Monday, August 17, 2009

VIDEO: "Wrong Fu Cha" makes a cup of tea, Chaozhou style

Chaozhou Yiwu Puerh Cha from Brandon on Vimeo.

I only just discovered the "Wrong Fu Cha" site, which has a very nice video of the Chaozhou style of gongfu tea preparation for a Yiwu Pu-erh.

Now, for those reading that have no idea what the above sentence means: Chaozhou is a term I've only just come across myself, in reference to a type of teapot made in China's Phoenix Mountain region, where a special clay is dug to make teapots that are perfect for Dan Cong oolongs. Gongfu preparation means taking great care, using skill to produce a beautiful cup of tea. Typical gongfu tea preparation uses a lot of leaf and many short steeps. A Pu-erh is a compressed, fermented tea from the Yunnan region of China. Books have been read about each of these terms, but I won't attempt further explanation here.

Brandon here demonstrates how to break apart a beeng of compressed pu-erh tea, then to use hot water to heat the lidded cup [gaiwan] and the drinking cups, and then to rinse the pu-erh leaves, and finally to serve.

Notice how Brandon has everything nearby and never needs to get up. I love Chinese-style tea preparation because it's fastidious, but it's not fussy: There are no unnecessary movements. All the care taken to make the tea is done in order to produce the most pleasing cup of tea possible, using the materials at hand.

Also notice how the gaiwan [lidded tea bowl] is kept inside a larger bowl in which is hot water. This ensures the water stays at a high temperature as the water steeps. I would think this would work perfectly for pu-erh, but maybe not so well for teas where it's imperative the water is allowed to cool a bit to avoid stewing the leaves.

Obviously, this is not your hyper-refined Japanese tea ceremony. It's Brandon at "Wrong Fu Cha," for crying out loud, so what did you expect? (The Chinese gongfu tea practice as demonstrated by the Chinese-American Tea Association video I showed earlier is an example of a more delicate and practiced tea ceremony.) Brandon isn't demonstrating the most perfectly choreographed art of tea, but rather a very relaxed and pragmatic, thoughtful and fastidious way to make a cup of tea. I intend to try this out in the weeks ahead.

I've actually been using this method to make oolong and pu-erh teas, which require a high steeping temperature. I frequently have to empty the bowl as the water cools, replacing with hot in between steepings. And because I use an antique bowl and don't want to break it, I don't just pour boiling water into it, but rather use my quite-hot tap water, which is scalding but not boiling. The aesthetic effect is quite lovely, and I like how it keeps the gaiwan hot while it's steeping.