Chinese Tea Ceremony

by LyraKua

Chinese tea ceremony, or Gong Fu (Kung Fu) tea ceremony, is the Chinese art of preparing tea. This page teaches about the traditional way of brewing tea at home.

Try dining in a fancier type of authentic Chinese restaurant, chances are, you'll get an experience of drinking Chinese tea the traditional way. No need to fret as the staffs will be the ones brewing the tea for you - right on your table. Or maybe you'll be given the option to do the self-serving instead. But if you do not have an opportunity to partake in such ceremony, then you may simply purchase a tea set yourself and perform the steps on your own.

This method of brewing tea that I speak of is called the Chinese Tea Ceremony, also known as Kung Fu (or Gong Fu) Tea Ceremony. It may be performed with all the grandeur and elegance (music, fan accessories and the works) on special occasions such as wedding banquets, or reduced to a simplified version at the confines of one's home. The focus of this writing will be on brewing tea at home.

Image Credit: KEKO64 |

Copyright © 2014 by Lyra Kua. All rights reserved.

My Own Experience with Chinese Tea Ceremony

I have my very first experience with Chinese tea ceremony during my visit to China. We ordered green tea, and a server promptly delivered a pushcart with all the paraphernalia atop. She then performed the steps as we marveled about the wonderful display. The tea was finally poured onto our cups. It tasted good especially after the interesting process it went through.

For me though, the better experience is to do it yourself. I never get tired of brewing tea myself. It's what makes drinking tea more special. I prefer to share my freshly brewed tea to my family rather than have it all by myself.


Have you ever participated in a Chinese tea ceremony?

What's in a Tea Set?

First, the paraphernalia. You may simply brew a tea using a pot and a mug. But if you want to appreciate the art of drinking Chinese tea, then you need more than that. A small teapot, a fair cup with strainer, a set of small tea cups, a pair of tongs, and a tea tray are the basic items you'll need. In my own tea-brewing practice, I omit the fair cup and tongs. 

The tea set below contains additional accessories such as cleaning tools and coasters. Here are some more examples of Chinese tea sets made of Yixing clay.

The Purpose of a Fair Cup

The teapot where the fresh tea leaves are brewed is very small. So a single steeping alone would not be enough to distributed for a bigger group of tea drinkers. The first steep tastes differently from the second steep, and so on. In that case, the tea is poured on the fair cup first until the vessel is full. The fair cup allows everyone to enjoy the same taste of tea, by allowing each steep to homogenize first before being poured into the tea cups.

Picture below shows a gaiwan, a cup with a lid that can be used as a tea pot, a fair cup, the small pitcher with metal strainer, and small tea cups.

What is a Tea Tray?

A tea tray is a tray that has additional grille that acts as a drainage for water. At some point of tea brewing, water is discarded from the cups, making the step very messy. A tea tray collects the water into a pan beneath the grille.

How to Brew Tea the Chinese Way

Before the actual brewing of the tea leaves takes place, the teapots and cups are prepared. Hot water is poured inside a teapot with the leaves already inside until the water reaches the brim. The pot is then covered with lid then the water is quickly poured over the smaller cups. This is an act of warming and rinsing the pot and the cups. Tongs are used to make the rinsing easier. The water is then discarded into the tea tray.

After the rinsing step, hot water is again poured inside the teapot with the leaves, then is quickly poured over the tea cups. This time, the tea water isn't discarded. This is considered the first steep of tea for drinking. The brewing itself is quick - takes about thirty seconds. 

Brewing Using a Small Pot

The small teapot allows quick brewing and by doing it quickly, you can use the same tea leaves for several infusions. It is said that brewing it for a longer time will just drain off the tea from the leaves quickly. Take note that this is done merely for the enjoyment of drinking, and has nothing to do with the benefit of extracting the healthy substances. If health is of your concern, then steeping of tea should take longer.

Brewing Temperature

The temperature of water depends on the type of leaves you're steeping. I will be discussing this in another article. But to cut things short, milder tasting tea such as jasmine and green tea need lower temperature, whereas stronger tasting tea such as oolong and black tea need higher temperature.

Amount of Leaves

The amount of tea leaves varies depending on the strength of the drink you desire. I always add about one to two teaspoons of leaves to my six-ounce teapot. It is important that there is enough room for the leaves to completely expand, so do not put too much leaves. As you gain more experience with brewing, you will eventually learn adjusting the amount depending on your taste.

Since the tea cups are very small, the first drink will surely not quench your thirst. But then, this type of tea brewing is merely for enjoyment. The small cup allows you to enjoy the aroma and taste better than larger mugs. Some tea aficionados have a different tea set for each type of tea, as each tea has different taste and odor. Using all types of tea in the same set will only contaminate the flavor. However, if you're a beginner, you may not notice any huge difference.

If the tea set is made of clay, do not use detergent or soap to clean it. The smell of the soap will linger on the set and ruin the aroma of the tea. Rather, simply rinse it with water.

Enjoy drinking tea!

How to Brew Tea Video

The video shows the Chinese way of brewing tea using the basic steps in tea ceremony. In addition to what I have covered in this page, the video also introduces us to different tea wares that may be used other than the traditional tea pot and cups.

Chinese Tea Ceremony Video

Here in this video, you will see how a Chinese tea ceremony is being performed by a tea connoisseur.

Updated: 09/11/2014, LyraKua
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LyraKua on 10/22/2014

Glad you enjoyed the videos!

AngelaJohnson on 10/20/2014

Tea making is unique to different cultures. I especially enjoyed the videos.

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