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Gong Fu Cha: Intuition or Structure?

Posted by Misha Gulko on

In a world where everything can be divided into two groups, Gong Fu Cha practitioners can be split between two distinct "schools of thought": those who believe that tea should be approached with a free and intuitive mindset and those who see it as a disciplined practice that requires adherence to rules and standards. Each school offers unique perspectives and benefits but also potential flaws.

In this article, we will explore these two approaches to Gong Fu Cha practice, discuss their benefits and potential shortcomings. So, grab a cup of tea and let's dive in!


Intuition: Feeling Tea, Going With The Flow

The first approach is all about feeling the tea and following your intuition. It's about being present in the moment, being open to the possibilities of the tea, and letting the tea guide you. This approach is often associated with mindfulness and meditation practices.

When we let go of rules and guidelines, we open ourselves to a world of tea brewing full of spontaneity and creativity. This approach allows us to listen to the tea and lets our senses guide us. It's a journey where every brew is unique and exciting. You let your intuition guide you when it comes to the brewing time and the amount of tea leaves to use. It's a more organic and intuitive process that allows you to connect with the tea on a deeper level, an approach that can lead to unexpected and delightful results. 


Outdoors Gong Fu Cha


But with such an approach comes a higher possibility of mistakes. It's easier to get lost in the flow and oversteep the tea or make a wrong judgment and put too many leaves. However, with the right approach, these mistakes are opportunities for growth and learning. 


When we brew without the safety net of parameters, we are forced to pay closer attention to the tea and notice its subtle changes. We learn from our mistakes and can then adjust our technique, making each cup better than the last.


This way, brewing with intuition becomes a dance with tea. We are free to move, to feel the tea, and are present in the moment. It's a journey that is less about the destination and more about the experience. And in that experience, we find joy, delight, and a deeper connection to the tea and ourselves.

However, while brewing with intuition and feeling can be quite exciting, it also has downsides. The absence of structure can lead to lacking knowledge and understanding of the underlying principles of tea brewing.

Furthermore, the lack of structure can make it challenging to troubleshoot problems that may arise during the brewing process. When we rely solely on intuition, it can be challenging to pinpoint what went wrong when a brew doesn't turn out as expected, which can make it difficult to learn from our mistakes and improve our brewing skills.


Structure: Sticking To The Rules

While the intuitive approach offers a certain degree of flexibility, it often comes at the cost of consistency. The second approach, on the other hand, is all about setting parameters. It's about following guidelines and techniques to brew the perfect cup of tea every time. This approach is often associated with precision and accuracy, requiring discipline and attention to detail. You measure the water's temperature, weigh the tea leaves, and time the brewing process to the second. It's a more structured and systematic approach that allows you to achieve consistent results every time. By measuring the tea leaves, water temperature, and brewing time, you can ensure that every cup of tea is more or less the same. 


Such an approach can be particularly beneficial for those new to tea brewing and still learning the ropes, looking to develop their palate, and learn about different types of tea. By eliminating variables, you can focus on the tea itself and better understand its unique characteristics and nuances. 


Moreover, an analytical approach allows for more clear and evident experimentations with different parameters. For example, adjusting the water temperature or steeping time can bring out various notes in the tea's taste and aroma, eliminate bitterness or enhance the tea's character. 


By systematically varying these parameters, you can develop a deeper understanding of the tea and the impact that different brewing methods can have on its flavor. Over time, you can refine your technique and achieve even better results.


However, this approach also has its flaws. It can be too rigid and limiting, preventing experiencing the tea fully. While following a set of parameters and guidelines can result in consistent outcomes, focusing too much on adhering to rules and formulas will lead to missing out on unexpected discoveries. A mechanical and formulaic approach blindly following a set of parameters limits creativity and innovation. It can be easy to fall into a routine and brew the same tea in the same way repeatedly, failing to explore the full range of flavors and aromas that the tea can offer.


Gong Fu Cha Setting


Additionally, this approach can be limiting because it assumes that there is a perfect formula or set of parameters for brewing tea. In reality, each batch of tea can have unique characteristics that may require adjustments to the brewing parameters. By relying solely on established guidelines, one may miss out on opportunities to discover new ways of brewing and flavors the tea can offer. 


Which Approach Is Better

So, in a world where the approach to Gong Fu Cha can be divided into two groups, which style is better? Ultimately, the best approach lies somewhere in the middle.

Being flexible and open to experimenting with different approaches while also having a solid understanding of the underlying principles is key. Knowing yourself and working with your individual tendencies and character is essential to achieve the best results. For some, a more intuitive approach may be the best fit, while others may feel the need for a more structured approach. 

Regardless of your chosen approach (or a lack of such), it's essential to remain open to learning and growing, recognizing that mistakes and failures are opportunities for growth and improvement.

The beauty of tea brewing lies in the journey itself. It's a process that requires patience, mindfulness, and willingness to embrace both structure and intuition. By striking a balance between these two approaches, we can truly connect with the tea and unlock its full potential. Remember – there's no one right way to brew a perfect cup. It's all about finding what works best for you and enjoying the journey.