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Posts Tagged ‘Gongfu’

Several months ago, I set out on a journey to purchase Yixing Teapots. I initially found myself unable to make a decision. Selecting and purchasing Yixing teaware did not appear as simple as going to the local department store and buying a five-piece place setting by Mikasa.  Calphalon cookware.  Or glassware from William Sonoma. All of these are brand names that I know and love.

But Yixing Teaware? I was at a total loss – style, pricing, size, etc. Where does one begin? I also became dazed when I read and/or received additional information about – pour, authenticity, seasoning and more. It seemed like a certain level of expertise was required, that mind you I did not have, to simply select a teapot.

Thanks to several of my readers, I received the guidance I needed and soon after became the proud owner of three Yixing teapots and four cups. For the time being, my Yixing journey was put to rest. That is until recently, when I received a comment from a Yixing importer and seller containing additional guidance around pricing. I found the information very helpful to assist with future purchases. Thus instead of leaving as a comment, I have turned the expert’s advice into a post. I do hope you find the insight useful as you prepare to purchase Yixing Teaware. Take a look at what Jane, the proprietor of Necessiteas, has to say about Yixing pricing differences…

“Yixing teapots are functional art. Of course there can be fake Yixing pots (non zhi sha clay) but assuming the teapots are real, there are several factors that affect the price of a teapot. In the price range of $10.00-$100.00 these are some of the variables. One is the usefulness of the pot. Before I price a pot, I check the pour and lid. If there are drips from the spout or the lid fits poorly than the teapot is going to sell for a lower price. Another factor is the finish. If the finish is fine and smooth it will fetch a higher price. Red Zhu Ni ( one type of Zhi sha) clay will fetch a higher price. This clay provides a nice sheen on the surface of the pot. These pots are often small and often reserved for Gong fu or cermonial tea. The design of the pot is also a factor. Some are just more appealing than others to US buyers.

Once you get into the higher priced pots, the talent and the reputation of the artist will set the price. A pot created by someone without a craftsman designation may be beautiful, but generally will not garner a higher price. Among the artists, there is no shame in copying a master’s work. So you may see two pots that look very similar and one will be priced at $20.00 and the other at $20,000. A higher priced pot that is made by a contemporary artist will almost always come with a certificate of authenticity.

So, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with lower priced Yixing teapots. They are great for everyday use. The higher priced pots tend to be more for collectors than for everyday use. It’s really a matter of personal preference.”

I have fallen in love with my Yixing teapots. While not a collector, I look forward to acquiring more. They are beautiful pieces of functional art whose beauty adds something special to every use. Thanks again Jane for sharing.

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As I continued by search, to find the best Gongfu or Kungfu cha brewing technique, I found this detailed description outlined on WIKI-How. A portion of the instructions are similar to those in my last post; however, there is a great deal of additional information that I previously did not consider. There seems to more “ceremonial” actions involved as well as more emphasis on tea types. But, you can be the judge.

 

