Category : Country : Taiwan

Tasting a fine tea using the Gong Fu Cha method

To appreciate a tea as fine as the Taiwanese “Black Pearl” I recently selected, there are two options: either use your usual teapot, or prepare it according to the Gong Fu Cha method. This involves placing the tea in a very small teapot and steeping the same leaves several times in succession. It is a different way of discovering the rich aromas of this fine tea, whose fairly sweet notes make it perfect for the season.

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Preparing tea according to the Gong Fu method

In Taiwan and in some regions of China, tea is prepared according to the Gong Fu method. This requires a very small teapot, smelling cups, tasting cups and a tea boat, a hollow vessel into which you pour the water used to rinse the tea and the cups.

The Gong Fu method consists of infusing the same tea leaves repeatedly for just a few seconds at a time. Each infusion, known as “water”, releases new aromas, until there are no more.

This method is particularly appropriate for the preparation of certain Wu Long or Pu Er teas. On Sunday I tasted a 2008 Pu Er Xiao using this method: it was a real treat.

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In Taiwan, people take great care of semi-fermented teas

In Taiwan, people take great care of semi-fermented teas (wu longs) left to wither outside. The grower first buy an electrical system of open-weave canvases that are moved across to shade the leaves when the sunlight gets too intense. Tea is then aired: it is raked very carefully, for hours, to prevent the leaves from starting to ferment.

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Under the palm trees of Nantou, Dong Ding tea

In Taiwan, in the Nantou region for example, well-known for its Wu Long teas (Dong Ding, etc.), the tall and spindly trunks of the palm trees contrast with the rows of tea plants and give the landscape a very graphic appearance.

I have to admit that this impression is emphasized by the fact that I have been a little disrespectful to the posers in the foreground by chopping their head off…

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Wu Long teas from Taiwan, jewels of teas

Wu Long teas from Taiwan are among the best teas in the world. By the way, we will receive beautiful Bao Zhong teas in a few days.

However, of that island, we easily have an image of a country whose activity is turned towards electronics and other micro-electronic components. In any case, not the image of an island whose territory is mainly covered by mountains. Taiwan is indeed divided by central ranges spreading from north to south and is very much appreciated by hiking lovers who enjoy walking on its small steep paths. During my trips, I can often see some of them, tired and out of breath but delighted by the beautiful landscapes around them.

This geography offering coolness and humidity combines the ideal conditions to grow high quality teas and we come across plantations a little bit everywhere in the country, each region producing distinct designations. The best Taiwanese teas are the “blue-green” or semi-oxidized: lightly oxidized Bao Zhong, Wu Long rolled up in perls (Jing Xuan, Gao Shan Cha) and Bai Hao Wu Longs.

Carine (see the post My travelling companions of last Friday) took this photo when we were in the county of Nantou in the centre of Taiwan. You can see the village of Lu Gu, perched on the crest of the Shan Lin Xi mountains, not far from the lake with the same name and near the place where great Dong Ding teas are produced.

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The author

François-Xavier Delmas is a passionate globetrotter. He’s been touring the world’s tea plantations for more than 20 years in search of the finest teas. As the founder of Le Palais des Thés, he believes that travelling is all about discovering world cultures. From Darjeeling to Shizuoka, from Taiwan to the Golden Triangle, he invites you to follow his trips as well as share his experiences and emotions.

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