Taiwanese and Chinese-style Gōng Fu Chá 工夫茶
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 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. For those looking to book Le cerf-volant’s tea services for a 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
Le cerf-volant’s signature offering
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 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 and floral arrangement / chā huā 茶花), social events (such as wú wǒ tea gatherings 無我茶會), as well as utensils. Two new tools were indeed implemented, now commonly used among tea enthusiasts and groups: the chá hǎi 茶海 (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 (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: 2 – 4
- Duration: 1 hour / 1 hour and a half
- Event type: Public & private
- Location: in Penang at Grow Community Market (Hin Bus Depot, Autocity), Journal Georgetown and in Sungai Petani at Batu Dua Community Market
-  The art of brewing tea with skill. Informally known as lǎo rén chá 老人茶 (old man tea) in Taiwan.
-  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.
-  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.
-  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.
-  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 – Chinese 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, using only three cups 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, 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). 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). 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. 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: 2 – 3
- Duration: 1 hour / 1 hour and a half
- Event type: Private (booking required)
- Location: at Le cerf-volant‘s Zìrán 自然 tea hut in Gelugor, Penang
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) 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) in its famous ‘Treatise of Tea’ (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). 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), creative and aesthetic pursuits – most notably chá bǎi xì 茶百戏 (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 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
Photo credit: Wilson Twl