Oolong tea is considered by some connoisseurs to be the ultimate in the art of tea. Not just its manufacture but also the way in which it is enjoyed. With names such as Iron Goddess of Mercy and Golden Buddha, the different kinds are ripe with legendary stories and even the name oolong sounds mystical, meaning black dragon.
The beautiful Wuyi Mountains of northwestern Fujian province is a fitting place for these legends to originate with its mist-covered, fairy peaks and winding river. The art of tea has been practiced there since ancient times and even today, tea art competitions are held, which draw oolong lovers from in and outside of China.
One could study for a lifetime and still not attain perfection in all the nuances. None the less, it is a goal well worth the endeavor. It is often the journey which is the real art, not simply the end result.
There can be many variations in the gongfu tea ceremony. In the Wuyi Mountain tradition, there are 27 steps. Each serves its purpose to create not only an exquisite cup of tea but also an enriching experience for the maker and the guest. Perhaps you may find yourself one day, wandering through the wilds of those mountains, and have your own meeting with the black dragon.
1. Gong Qing Shang Zuo – Respectfully usher in guests
2. Feng Xiang Jing Qi – Light incense and calm the qi
3. Si Zhu He Ming – Silk and Bamboo together make music
4. Yie Jia Chou Bing – Entertain guests with the tea leaves
5. San Quan Chu Fei – Mountain spring water boils
6. Meng Cheng Mu Ling – Honorable teapot is bathed
7. Wu Long Ru Gong – Black dragon goes into the palace
8. Xuan Hu Gao Zhong – Suspend kettle high and centered
9. Quan Feng Fu Mian – Spring wind caresses the face
10. Chong Xi Xian Yian – Wash the fairy’s face once more
11. Ruo Cheng Chu Yu – As if emerging from the shower
12. Yu Yie Hui Hu – Jade liquid returns to the teapot
13. Guan Gong Xun Cheng – Guan Gong reviews the city
14. Han Xing Dian Bing – Han Xing orders his soldiers
15. San Long Hu Ding – Three dragons protect the cup
16. Jian Shang San Se – Enjoy the colors
17. Xi Wen You Xiang – Feel elated by the calming aroma
18. Chu Ping Qi Ming – First, taste the unique drink
19. Zai Hen Lan Jr – Then, pour the tea again
20. Ping Cuo Gan Lu – Sip the sweet dew
21. San Jen Jing Foa – Third, pour the Golden Buddha a few more times
22. Ling Lue Yian Un – Enjoy the rock tea’s beauty
23. Jing Xian Cha Dian – Serve the tea snacks
24. Zi Jen Man Ying – Casually drink at your own leisure
25. Xing Shang Ge Wu – Enjoy singing and dancing
26. You Long Xi Shui – Dragon swims playfully in the water
27. Jing Bei Xie Cha – Empty the cup and appreciate the tea
This post was first published on T-Ching on May 21, 2007