Yesterday's tea party at the Taipei Story House was about Chaoshan style tea (also known as Chaozhou gung fu tea). I couldn't attend the party, but could take pictures and notes from the rehearsal with Teaparker.
Above and below are the 2 Cha Xi setups that were used to show the spirit of Chaoshan tea. This brewing style is the closest inspiration of modern gongfu cha and dates from over 200 years ago.
The important accessories of Chaoshan tea are:
- small (cups, teapot, kettle),
- a (red) Nilu for the fire and a heat resistant clay kettle (Yu Su Wei),
- a ceramic tray for the cups and/of for the teapot,
- Tea: roasted Wuyi Oolong. (Nowadays, you could also use old Taiwan Oolong or heavily roasted Luanze Oolong or Tie Guan Yin.)
This rehearsal has inspired me to make my own Chaoshan style tea (all the other pictures).
What is the spirit of Chaoshan tea?
For instance, why are the tea cups so small? The logical explanation would be the size of the teapot. Why is the teapot small? Well, the water kettle is small! Why is the kettle small? Did you see the size of the tiny Nilu? It would take hours to heat a big kettle with such a small Nilu!!!
The small size of Chaoshan accessories is very important, so please forgive me if I insisted about it with my attempt at humour in the previous paragraph. People in Chaoshan had to pay small fortunes for their Wuyi Oolongs from Fujian. These Oolongs were strongly roasted so that they would retain their flavors during the long transportation to Chaoshan. So, with tea so precious and expensive, the solution to enjoy it often was to brew it in small quantities.
For this purpose, they would use small Yixing teapots (preferably made with high quality zhuni) or locally made teapots made of Shantou red clay. This clay is very porous and is also well suited for highly roasted teas. (See also Tea Escapade's article to differentiate between Yixing and Shantou teapots).
The small cups also show that tea was not drunk to quench thirst, but to appreciate its taste and smell. In Chinese, this tasting is written '品' (pin) with 3 mouths. That's why it was a tradition to use only 3 cups to drink Chaoshan tea, independently of the number of guests. One teapot would be just right for 3 cups.
Tea was one of life's top pleasures for people in Chaoshan. Everything about it could be enjoyed: the beautiful accessories, the color in the cup, the fragrance of the brew, the initial taste, the aftertaste, the fragrance in the empty cup...
The brewing technique of Chaoshan style tea is very attentive to details. That's why they preferred to cook the water in a small Nilu. Such water improves the tea and it's easier to control the heating, the freshness of the water in a small kettle.
Chaoshan style tea continues to teach us many lessons: the quest for top quality, the enjoyment of the beauty of the setup, the attention to details, making the most out of small tea quanities... No wonder even this Chinese Lion (puppet) loves roasted Oolong!