Recently on MarshalN‘s blog I came across a very interesting article about the origins of Gongfucha (China’s ceremonial tea preparation).
I’ve included a summary of what I think the important take away’s are but of course that is with my opinion included and not the whole picture. I’d recommend you read the full article as I found it quite interesting and not too long.
Link to the article:
https://www.sommerier.com/wp-content/up ... hang-3.pdf
China has been drinking tea for a very long time — off the record approximately 4000 years, on the record about 2000 years. There are many regional variations of tea preparation in China from drinking weak jasmine tea in the north of china, farmer style tea brewing in the Yunnan area with Pu’Erh, flute brewed tea like Long Jing and Jun Shan Yin Zhen from Zhejiang and Hunan respectively, and the intensely strong traditional style of brewing from Chaozhou and the Wuyi mountains with their oolong teas.
In the distant past, drinking tea in China meant enjoying a refreshing tasty beverage or medicinal tonic. There was no ceremony to tea preparation, albeit different and sometimes complicated methods in which it could have been brewed.
Also in the distant past, Japanese monks went to China to learn about Buddhism and upon their return brought an ember of tea culture with them. Japan had a period of isolation called sakoku in which many of the cultural aspects we appreciate today including the tea ceremony were the result of those embers being fanned into the fires they have become. Tea culture in Japan revolves around Chado, the codified matcha ceremony. Senchado, the steeped tea ceremony is also significant but not as widely known outside of Japan.
Speaking to the word ‘ceremony’ — this is Japan’s contribution to the tea world. Drinking tea for the sake of tea. Not as an additional element to a get together, or a pairing with food but tea as the reason for the gathering in the first place. There came to be a point in Chinese history not too long ago when China looked to Japan and thought ‘we need something like this too’ and the concept of tea art or ‘cha yi’ was born.
Taiwan was a former colony of Japan and has to this day a large Japanese influence. Many Taiwanese peoples ancestry can be traced back to Guangdong (Chaozhou in particular) and Fujian. The Taiwanese peoples desire to have an elevated appreciation of tea as an art combined with the historic and unique tea brewing style used in Taiwan was to form the basis of what is now known as the Chinese tea ceremony or gongfucha. This concept started to take off in the 1980s with the opening of tea houses as a relaxing place to have well made tea, not for gambling or prostitution as was notorious for ‘tea houses’ at the time.
Inspiration from the Japanese tea ceremony which can be seen in gongfucha would include a ritualistic order of which things are done and a visually appealing placement of the tea utensils being used. The truly Taiwanese additions to the process would be including an aroma cup to enjoy the aroma of the tea before being transferred to the cup for drinking; and the intermediary carafe from which the tea pot is emptied into so that the following cups all have an equal flavor.
Thus the Chinese tea ceremony we know today is based on the regional preparation of tea in Chaozhou, influenced by Japanese esthetics, improved upon by Taiwanese, and adopted as a whole by mainland China. There’s nothing wrong with that!
For general/other topics related to tea.
Apr 2nd 20 1:02 am
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Location: Calgary, Canada