completes the technical side of the tea ceremony and begins the most interesting-tea tasting. First, the gourmet inhales the magical aroma of the drink, permeated with many beautiful notes, and then takes the first sip. By the way, it is customary to drink tea in small sips, prolonging the pleasure. Some experts say that the ceremony should be held in silence, so as not to interfere with this solemn process. However, it is unlikely that any of the gourmets will be able to sit in silence, because the topics for conversation arise by themselves. And how can you refrain from discussing the magical taste of the drink!
Real Chinese tea gives a whole kaleidoscope of taste and aroma tones, which with each new sip unfold more and more widely in front of the gourmet. For example, oolong tea has a delicate floral aroma, slowly turning into a sweetness that resembles the tones of molasses and honey. High-quality aged pu-erh, as a rule, has a sliding, easy-to-pass taste, in which there are hints of dates and prunes, and a pleasant sweet aftertaste.
And now the ceremony is over. At this stage, the master can extract the tea leaves from the chahu to admire them or even taste them. The water from the table, of course, is drained, and the kettle is rinsed. All dishes should be washed with clean water, but in no case “Fairy with lemon”, and wipe dry with a napkin or towel.
In conclusion, we add that gongfu-cha is not just a tea party, but a whole philosophy. This ritual should not be fussy and carried out in a hurry. You will notice that at the ceremony, time begins to flow in a completely different way. Suddenly you realize that all life with its daily routine remains somewhere on the sidelines, outside the tea room. In these moments, you begin to appreciate every minute. You can enjoy the ritual, have a conversation with your loved ones, or immerse yourself in your own thoughts. Agree, such moments in our lives happen infrequently!