Most of Raphaël’s offerings are shared in a spontaneous and selfless manner, and commonly take place in ephemeral spaces infused with a wandering spirit. They are a reflection of his journey with tea and its multifaceted heritage and traditions, and additionally aim to be accessible as well as educational. This catalyst allows him to craft organic refuges that are conducive to the introduction of tea to other souls, while inviting them to explore and cultivate the transient, slow silences that color the practice of tea. Those sharing sessions and gatherings also stand as a way to express his gratitude and honor this leaf as well as the essence, depth, and richness of its boundless teachings.

Scheduled public events related to these offerings will be announced on this dedicated page. All public events are offered on a donation basis. If you are looking to book Le cerf-volant’s tea services for a public or private event, please feel free to get in touch with Raphaël directly.

Gōng Fu Chá 工夫茶 – Taiwanese Gān Pào 乾泡 (Dry Pouring) Style

Drawing on the Cháozhōu 潮州 tea brewing tradition originated from the Guǎngdōng 廣東 province of China and intimately linked with dān cōng 单枞 oolongs and their birthplace (Phoenix Mountain / Fènghuáng shān 鳳凰山), Taiwanese tea practitioners developed their own flavor of gōng fu chá 工夫茶[1] through the active development of the tea arts movement (chá yì 茶艺) and specialized tea houses through the 70s and 80s. This period saw the introduction of several novelties aiming to create new ways of experiencing, enjoying, and ‘ritualizing’ tea, most being related to aesthetics (tea stage / chá xí 茶席[2] and floral arrangement / chā huā 茶花), social events (such as wú wǒ tea gatherings 無我茶會[3]), as well as utensils. Two new tools were indeed implemented, now commonly used among tea enthusiasts and groups: the chá hǎi 茶海[4] (typically known as gōng dào bēi 公道杯 in China and overseas Chinese communities), a pitcher (fairness cup) used to decant the tea equally into the cups and inspired by the yuzamashi 湯冷まし found in Japanese senchadō 煎茶道 tea ceremony (where it serves to cool down the water prior to its insertion inside the teapot); and the aroma / fragrance cup[5] (wén xiāng bēi 闻香杯), a distinctive tall and narrow cup used in conjunction with a regular tasting cup to – as the name suggests – appreciate the scent stemming from the tea. While Taiwanese gong fu tea originally placed a great emphasis on locally grown and produced oolongs, it is nowadays indiscriminately used with other types of tea such as pu’er.

  • Ideal for: People new to tea or looking to further explore specific tea cultivars and regions.
  • Teas shared: Organic / naturally grown Taiwanese teas, Chinese hēichá 黑茶 (will be tailored based on the event and availability)
  • Number of guests: 1 – 6
  • Duration: 1 hour to 1 hour and a half
  • Event type: Public
  • Location: Grow Community Market (Hin Bus Depot, Autocity), Hin Market (Hin Bus Depot), and at Journal Georgetown.

[1] The art of brewing tea with skill. Informally known as lǎo rén chá 老人茶 (old man tea) in Taiwan.

[2] Your host’s chá xí principles strongly revolve around the use of utensils spontaneously found in or gifted by Nature, each conveying their own unique history and raw beauty through their color, texture, and shape. They give birth to an organic, intimate, and humble sharing that allows tea to freely express the universality of its languages.

[3] Wú wǒ 無我 gatherings (translated as “selfless”, based on the central Buddhist concept of anattā, with wú 無 expressing void/absolute emptiness and wǒ 無 referring to mine/self/being) are special social events where tea drinkers bring their own tea and set, and share tea in a circle. Each participant brews the tea leaves she/he has brought into several cups reflecting the number of individuals present. If four cups are used, three will be served to the three people sited on your left, with the last cup being kept for yourself. You will also be served an equal amount of cups from the people sited on your right. When the tea has been drunk, additional infusions can be performed as needed. Depending on the number of people, more circles can be formed. This type of tea sharing typically follow a set of specific principles and rules, which are detailed through this article.

[4] Fair cups are commonly made of glass, which allows to observe the color of the tea liquor. Two main decanting techniques are used (each influencing the characteristics of the brew that is served), with the first one being the most popular: decanting and serving individually each infusion, or decanting two or three infusions into the pitcher then serve. The chá hǎi is a utensil Raphaël is particularly fond of, as it slows down and make one’s practice more mindful.