Brewing Technique #2

  1. Appreciate the tradition. In the Chinese traditional tea culture, Kung Fu tea has a certain etiquette that goes along with it, a procedure that drinkers follow. Each different place adds various details. Study the various ways in which Kung Fu tea is served and enjoyed, and eventually you will develop your own unique way.
  2. Get a tea set: This will include a tea tray (hollow tray with a container inside which can contain all the water that will be spilled during the process), teapot, fair cup (a separate tea vessel), tasting cups, and aroma cups (sniffer cups).
  3. Prepare the tea leaves in advance, so that they are ready to be placed in the pot as soon as it has been warmed. A tea caddy, or “tea presentation vessel,” is recommended for this purpose, as is a proper set of tea tools. Approximately one to two teaspoons of leaves is a good quantity to begin with and is easily adjusted to taste after the initial infusion. Keep in mind that due to the many variations of tea processing, some leaves are a lot more compact than others. For instance: in terms of volume of leaves, you will need less Tieguanyin than Yan Cha or Formosa Oolong.
  4. Rinse all vessels with hot water. This signifies that the ritual of tea making has begun by purifying the pot, cleaning it of dust and residue and making it ready to receive the tea. It also warms the vessels since the hot water is then poured into the serving pitcher and from there into the tasting cups. This is done because at room temperature ceramic teaware is usually quite cold and unsuited to brewing fine teas whose temperature must be carefully controlled. After rinsing, the water should be discarded into the draining tray or a waste water bowl.
  5. Before infusion, pour hot water over the leaves and then quickly pour it off. This removes any dust from the leaves and begins to open them up—-releasing the tea’s aroma, which should be savored prior to infusion. This set prepares the palate to appreciate the full flavor of the tea.
  6. Use pure or mineral water to brew the tea. Tap water should be avoided, since its chemical treatment imparts undesirable flavors and odors which interfere with the delicate aromatics of tea. (Home filters and other water purification systems can minimize and, in some cases, eliminate these problems.) The best water for tea brewing is spring water with a natural mineral content that’s neither too hard nor too soft. Since T.D.S., “total dissolved solids”, or mineral content measured in parts per million, varies greatly from water to water, you may want to do your own taste-test of waters available in your area to determine which one has the best flavor, body and compatibility with the tea you drink.
  7. Fill the pot to the top with hot water and cover. Pour water over the top of the pot, drawing the stream over the air hole until a little water comes out the spout. When this occurs, you know the pot is full and heated to the right temperature.
  8. Pour the water into the fair cup to heat it. A fair cup allows the tea to be poured from the teapot into a holding vessel. Sometimes these fair cups use a filter to trap unwanted tea particles that may have passed on from the teapot.
  9. Add tea leaves and let steep.
    • Oolong Tea: For light oolongs, such as Bao Zhong & Imperial Green, use 70°-80°C (158°-176°F) water and an infusion time of 3 to 5 minutes. For darker styles, including Tieguanyin & Yan Cha—between 80° and 90°C (176-194°F) again steeping 3 to 5 minutes.
    • Black Tea: You will probably find that water between 85° and 95°C (185°-203°F) and a three minute infusion works best for black tea. You may want to experiment with lower temperatures and longer steeping times.
    • Puerh Tea: Use water that’s just come to a boil and infuse 3-5 minutes.
  10. When the leaves have infused their essence, pour the tea out into the pitcher (fair cup). This intermediate step between the teapot and the individual cups allows the tea to be mixed while pouring (the first tea coming out of the teapot will be less strong than the one on the bottom of the teapot). Moreover, it allows to precisely adjust the brewing time in the teapot (all the tea comes out quickly, instead of being slowly poured in the individual cups).
  11. From the fair cup, distribute the tea in the aroma cups, keeping the pitcher close to the cups and pouring slowly. This reduces the movement of the tea, maintaining its temperature.
  12. After the aroma cups are filled, position one tasting cup, upside down, over each aroma cup. After tasting cups are positioned, take each cup pair and quickly flip it: this is a very delicate step since the cups are becoming hot on the outside. Notice that the tea will not spill out because no air can enter the aroma cups. After this is done, each guest will simply lift the aroma cup from the tasting one.  Another option to this step is to give each guest the aroma cup and separately the tasting cup. The guests will then simply pour the tea from aroma to tasting cups and proceed by smelling in the same manner.
  13. At this point, the aroma cup can be brought near the nose to receive the fragrance of the tea by inhaling the steam.
  14. After smelling, drink the tea from the tasting cups. Drink by taking small sips that allow to fully enjoy the taste, aromas and qualities of the tea.
  15. A good green tea will allow up to four or five brews. Add water to the teapot and start again from point 10 to your will.

This is a call to experienced Gongfu or Kungfu cha Brewers. After reading each technique, which of the two do you prefer. If neither, please submit your preferred Gongfu or Kungfu cha Brewing Technique either as a comment to this post or via email: teaescapade@yahoo.com.

I look forward to your responses. Until then… Happy Tea Drinking!

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As you know, I was on the prowl for Yixing Teaware, that fortunately ended in a purchase of multiple teapots. This all began from my quest to understand different brewing techniques. Over and over again, my search directed me to Gongfu or Kungfu cha brewing. Thus my search for Yixing Teaware. Backed by a successful purchase – guided by Jo of YaYa House of Excellent Teas and Jason, author of Bearsblog – I am now on the hunt for a recommended Gongfu or Kungfu cha Brewing Technique.

First, I believe a little history is important. There should always be purpose and understanding behind our actions.

According to Wikipedia, Gongfu or Kungfu cha is a tradition of the Minnan and Chaozhou or Chaoshan people. Kungfu cha teapot brewing, also know as Kungfu cha ceremony uses small Yixing Teapots of about 4 or 5 fluid ounces to enhance the aesthetics, and more importantly “round out” the taste of the tea being brewed. Yixing teapot brewing leans towards the formal, but is used for private enjoyment of the tea as well as for welcoming guests.

Now on to the actual brewing technique. The following steps are one popular way to brew tea in a form considered to be a kind of art.

Brewing Technique #1

  1. Boil water.
  2. Rinse the teapot with hot water.
  3. Fill the teapot with tea leaves up to one third of the height of the pot.
  4. Rinse the tea leaves by filling the pot with hot water up to half full and draining the water immediately leaving only tea leaves behind. (This step, and all subsequent steps involving pouring water, should be performed in a large bowl to catch any overflow.)
  5. Pour more hot water into the teapot and pour water over the teapot in the large bowl. Bubbles should not be permitted to be formed in the teapot. The infusion should not be steeped for too long: 30 seconds is an appropriate maximum.
  6. Pour the first infusion into small serving cups within a minute by continuously moving the teapot around over the cups. Each cup of tea is expected to have the same flavour, aroma and colour. The nature of this procedure almost mandates the use of some form of drip tray to catch further spillage.
  7. Pour excess tea from the first infusion, and all tea from further infusions, into a second teapot after steeping. It is possible to draw five or six good infusions from a single pot of tea, but subsequent infusions must be extended somewhat in duration to extract maximum flavour: the second infusion extended by approximately ten seconds to 40 seconds, the third extended to 45, etc.

