Gong Fu has been translated into English as Kung Fu. The literal meaning, in Chinese, of Gong Fu is mastery of any task. While most people relate to Kung Fu as being a type of martial arts, actually it can refer to a number of things. Thus a Gong Fu tea simply implies a mastery of tea brewing and a Gong Fu teaset is the type of set typically used by tea masters to prepare and serve Chinese teas.
Unlike the Japanese, Chinese tea masters place much more value on the taste of the beverage rather than the elaborate moves made while serving it, thus a this type of tea set is deliberately designed to enhance the flavor of the drink. For this reason a clay teapot is often used, rather than a porcelain pot.
Gong Fu teapots are small, squat teapots with a handle at the side, rather than having a larger handle going over the top of the tea pot. These types of tea pots are often also called Yixing teapots, although in reality only those made in the Yixing area in China are truly Yixing teapots. The small clay teapots are now made all over China and in Taiwan, with Taiwan notoriously producing some of the best Chinese teapots in the world.
The tea set sits on a tray. This tray is usually made from wood, although you can also find stainless steel trays as well. The primary purpose of the tray is to catch water or tea that is either discarded or spilled during the tea ceremony. Wooden trays have channels carved into them, allowing spilled water to travel down the channels and through a small tube that is attached to the outside of the tray and into a small bucket usually tucked away out of sight under the table.
Other items included in the tea set include small tea cups, without handles, a scoop that is used to transfer tea from the tea container into the teapot, prongs that are used to take the used tea leaves out of the tea pot, and often smaller slender cups called aroma cups that the tea is first poured into.
While there are many different Chinese tea sets for sale, particularly online, for a true tea ceremony or to prepare and drink green or oolong tea in the way it should be prepared, a Gong Fu tea set is the best.
Peter Wescombe has been living and working in Asian countries for many years. Since living in Asia he has been introduced to the interesting culture that surrounds Chinese teas and the resultant rich tea culture that has developed. Setting up the Zi Chun tea trading company, he now sells all varieties of Chinese tea, as well as tea accessories such as Chinese tea sets and yixing teapots.
By Peter Wescombe