[5] Aroma cups are used as follows. The tea is first poured into the aroma cup and covered with the tasting cup (put upside down). Both cups are then held with the hands and quickly flipped over. The aroma cup (now on top) is lifted to release the tea liquor into the tasting cup. The gentle fragrance of the tea, clinging to the surface of the now empty aroma cup, can now be enjoyed. Note that when such cups are used, the tea is therefore never drunk from them directly. Additionally, they are always made of porcelain, which better highlights the fragrant notes of the tea. Your host only use them on rare occasions, when tasting a brand-new tea or conducting side-by-side comparisons.

Gōng Fu Chá 工夫茶 – Teochew (Cháozhōu) 潮州 Style

The Cháozhōu 潮州 (or Teochew in a local romanisation) gōng fu chá 功夫茶 brewing tradition originated from the Cháoshàn 潮汕 area in the Guǎngdōng 廣東 province of China, home of the Phoenix Mountain (Fènghuáng shān 鳳凰山) and dān cōng 单枞 oolongs. This several hundred-year-old way of preparing tea was originally developed to make low-grade teas more palatable through skillful brewing. It traditionally relies on locally produced teas (namely dān cōng 单枞) and teapots[1], using only three cups[2] that are arranged to form the character pǐn 品 (taste). This character is said to symbolize in abbreviated form the word pǐndé 品德, which means ‘virtuous character’ or ‘morality’. Three brews are served[3], with the tea being directly poured into the cups in a circular fashion (known as ‘Lord Guān patrols the city’ / Guāngōng xún chéng 關公巡城[4]). The last drops coming from the teapot, which contains the strongest liquor, are then distributed evenly by shaking it downwardly (known as ‘Hán Xìn selects the troops’ / Hán Xìn diǎn bīng 韓信點兵[5]). Once the tea is served and as a sign of respect, the first cup is offered to the oldest guest among the three that are present, with the last one given to the youngest person[6]. When drinking from the cup, tea is traditionally drunk in three sips; the first one to appreciate the aroma and moisten the lips; the second one to appreciate the flavor; the third one to keep a final aftertaste. Nowadays, Cháozhōu 潮州市 style gōng fu chá 功夫茶 expresses itself through a diversity of procedural variations and is used to brew other types of unrolled oolongs such as yán chá 岩茶 (rock tea) from the Wǔyí mountains 武夷山.

  • Ideal for: People already familiar with tea or looking to further explore the complexity of rock (yán chá 岩茶) and phoenix oolong teas (dān cōng 单枞)
  • Teas shared (will be tailored based on the event and availability): Organic / naturally grown Taiwanese teas, Chinese yán chá 岩茶 and dān cōng 单枞
  • Number of guests: 1 – 3
  • Duration: 45 minutes to 1 hour
  • Event type: Private (booking required)
  • Location: Le cerf-volant‘s Zìrán 自然 tea hut at 够 GROW Lifestyle Space
Notes [1] The use of gàiwǎns 蓋碗 is also common.

[2] The common theories for the use of three cups are several: the three cups mimic the character pǐn 品 (which means ‘to taste’ and is composed of three ‘mouth’ radicals); they symbolize the trinity of Heaven, Earth and Human; they represent Buddhism and the Triple Gem of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha; they are based on Daoism and The Doctrine of the Trinity (from the Dào Dé Jīng 道德经: “The Dao produced One; One produced Two; Two produced Three; Three produced All things”).

[3] Brews are usually very quick (only a few seconds) depending on the tea and the brewer’s calibration. Therefore, teapots must have a very quick pour in order to prevent the tea from being over-brewed.

[4] Refers to the famous general of the Three Kingdoms (Sānguó shídài 三國時代) period, Guān Yǔ 關羽, making a round around a walled fortress. He was a Chinese military general serving under the warlord Liú Bèi 劉備 during the late Eastern Han (Dōnghàn 東漢) dynasty of China. Guān Yǔ played a significant role in the events leading up to the end of the Hàn 漢 dynasty and the establishment of Liú Bèi’s state of Shǔ Hàn 蜀漢 during the Three Kingdoms period.

[5] Hán Xìn 韓信 was a well-known Chinese military general who greatly contributed to the formation of the Hàn 漢 dynasty. He is best remembered as a brilliant military leader for the strategies and tactics he employed in warfare, some of which became the origins of certain Chinese idioms. He was named as one of the Three Heroes of the early Hàn dynasty (Hàn chū sān jié 漢初三傑), along with Zhāng Liáng 張良 and Xiāo Hé 蕭何.

