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Gongfu Tea

Updated on July 6, 2013

Gongfu tea is a communal tea experience

Gongfu tea is really about a shared tea drinking experience, where small pots of tea are brewed and the drinkers sip rounds of tiny cups of fresh tea. This differs from the European tradition of tea where a large pot of one tea flavor is brewed. You are supposed to enjoy the community and conversation as much as the beverage and it's quite likely that different types of tea will be explored in the one sitting..

This lens has info on Yixing teapots, how to "birth" your teapot, what brewing temperatures are best for various types of tea and much more!

If this lens is helpful to you, please rate it! ~ thanks 

Yixing Tea Pots - the traditional clay Chinese tea pot

This clay makes for a lovely natural teapot and heats evenly.

About Yixing Teapots

Birthing and Caring for your Yixing Teapot

The purple clay that Yixing (ee-shing) teapots are made from is called "zisha" and is what makes them special. Because it is a porous material, it will absorb flavors and over time this enriches the brewing of your tea and the overall drinking flavor.

NEVER WASH A YIXING TEAPOT WITH SOAP. The teapot will pick up the soap and it will spoil the taste of the teapot. You only ever rinse a yixing teapot with hot water, swish it out and let it air dry.

The practice of "birthing a teapot" is one that conditions and prepares a new clay pot for brewing. It both washes the surface of the pot and does a first infusion of tea oils and flavorings.

Get a stainless steel pot that is large enough to hold your tea pot and the lid that goes with it. Put the Yixing pot and lid into the pot (leave the lid off the teapot). In a second pot, bring enough spring water to a boil as will cover the teapot.

Put a small amount of the type of tea you will be brewing in this teapot into the cook pot, scattered around the teapot and lid. Then pour the boiling water over the teapot and lid until they are fully submerged.

Leave the teapot and lid to steep with the tea overnight in the cook pot. In the morning , take out your teapot and lid and let them air dry. Your new teapot has now been birthed and is ready to use!

Buy Asian Tea posters and prints at

Some Tea Suggestions - delicious tea treats and accessories

For the best quality and flavor, always buy organic teas.

Teapots with Infusers

With gongfu tea, you want a tiny teapot, as you repeatedly brew small pots of tea instead of one big one. By using a teapot with an infuser, you can brew tiny amounts of fresh tea repeatedly.

Brewing Without Over-Brewing - Here's how you do it.

Gongu teapot by Euryale
Gongu teapot by Euryale

Getting the right tool for the tea job can often be the trick to solving an otherwise tricky situation. Take brewing for example. You want to be able to brew repeatedly but not over-brew your tea (which often makes it taste bitter). But how to brew the tea but not have the tea leaves sitting in water?

Simple, with an infuser teapot. Your put your tea in the top section, add the proper temperature water, let it brew for for the necessary time (anywhere from 15 to 60 seconds) then you push the button and the brewed tea drains down into the pouring section of the pot. You lift out the infuser, serve the tea and then refill the top section for the next round.

One of these and your delicate green teas will NEVER EVER be over-brewed again!

Chinese Tea Sets, Tea Boats and Accessories

The one item used in gongfu tea that seems very hard to find is the "tea boat." This special wooden tray is the surface on which the tea is poured and served. It catches any overflow and drips and makes for both easy tea service and a nice presentation.

I managed to find a lovely little bamboo tea boat for one after a long web search, and it now sits in the corner of my desk, holding my morning pot of tea and my cup.

Brewing Temperatures For Different Teas

Most people just boil water when they make their tea, but it turns out that many varieties of tea brew more flavorfully when the temperature hasn't quite reached a full boil yet. Try these suggestions with your teas and see how the tastes become fuller and less bitter.

Some people use special water boiler/wamers to do this, as these can specifically regulate the temperature, but the old folk method was to watch the boiling water for the various stages.

180°-190° "Crab Eye Water"- The steam is very soft and gentle, and the water is forming small bubbles.

190°-200° "Fish Eye Water"- The water at this stage will "hiss" audibly, the steam will be very hot and rising actively as will the small bubbles.

212° "Old Man Water" - This is a full rolling boil.

  • White tea - 180°F
  • Green tea -> 180°F - 190°F
  • Oolong tea -> 190°F - 200°F
  • Black tea -> 190°F - 200°F
  • Pu'Ehr tea -> 200°F - 212°F
  • Herbal tea -> 212°F

Sit Down and Watch Some Tea

Here are some short videos that show various Chinese tea serving techniques.

Please take a moment and tell us about your favorite tea and whether you enjoy it by yourself or communally, gongfu style!


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