How to Brew Kung Fu Tea

If you're familiar with the Chinese words "Kung Fu" as referring to the martial arts, you'll be interested to know that these words have other meanings in Chinese. "Kung Fu" actually refers to hard work, labor, and dedication toward any task or any goal. Kung Fu Cha (Cha means tea) is the Chinese tea brewing process that incorporates all these meanings. Keep reading for instructions on indulging in the beauty and warmth of Kung Fu tea in the comfort of your own home.


  1. Image titled Brew Kung Fu Tea Step 1
    Appreciate the tradition. In the Chinese traditional tea culture, Kung Fu tea has a certain etiquette that goes along with it, a procedure that drinkers follow. Each different place adds various details. Study the various ways in which Kung Fu tea is served and enjoyed, and eventually you will develop your own unique way.
  2. Image titled Brew Kung Fu Tea Step 2
    Put together a suitable tea set. This should include:
    • A tea tray (hollow tray with a container inside which can contain all the water that will be spilled during the process);
    • A teapot;
    • A fair cup (a separate tea vessel);
    • Tasting cups; and
    • Aroma cups (sniffer cups).
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    Prepare the tea leaves in advance, so that they are ready to be placed in the pot as soon as it has been warmed. A tea caddy, or “tea presentation vessel," is recommended for this purpose, as is a proper set of tea tools. Approximately one to two teaspoons of leaves is a good quantity to begin with and is easily adjusted to taste after the initial infusion.
    • Keep in mind that due to the many variations of tea processing, some leaves are a lot more compact than others. For instance: in terms of volume of leaves, you will need less Tieguanyin than Yan Cha or Formosa Oolong.
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    Rinse all vessels with hot water. This signifies that the ritual of tea making has begun by purifying the pot, cleaning it of dust and residue and making it ready to receive the tea. It also warms the vessels since the hot water is then poured into the serving pitcher and from there into the tasting cups. This is done because at room temperature, ceramic teaware is usually quite cold and unsuited to brewing fine teas whose temperature must be carefully controlled. After rinsing, the water should be discarded into the draining tray or a waste water bowl.
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    Before infusion, pour hot water over the leaves and then quickly pour it off. This removes any dust from the leaves and begins to open them up, releasing the tea’s aroma, which should be savored prior to infusion. This act prepares the palate to appreciate the full flavor of the tea.
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    Use pure or mineral water to brew the tea. Tap water should be avoided, since its chemical treatment imparts undesirable flavors and odors which interfere with the delicate aromatics of tea. (Home filters and other water purification systems can minimize and, in some cases, eliminate these problems.)
    • The best water for tea brewing is spring water with a natural mineral content that’s neither too hard nor too soft. Since T.D.S., “total dissolved solids", or mineral content measured in parts per million, varies greatly from water to water, you may want to do your own taste-test of waters available in your area to determine which one has the best flavor, body and compatibility with the tea you drink.
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    Fill the teapot to the top with hot water and cover. Pour water over the top of the pot, drawing the stream over the air hole until a little water comes out the spout. When this occurs, you know the pot is full and heated to the right temperature.
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    Pour the water into the fair cup to heat it. A fair cup allows the tea to be poured from the teapot into a holding vessel. Sometimes these fair cups use a filter to trap unwanted tea particles that may have passed on from the teapot.
  9. Image titled Brew Kung Fu Tea Step 9
    Add tea leaves and let steep.
    • Oolong Tea: For light oolongs, such as Bao Zhong & Imperial Green, use 70°-80°C (158°-176°F) water and an infusion time of 3 to 5 minutes. For darker styles, including Tieguanyin & Yan Cha—between 80° and 90°C (176-194°F) again steeping 3 to 5 minutes.
    • Black Tea: You'll probably find that water between 85° and 95°C (185°-203°F) and a three minute infusion works best for black tea. You may want to experiment with lower temperatures and longer steeping times.
    • Pu-erh Tea: Use water that’s just come to a boil and infuse 3-5 minutes.
  10. Image titled Brew Kung Fu Tea Step 10
    When the leaves have infused their essence, pour the tea out into the pitcher (fair cup). This intermediate step between the teapot and the individual cups allows the tea to be mixed while pouring (the first tea coming out of the teapot will be less strong than the one on the bottom of the teapot). Moreover, it allows to precisely adjust the brewing time in the teapot (all the tea comes out quickly, instead of being slowly poured in the individual cups).
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    From the fair cup, distribute the tea in the aroma cups, keeping the pitcher close to the cups and pouring slowly. This reduces the movement of the tea, maintaining its temperature.
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    After the aroma cups are filled, position one tasting cup, upside down, over each aroma cup. After tasting cups are positioned, take each cup pair and quickly flip it: this is a very delicate step since the cups are becoming hot on the outside. Notice that the tea will not spill out because no air can enter the aroma cups. After this is done, each guest will simply lift the aroma cup from the tasting one.
    • Another option to this step is to give each guest the aroma cup and separately the tasting cup. The guests will then simply pour the tea from aroma to tasting cups and proceed by smelling in the same manner.
  13. Image titled Brew Kung Fu Tea Step 13
    At this point, the aroma cup can be brought near the nose to receive the fragrance of the tea by inhaling the steam.
  14. Image titled Brew Kung Fu Tea Step 14
    After smelling, drink the tea from the tasting cups. Drink by taking small sips that allow to fully enjoy the taste, aromas and qualities of the tea. A good green tea will allow up to four or five brews. Add water to the teapot and start again from point 10 to your will.


  • The tea ceremony requires a deal of preparation and skill: the first time you will perform it, you will probably notice how many things must be done and accounted for at the same time. The tea ceremony also requires guests who can appreciate it to some level: for example, they should not do sudden moves like leaving or answering the phone, which would ruin the whole atmosphere! Moreover, the person who prepares the tea must always be aware of the guests. For example, the successive brews of tea should be ready in the same moment the guests have finished drinking the tea they have in their cups: the tea should never become cold, nor the guest should wait long to receive another cup. Chinese emperors would never allow that to happen when their guests came over for tea!
  • Feel free to listen to music, or the sounds of nature or just your environment to enhance the experience of drinking Kung Fu tea. While some people recommend burning incense, the strong odors of the incense may mask or dampen the aroma of the tea. Do not burn incense if you want to fully appreciate the nuances of the tea.
  • Taste slowly. Meditate; Forget everything else and focus on the tea.
  • Notice that this tea ceremony is used in China exclusively for brewing green tea: for example, no sugar (nor milk or lemon) is ever mentioned just because the taste of a quality green tea would be spoiled and covered by any extraneous substance.


  • Be careful! You will be working with incredibly hot liquids. Make sure you don't burn yourself. You might want to rehearse the procedure a couple of times with cold water (and no tea) until you have a certain familiarity with the various steps.

Things You'll Need

  • Tea set
  • Water
  • Kettle or other boiling vessel
  • Tea cups and teapot

Sources and Citations

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