There are definitely various lineages, as with any oral tradition. I don't think there's a right or wrong way, necessarily, but you do see different styles emerge in the various areas where Chaozhou people have been living for long periods of time. My pet theory is that since so many Chaozhou people have settled in HK, SE Asia, etc, their tea brewing method, terminology, and equipment has evolved differently in each area. And of course, just plain individual variation. Many of us here in the US have learned from people who have studied at HK shops such as (but not limited to) Best Tea House, and many of these people have a similar style.
I don't know if the original post is a troll or not, but I'd be interested in seeing any links to people who are claiming that their way is the only right way to do it. Personally, I have not seen any credible
sources (i.e., people who actually know what they're talking about) insisting that their way is the only right way to do it, and I would tend to simply ignore anyone who did make such an assertion.
I'm not so sure about the bits crushed during processing being oxidized differently - I'm not a tea producer, but I'd think that most breakage would happen after the tea has been partially oxidized and dried -- in other words, the bits around the edge would be more oxidized, and the bits from the center of the leaf would be less oxidized.
But I hadn't ever thought that the intent of crushing the leaves (of Tieguanyin, which is the main tea I see some people do the leaf crushing thing with) was just to emulate the time when loose tea contained more broken bits - I always thought it was to make the strength of each infusion more consistent, i.e., the broken bits will make the early brews stronger, and then give out earlier; the bigger pieces will give out more as they expand. And of course, oils from the hand / finger may trigger some minor changes in the taste, similar to rubbing dried herbs in your hand before using them. I did ask one person if teas other than Tieguanyin were ever crushed for Chaozhou gongfucha, and at the time, this person told me something along the lines of "sometimes for Phoenix shuixian, but not for Phoenix dancong or Wuyi yancha". I don't think of these as hard and fast rules - once you develop some experience and play around a little, you can determine when you might want to intentionally break some leaves.
The crushed leaves do change the taste of the tea also... to me, it adds a certain tanginess or something. I often crush the leaves with roasted Tieguanyin, because that's how I was taught, and in many cases, I prefer the results that way, but I don't think that's the "right" way (or the only
right way) to do it.
The type of tea is important too. My limited understanding is that Chaozhou gonfucha is traditionally focused on (roughly in this order):
- Fenghuang Dancong / Shuixian
The sources I've read seem to imply Wuyi teas were considered the best / most famous in the early days [though reading it more closely, one of these, from the book mentioned below, seems to be talking about Taiwanese). Had an interesting discussion with Marshaln about whether oolong had even been invented yet in the early days of Chaozhou gongfucha. I had always assumed it had, but seems like it's not that clear cut. This quote from Appreciation of Zisha Teapots (砂壺匯赏)
, Dynasty Culture and Art Publishing House, Hong Kong, p41 (this is the book's own English translation of the Chinese text).
The congou [read gongfu] was first described in Yu Jiao's (1751-?) book Miscellanea of Chaoshan and Jiaxing in Qing Dynasty. He said that "The proper way to make congou is to obey Lu Yu's tea ceremony, but with more exquisite tea sets.
Hopefully not too much self promotion, however, I think some of the information in these two threads is also relevant: