Feast Your Eyes: How to Master the Kung-Fu of Tea in One Easy Photograph

Time for a nice cup of tea—steeped with science and skill.

Dave Arnold, the performance sculptor-turned-mad-scientist behind the Cooking Issues blog, recently went to California and visited Harold McGee. The two drank some tea—serious tea—with Roy Fong. Arnold writes about what he learned:

In Chinese, gong fu means “skill derived from effort and practice” and cha means “tea.” Gong fu cha, therefore, is the practice of deeply focusing and practicing the art of brewing, drinking, and enjoying tea. Here in America, when we are talking about this same sense of focus, skill, and training aimed towards kicking someone’s butt, we usually call it Kung fu—which is the same Chinese word spelled differently.


So, after his visit, Arnold turned his attention to brewing kick-ass tea. He steeped three identical glasses with hot water and tea and photographed the process over two minutes. The middle glass was not stirred, the one of the left was stirred slowly, and the right glass was stirred quickly, all of which goes to show that stirring your tea, at any speed, accelerates brewing. A baby step towards gong fu cha.

Photo: Dave Arnold/Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University.