[6] This is called ‘xiān zūn hòu bēi, xiān lǎo hòu yòu 先尊後卑、先老後幼’, which literally means ‘first the respectable [person], then the lower [person] / first the old, then the young’. It is also considered disrespectful to the guests to be served after the host (‘The barbarian host deceives the guests’ / Mán zhǔ qī kè 蠻主欺客).

Zhǔ Chá 煮茶 – Yunnanese-style Boiled Tea

Originally and currently practiced by ethnic minorities in China’s Yúnnán 云南 Province and greatly influenced by Lù Yǔ 陸羽’s (729-804) prominent work the ‘Chá Jīng’ 茶經 (Classic of Tea), the Zhǔ Chá 煮茶 (boiled tea) tradition – also reffered as Wéi Lú Zhǔ Chá 围炉煮茶 (preparing tea by the fire) – spread and gained in popularity during the Táng dynasty 唐朝 (618–690, 705–907) among the nobility and literati, turning it into a more refined practice. Instead of using loose leaves, the tea went instead under a new type of processing involving steaming, grounding, and compressing, while giving birth to a new tea brewing tradition. The result took the form of small tea cakes (tuán chá 团茶) that were roasted dry over a stove, grounded into a powder, added to a cauldron of boiling water along with a pinch a salt to make the water smoother and the tea thicker, stirred, left to boil, and consumed using bowls. In its original, rural, and aboriginal form, Zhǔ Chá 煮茶 was (and still is) made using freshly harvested tea leaves that were then roasted in a pot, to which boiling water was added, and left over the Huǒ​táng 火塘[1]. Tea was then boiled for several minutes before being consumed among several people. Apart from its cultural significance, boiled tea is also known for its health benefits and meditative qualities, resulting in a potent release of its properties that invites one to slowly explore its nourishing spirit. Nowadays, Zhǔ Chá 煮茶 is enjoying an upsurge of interest among the young generation and Chinese tea practionners, encapsulating the perfect social activity to warm the body and the soul during the colder months of winter.

  • Ideal for: People looking to further explore the medicinal and contemplative character of this tradition
  • Teas shared: More information coming soon
  • Number of guests: 1 – 3
  • Duration: 1 hour to 1 hour and a half
  • Event type: Private (booking required)
  • Location: Le cerf-volant‘s Zìrán 自然 tea hut at 够 GROW Lifestyle Space

[1] A huǒ​táng 火塘 is a stone stove that is principally used for heating in Yúnnán 云南. It is an important source of heat and light that aids cooking, sleeping, and even facilitates interpersonal relationships and gatherings in the households of ethnic minorities in the region.

Diǎn Chá 点茶 – Traditional Song Dynasty Whisked Tea

Diǎn chá 点茶 – or whisked tea (with ‘diǎn’ referring to the action of pouring boiling water) – is one of the traditional ways tea was consumed during the Chinese Sòng dynasty 宋朝 (960–1279). Most of the tea during that time was still in the form of semi-fermented, compressed tea cakes known as tuán chá 团茶 (that flourished in the Táng dynasty 唐朝, 618–690, 705–907) and made into tribute tea (gòng chá 貢茶[1]) or intended to the tea-horse trade and its caravans (chá mǎ fǎ 茶馬法). Diǎn chá – this new practice of grinding white tea into a fine powder and whisking it into a bowl using hot water – was popularized by Emperor Huizong of Song (Sòng Huīzōng 宋徽宗, 1082–1135). It was notably outlined (along with the utensils required[2]) in its famous ‘Treatise of Tea’[3] (Dàguān Chá Lùn 大观茶论) written in 1107, where he also expressed its fondness for Ānjí bái chá 安吉白茶 – a popular green tea originally produced in Anji County (Zhejiang Province, China) which had “the color of white jade”. This subsequently led to the birth of the School of the Foamed Jade (Diǎn Chá Fǎ 点茶法), and more specifically to the Qī Tāng Diǎn Chá Fǎ 七汤点茶 method of whisking tea (where water is poured seven times into the bowl[4]). Enjoying its new status as a fashionable activity among the literati as well as the elite while building on a prosperous development of tea within the country, the refined practice of diǎn chá played an essential role in influencing, shaping, and reinvigorating the cultural and social fields with which it was concurrently evolving: tea parties and competitions (known as dòu chá 斗茶[5]), creative and aesthetic pursuits – most notably chá bǎi xì 茶百戏[6] (paintings made directly on the tea foam, which was traditionally referred to as xuě mò rǔ huā 雪沫乳花 or “milky/foamy snowflakes”) – and pottery, with Jian ware (Jiàn zhǎn 建窯) and their distinctive black bowls reaching their peak level of craftsmanship and achieving a high prestige[7] during that time. Diǎn chá later spread to Japan through Buddhist monks, where it was further developed and refined to become the Japanese tea ceremony (Sadō/Chadō 茶道, or Chanoyu 茶の湯) as it is known today.