Later today, I will publish the second technique found during my reaserch. My purpose… to find the best Gongfu or Kungfu cha Brewing Technique.

This is a call to experienced Gongfu or Kungfu cha Brewers. After reading this and subsequent posted techniques, which do you prefer. If neither, please submit your preferred Gongfu or Kungfu cha Brewing Technique either as a comment to this post or via email: teaescapade@yahoo.com.

Until Then… Happy Tea Drinking!

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Yes, I am still searching for the perfect Yixing Teapot. However, after my last post, I feel much more equipped to make an informed purchase. This is due the email I received from Jo, the proprietor of YaYa House of Excellent Teas in New Zealand as well as additional research.

Jo shared some advice from her vast wealth of tea knowledge. Many of my concerns about purchasing Yixing teaware were put to rest. First and foremost, I narrowed my concerns down to the following five questions:

1. What is my purpose for purchasing Yixing Teaware? My initial desire to purchase Yixing Teaware was created out of my love for learning – Yixing Teaware comprises traditional teapots and cups made from Yixing clay. Originating in China, Yixing Teaware dates back to the 15th century and is made from clay produced in the region of the town of Yixing, in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu. As a true lover of tea – how could I not be interested in the origins of my habit? Next the opportunity to partake in a traditional tea brewing technique – Gongfu style brewing. And finally, to behold the beauty – Yixing Teaware is made by artists… craftsman with each pot containing unique characteristics of its own.

2. How many people people will join in my tea drinking experience? I tend to drink tea alone therefore, I don’t need a large pot. My first mistake, according to Jo, was in the selection of a pot that was entirely too large for Gongfu style brewing. There are a few variations of the performance of Gongfu style brewing. Here is one known technique:

  • Boil water.
  • Rinse the teapot with hot water.
  • Fill the teapot with tea leaves up to one third of the height of the pot.
  • Rinse the tea leaves by filling the pot with hot water up to half full and draining the water immediately leaving only tea leaves behind. (This step, and all subsequent steps involving pouring water, should be performed in a large bowl to catch any overflow.)
  • Pour more hot water into the teapot and pour water over the teapot in the large bowl. Bubbles should not be permitted to be formed in the teapot. The infusion should not be steeped for too long: 30 seconds is an appropriate maximum.
  • Pour the first infusion into small serving cups within a minute by continuously moving the teapot around over the cups. Each cup of tea is expected to have the same flavour, aroma and colour. The nature of this procedure almost mandates the use of some form of drip tray to catch further spillage.
  • Pour excess tea from the first infusion, and all tea from further infusions, into a second teapot after steeping. It is possible to draw five or six good infusions from a single pot of tea, but subsequent infusions must be extended somewhat in duration to extract maximum flavour: the second infusion extended by approximately ten seconds to 40 seconds, the third extended to 45, etc.
Even if I were brewing for multiple people traditional Yixing Teaware uses small 2 – 4 ounce teacups. With this in mind, Jo recommended a teapot with the capacity to hold no more than 6 to 8 ounces. In addition, when brewing, the tea leaves are poured directly into the pot. It would take a lot of tea leaves to brew a 12, 24, or 32 ounce pot of tea. Not to mention expensive.

3. What types of tea do I brew most often? Yixing teapots are meant for use with black and oolong teas, as well as aged puerh tea. You can also brew green/white tea, but it is important to let the water cool down to around 85 degrees before pouring the water into the pot. Why does the type of tea matter?  Since the clay is porous, it is best to utilize one pot for a particular tea or tea group, depending on your personal preference and intention. The fine texture and porous finish allows each vessel to absorb the essence of the teas brewed within creating a character and uniqueness to each individual pot.

4. Do I plan to be a collector of Yixing Teaware? No, therefore purchasing one of the expensive teapots I found priced up to $1500.00 is unnecessary. Jo informed me that I should expect to purchase a Yixing Teapot with a price range from $20.00 to $50.00 – depending upon the intricacy of the design.

Armed with this knowledge, I am now ready to purchase Yixing Teaware. I give many thanks to the proprietor of YaYa House of Excellent Teas. Additionally, I am grateful for all of the Internet sites available containing the Yixing information for my research. Feel free to opine to this post with information of your own. With better knowledge we are empowered to make better decisions.

Happy Tea Drinking!

References: 

1. Yixing clay teapot. (2008, July 19). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 04:33, July 22, 2008, fromhttp://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Yixing_clay_teapot&oldid=226635019

2. Yixing tea pots differ greatly from other brewing vessels. Beth Johnston. In Learn About Tea.Com. Retrieved 04:33, July 22, 2008, from http://www.learn-about-tea.com/yixing.html

3. Chinese tea culture. (2008, July 16). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 04:43, July 22, 2008, fromhttp://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Chinese_tea_culture&oldid=226030124

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