Thursday, May 08, 2014

Chaozhou Gongfu Cha tea set

The first accessory of Chaozhou Gongfu Cha is the basket or piece of furniture that contains all the equipment. Having everything in one place simplifies the transporation of the set. There's a beautiful example of a red cabinet on Teaparker's site. What I use most of the time is this ancient lacquered bamboo basket:
One set of accessories we need for a traditional Gongfu Cha concerns the fire:
- 火筷, ,Huǒ kuài. These metallic 'fire chopsticks' are used to handle the charcoal. They can be made of silver, but these ones are made of copper. The place for the hands is shiny and obtains a nice patina with time:
With the sticks, the tea person would insert the charcoal (taken from a box called Wufu) and put it in the Nifenglu/Nilu (brazier). This white one from Fujian is particularly beautiful. Symbols of clouds are carved on the lid. During use, this lid is removed and can be used either as a resting place for the kettle or as a stand for the brazier. In a poetic way, the clouds suggest the idea of wind that would help keep the charcoal burning.
But if the wind remains imaginary, then the brewer would use a bamboo fan like this one. It may look small, but it will produce a good airflow if handled properly. The trick is to move it up and down.
The goal is to get the water to a boil thanks to a kettle (玉書煨/Yù shū wēi). This antique one is made of very thin zhuni clay:
This particular shape is called 穿心銚/Chuān xīn diào, because the heat is conveyed through the heart, the middle of the kettle:
It's like having a chimney in the middle of the kettle! This increases the surface that is in contact with the hot air rising from the charcoal and heats the water faster than with a flat bottom. It's also a shape that only a very skilled potter could make.
After the utensils for the fire, we can turn our attention to the actual tea ware. We start with the pewter tea caddy that would contain roasted Wuyi Yan Cha.This antique one is decorated with calligraphy and has been lacquered:
Then we have the teapot, called Meng Chen Guan, referring to the famous Yixing teapot maker. The best teapot for Chaozhou Gongfu Cha was Yixing zhuni, and that's what we have here.
The teapot is placed in a deep bowl called Chaxi:
Then we have a plate for the cups called Cha dian. Here, this plate matches the Ge Yao, broken pieces style, celadon of the bowl:
The porcelain cups are necessarily 3 and are called Ruò shēn bēi, referring to the famous teacup maker Ruò shēn:
The cups will be placed on pewter cha tuo for serving. It will look like a flower:
And the cha tuo with the cups are placed on a cha pan. This one from the 1970s is lacquered as well, a technique that was very appreciated in China during the Qing dynasty:
Finally, we also have a small waste water bowl called 健水./Jiàn shuǐ made of pewter. This material was very appreciated by the tea brewers, because its gloss would change over time. This gives a feeling that the tea ware is alive and that it's improving with age. The traditional design of the the holes refers to the shape of old Chinese coins. This symbol is very suitable on a Jiàn shuǐ, because water is also a symbol for money, wealth:
In a future article, I plan to demonstrate and further explain how to use a Chaozhou Gongfu Cha set to prepare tea according to tradition. I think this could interest my readers. If I am wrong (and I can't be right all the time: nobody's perfect) please give me your feedback. I always appreciate your comments!
I hope you have enjoyed the beauty of this remarkable tea set. It is now the property of the Tea Institute at Penn State.

2 comments:

Fil said...

That's a lovely set and a great post. I always enjoy seeing the different methods and traditions you display as they show a different aspect of making tea with ideas to take away and try. Very informative, thank you.

Might have to make something to transport my teaware around in as well.

Stephane said...

Hi Fil,

Thanks for your comment. I'm glad this article got you inspired.