Yixing Teapots for Oolong Tea
The best way to make oolong tea (also spelled wulong tea or wu long tea) is the gong fu method of brewing oolong tea in a small teapot sometimes called an yixing teapot. Yixing is a city in China where yixing teapots have been produced since the 13th century.
Taiwan also has a strong (although shorter) tradition of producing teapots for oolong tea. It is incorrect to call Taiwan teapots "yixing teapots" as this term should be reserved for teapots which are produced in Yixing, China. The quality of Taiwan tea pots for oolong tea meets or surpasses yixing teapots.
There are many artisans throughout Taiwan producing yixing-style teapots. The demand for their work has encouraged them to pursue daring designs in their teapots. Taiwan teapots are highly valued by collectors both in Taiwan and around the world.
Gong Fu Tea
The term "Gong Fu" (Kung Fu in Cantonese) has come to be associated with the martial arts, so many people are confused as to how oolong tea can be brewed gong fu style. The imagination runs wild - gung fu masters twirling through the air to wrestle the finest quality oolong tea and spring water from their opponents.
Gong fu tea is not so dramatic. The Chinese characters for gong fu are these:
The first character means "achievement or merit" and the second character means "man." Together they mean "skill or art." Gong fu tea, then, is the art of making tea.
Since the art of making oolong tea involves the use of a small unglazed teapot, yixing style teapots are often called gong fu teapots. Despite their connotations of mastery, they are a common item in Taiwan. They are quite reasonably priced - typically around US$10. Of course, teapots made by famous artisans demand higher prices, but this type of teapot is not likely to find daily use around the dinner table.
Many Taiwanese families have a collection of teapots for oolong tea. Some are reserved for a certain type of oolong so that the flavors of the different teas don't intermingle. There are various sizes of gong fu teapots, but the most common is about 7 ounces.
Gong fu tea pots are made of unglazed clay. This material absorbs the flavour of the tea over time. They are never washed with soap or detergent - they are simply rinsed with water after use.