Gongfu Cha (工夫茶) is a traditional Chinese way to infuse tea. It is known by many names, such as Kung-fu Cha, Gong Fu Tea Ceremony, or any combination of these words. The name gongfu is a play on the words kung-fu, meaning carefully performed as a series of precise movements. Cha simply means tea. All these titles refer to the same thing – a traditional Chinese step-by-step style of infusing tea.
Gongfu cha is not simply a ceremony. Rather, it developed organically as a way to properly infuse tea, to get the perfect flavor from all different kinds of teas. It should not be confused with other Asian tea ceremonies, which are just that, ceremonies. The Chinese tea ceremony is referred to as a ceremony because it is often performed intricately as an attraction at Chinese cultural events and in tea shops. It is also performed during special events such as weddings. These displays give the impression that gongfu cha is a special ceremony performed whimsically and only during special times.
But gongfu cha is much more and also much less than a ceremony. Anyone can perform it at any time as a way to pay proper respect to China’s masterfully produced teas. It is done on a daily basis in some parts of China, such as Xianna’s homeland of Chaoshan, simply as a way to get the flavor right. When you enter a home in the Chaoshan region, you must first sit and drink gongfu cha, regardless of your personal interest in the finer points of tea consumption. It is a way to welcome guests, and failure to invite someone to sit and drink gongfu cha is actually an insult in Chaoshan. Gongfu cha is performed before breakfast, and it continues throughout the day until bedtime. Gongfu cha is much more than simply a ceremony performed on special occasions. In Chaoshan, gongfu cha is a way of life.