There are many tools used in Gong Fu brewing. These tools serve specific functions, and act as the link between the brewer and the tea, enriching the experience of a tea session.
Gaiwan (Gài Wǎn 盖碗) — Gaiwans are the most common brewing vessel in Gong Fu brewing. The word gaiwan literally translates to “lidded bowl” (gài 盖 meaning lid, wǎn 碗 meaning bowl). Gaiwans originated in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 CE), along with the Gong Fu brewing system. Most gaiwans are made of porcelain and can usually fit around 80-120ml of water, though larger (150-200ml) and smaller (40-60ml) gaiwans are also fairly common. Tea is infused in the gaiwan, and poured out into the tea pitcher.
Teapot (Chá Hú 茶壶) — Similar to gaiwans, teapots are common brewing vessels in Gong Fu-style brewing. While the size of the teapot can vary depending on its purpose, Gong Fu-style teapots are generally smaller than Western-style teapots — typically, they can contain around 80-120ml of water. Teapots can be made of various materials, including glass, porcelain, and unglazed clay. Teapots generally function in the same way as gaiwans; the tea is brewed in the teapot, and decanted into the tea pitcher.
Tea pitcher (Gōng Dào Bēi 公道杯) — The tea pitcher, also known as the gong dao bei, cha hai, or fairness cup, is the secondary vessel in Gong Fu brewing, and is often made of glass or porcelain. Tea is decanted from the gaiwan or teapot into the tea pitcher first. Because the last drops of the infusion have steeped longer than the first drops, the tea pitcher is vital to ensure the balanced concentration and intensity of the tea liquor. This relates to the concept of fairness — each cup will receive the same concentration of tea, hence the name gong dao bei (literally fairness cup). After decanting into the tea pitcher, the tea is poured into the teacups.
Teacups (Chá Bēi 茶杯) — Teacups are the drinking vessel. Gong Fu-style teacups are often small (around 20-60ml capacity), and are wider-mouthed. This allows the tea to cool down to a drinkable temperature faster, and the shape and size lets the drinker sip in a more controlled manner which highlights the more fleeting notes of the tea. Teacups can be made of various materials, but are usually made of porcelain.
Tea Tray (Chá Pán 茶盘) — In Gong Fu brewing, we often discard water or even the very first infusion (called the tea rinse). The tea tray serves as a container to hold discarded water or tea. These are often made with different materials, the most common being made of bamboo and plastic. However, tea trays can also be made of porcelain or clay.
Tea Strainer (Chá Lòu 茶漏) — When pouring from the brewing vessel into the tea pitcher, small leaves and particles may fall into the pitcher. To prevent this, a tea strainer is commonly set on top of the tea pitcher to catch these particles, ensuring that the liquor is clear.
Tea Cloth (Chá Bù 茶布) – As Gong Fu brewing can get a little messy with excess water around the area, having a cloth helps in drying up the surfaces. Tea cloths are usually dark in color.
Tea Tongs (Chá Jiā 茶夹) – These are used in handling or serving tea cups to guests without having to physically touch the cups.
Tea Scoop (Chá Chí 茶匙) — Tea scoops are a hygienic way to transfer tea from its container into a tea dish or a brewing vessel. They also prevent any humidity on the brewer’s hands from coming into contact with the tea.