Thursday, March 04, 2010

Gongfu Tea at Tao of Tea

Gongfu utensils
I recently had the chance to introduce my DH (dear hubby) to one of my favorite places, the Classical Chinese Garden in Portland. After a tour of the garden we shared tea at the Tower of Cosmic Reflections (managed by the Tao of Tea) tearoom.

Last time I was here I had tea in the gaiwan style. This time we shared tea in the gongfu style. Gongfu is a Chinese tea ceremony. It is used with oolong and pu-erh teas. I will describe the ceremony as I experienced it (there are variations).

The utensils are shown in the photo at the top of the page. You need a kettle for the hot water, a drain tray for rinsing the tea (and pouring out the water), a clay teapot, a container for the brewed tea, the aroma (cylindrical) cups and thimble-sized drinking cups (not shown in the top photo), and of course a special tea.

We were drinking
Mensong tea, a pu-erh from an old growth tea forest.

First, the teapot and cups are warmed and rinsed with the hot water. The water is poured out through the slots in the drain tray.

Next, the participants take note of the shape, texture and aroma of the dry leaf. Then the tea leaves are added to the pot and and rinsed. This rinsing liquid is poured off.

Now the leaves are steeped again (considered the first brewing). In my case, the tea was poured into the glass pitcher and from there into the small cylindrical cups, then topped with the tasting cups. The two are inverted - and the participant uses the cylindrical (aroma) cups to inhale the essence of the tea.

First brewing poured into the aroma cups

Cups are inverted and participants appreciate the aroma from the tall, cylindrical cups

Again, this brew was poured off (and over the teapot).

Now we are ready to taste the tea! The next brew (and several more) are poured into the small tasting cups and enjoyed. According to tradition, this should be consumed in three sips.

It's a special moment focused on the conscious appreciation of tea. Unfortunately, my description leaves out a lot of nuance and detail. If you ever have the chance to attend a gongfu tea ceremony, please do!

(Apologies to my Oregon friends! I didn't have time for a visit this trip.)


Mary Jane said...

What a lovely experience to share with your DH, Steph. So nice that you were able to spend time enjoying the wonderful tea ceremony.

Hope all is well with you.

Mary Jane

Marilyn said...

I thought you might be here, but totally understand. Glad to see you enjoyed tea at the gardens. Isn't is a peaceful place right in the middle of the city? I love it.

I hope it was a good and successful trip.

Southern Touch Catering said...

Wow. This sounds like an amazing experience. A lot to remember for the server, but how wonderful to be able to experience it.

Linda J. said...

What a tea-lightful experience to share with your DH!

parTea lady said...

Thanks for sharing your interesting gongfu tea experience -nice photos.

Jan E said...

From another Portlander and tea lover--"welcome to our city". We really do enjoy the beauties we find here. Hope to meet you someday for tea.

Marlena said...

What fun! Good for you.

Philigry said...

oh, how intersting, that must have been so relaxing! I love the white tea cups!

Susan said...

If I can not pronounce it, I usually do not drink it!

La Tea Dah said...

You just described tea at one of my most favorite tea places! I've only been there once --- but the memory lingers on and on. I look forward to going back again some day.

Lovely post

Angela McRae said...

I enjoyed this post and the great photos!