Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Gongfu Fighting Moment

Everybody was Gongfu fighting
Those steeps were fast as lightning...

What can I say? Every time I see or even think the word, "Gongfu," that song parody runs through my head. And now it will run through yours.

You're welcome.

The Gongfu experience is relatively new to me, and for awhile was very intimidating. I know there are Gongfu purists who take the Chinese Tea Ceremony very seriously and see it strictly as that: a ceremony. Others view it as another way to enjoy certain types of tea, Puerh and Oolongs in particular.  To boil it down (pardon the pun) to the very basic difference of Gongfu brewing and regular brewing, it's about the amount of tea leaves and the length of steeping time. Gongfu - more leaves, briefer steeping times.

For me, Tea is usually the backdrop against which other activities take place, whether it's catching up with friends or family, spending some special time with my daughter, or accompanying me as I read or write.  Gongfu allows the moment to be specifically about the tea. For me, it's a new way to slow down, relax, in the same way I might relax through yoga or a hot bath. 

The part that can feel somewhat intimidating is the equipment. And that's where Matt Kitchens of Tea Setter comes in.  All of the "how" is taken out of the process with their Chinese Tea Sets.

I took great pleasure in laying out my tea set. The little glass tea pot, the gaiwan, two tea cups, the strainer, all on a simple but beautiful bamboo tray.  There were six different teas to choose from, three Oolongs and three Puerh. Decisions, decisions. I chose the Old Capitol Puerh, because it looked most exotic, as though it had been broken off an ancient tea brick (I don't know if it really was, but I let my imagination go there.)

As I rinsed the tea leaves and then conducted my first steeping, I realized that there was a level of precision that I was enjoying  in the process. Not that you have to be terribly precise, but you could allow yourself to be as precise and ceremonial, or as laissez-faire, as you liked, and still really enjoy every step of the way.

The first steep, only 10-15 seconds...

I liked having the strainer to catch the few stray bits of tea that may have otherwise ended up in my cup.

Despite being steeped so briefly, the tea is robust, earthy, though not as fermented as I've experienced with some Puerhs.

The second steep. This time about 30 seconds.  It's amazing how the flavor changes, not necessarily in intensity, but in nuance. In sweetness of finish.

The third steep, now up to 1 minute. Obligations slip away, deadlines are set aside. I study the color of the tea, the flavor, I notice how the tea cup fits so nicely in the curve of my hand.

I go through six steepings (is that a word?), all told. I feel calmer, having savored a moment of just tea and me. With so much going on all day, every day, and always feeling like I'm running behind, this is a much needed oasis. And while today I needed this moment just for myself, I'm already thinking of who I'd like to invite over to share a Gongfu Moment with me. But would I choose another Puerh? Or an Oolong.  Hmm.

And everybody was Gongfu Fighting...

If you'd like to experience a Moment with your own Chinese Tea Set, Tea Setter is offering two special coupon code for my readers (Thanks Matt!)

Code: MomentSet10 - $10 Off Deluxe Tea Set & Free Shipping (it makes the set
$54 with free shipping which I think is a great deal)

Code: MomentTea10 - 10% Off any orders of tea including our samplers.

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