Today I woke up to very cold temperatures and a substantial amount of rain. This is quite a change from the hot 85 degree days of the past week or two. For this reason my plans to exercise outside with friends were cut short, and instead I stayed in and brewed some tasty tea at home. This helped me warm up to a surprisingly dreary July morning.
The tea that I chose to brew on this kind of day is a Gong Fu Hong Cha (功夫红茶). Translated to English, Gong Fu Hong Cha means ‘red tea produced with skill & effort’. In English we know the characters Gong Fu (功夫) as ‘Kung Fu’, a martial arts term. Although the term definitely applies to martial arts, it can also apply to any thing that a person tries to cultivate and master. Artists, athletes, musicians, carpenters, fisherman, etc. could all be said to have Gong Fu if they’ve put effort towards cultivating and mastering their respective interests.
When applied to tea, the term Gong Fu indicates that a tea was produced with care & attention by skilled workers. The term also can indicate that a better quality of source material was used to make a tea. The tea I brewed was produced in the Qi Men County (祁门县) of Anhui Province (安徽省) in China.
The variety of tea plant used to produce the Qi Men Gong Fu Hong Cha that I drank are called Zhu Ye Zhong (櫧葉種) in Chinese, or sweet oak leaf varietal in English. I believe that this tea varietal is called Zhu Ye Zhong because the leaves are long, slender, and spear like, perhaps resembling the leaves of sweet oak. Although the dry tea leaves are curled, I will include an image of the unfurled tea leaves at the end of this post. The unfurled tea leaves are somewhat long and spear like in appearance.
The aroma of this tea was mostly woody and malty, with a faint smokey component. The flavors of the brewed tea matched the notes of its fragrance. The feeling and texture of this tea were very smooth, round, clean, and just generally pleasant. There was a good balance between the flavor and aroma of the tea, and I was able to get roughly 8 or 9 brews with substantial flavor from the same leaves.
After drinking this tea I was reflecting a little bit on the term ‘gong fu’ and what it can mean when drinking tea in daily life. Although a tea may be produced as a gong fu tea, if we don’t pay attention while brewing it we can miss out on its finer points. For this reason I think that it is important to drink tea with care and attention. With more focus it is possible to learn how to brew tea better by trial and error. More focus can also help us understand what qualities we enjoy in a tea, which in turn helps us better evaluate new teas that we try.