  • Ideal for: People looking to experience the original tradition of whisked tea and its ceremonial potential through formal sharing sessions.
  • Tea shared: Hand-milled Bái Mǔdān 白牡丹 (White Peony)
  • Number of guests: 2-4
  • Duration: 1 hour
  • Event type: Private
  • Location: Penang, Malaysia

[1] The most common ones were Dragon Phoenix Tea Cakes (lóng fèng tuán chá 龙凤团茶), named after the dragon and phoenix patterns embossed on them. They were restricted to the imperial court or gifted to officials and were produced in the historical tea garden of Beiyuan (located in Jianzhou, present-day Fujian Province), known for their high quality tea. The production of tribute teas greatly contributed to the development of the tea industry in the Sòng dynasty.

[2] The main utensils used for diǎn chá are: tea bowl (chá zhǎn 茶盏), bowl stand (zhǎn tuō 盏托), pestle and mortar (chá chuí 茶槌), grinder (chá niǎn 茶碾) or mill (chá mó 茶磨), sieve (luō hé 罗合) – which often doubled as a container, kettle (shuǐ hú 水壺) and stove (ní lú 泥炉), whisk (chá xiǎn 茶筅), water jug (zhí hú 执壶), waster water bowl (shuǐ fāng 水方), tea scoop (chá hé 茶荷), tea spoon (chá sháo 茶勺), brush (chá shuā 茶刷), tea towel (chá jīn 茶巾), ladle (piáo sháo 瓢勺) – optional if no guests are to be served, cups or small bowls (chá bēi 茶杯) – optional if no guests are to be served, and tongs (chá jiā 茶夾) – optional, used to insert the tea cake into the mortar.

[3] An English version of this treatise can be found here.

[4] The number seven bears and conveys a strong symbolism in Chinese culture, especially in Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism. For diǎn chá, water is added seven times, each time in a specific manner, with the mixture being whisked after each addition.

[5] Participants taking part in dòu chá competitions were judged based on several criteria such as the visual quality of the tea whisked (the finest it was, the better), its color (reddish/yellow was considered poor and would indicate a poorly processed tea, green/gray acceptable, and pure white perfect), its texture (the longer the foam remains and sticks to the walls of the bowl, the better), as well as the presence of water marks (which would indicate or not poor whisking technique). The participant whose bowl would first show water marks would thus lose. Those contests, that were already existing during the Táng dynasty, were great catalyst to promote diǎn chá skills as well as the quality of tea that was produced at the time.

[6] Chá bǎi xì was first seen in the Táng dynasty and gained popularity among the Sòng literati. This unique painting technique uses a paste made out of tea, which is then applied with a small bamboo stick or spoon to paint directly on the tea foam in the bowl. Landscapes, animals, and life scenes were among the main themes that were traditionally painted.

[7] Jiàn zhǎn bowls traditionally feature unique, and highly praised glaze finishes, resulting from an excess of iron during firing in a high-temperature oxidizing atmosphere. The most common pattern types are hare’s fur (tùháo zhǎn 兔毫盞), oil spot (yóu dī 油滴), tortoiseshell (biējiǎ zhǎn 鼈甲盞), and partridge feathers (xuě zhègū zhǎn 雪鷓鴣盞). These bowl were notably sought after for their ability to better highlight the white foam of the tea – an important feature when evaluating the quality of the tea foam during dòu chá competitions. They were (and still are) extremely valued in Japan among Japanese tea ceremony practitioners, ceramic enthusiasts, and collectors, where replicas were made and became known as Tenmoku (taking its name from the Tiānmù Mountain (Tiānmù Shān 天目山, or ‘Heavenly Eyes Mountain’) located in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, in eastern China).

Photo credit: Wilson Twl

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