Topic: gōngfu chá 工夫茶 or gōngfu chá 功夫茶?

Good stuff from the Language Log - thanks Dr. Mair.

[mod edit - replaced url trimmer link with actual link]
http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=3282

Re: gōngfu chá 工夫茶 or gōngfu chá 功夫茶?

Yeah. Interesting indeed. I'll paste my comments from the Language Log thread in case it sparks some discussion. Would also be interested if anyone else has any other information or ideas about when gongfu tea brewing started, why 'gongfu' red tea is called such, and / or any hard documentation of when what we consider to be wulong tea actually started to be produced.

An article I have says:

The congou [read gongfu] was first described in Yu Jiao's (1751-?) book Miscellanea of Chaoshan and Jiaxing in Qing Dynasty.
[…]
Accordingly, scholars think thought [sic] that "About in the Wanli Period (1573-1679) of the Ming Dynasty, the congou ceremony of Chaoshan had its basic conditions to be formed and began to emerge. Step by step it was finalized at that period".(11)

footnote 11 is from the Chinese publication "Archeology of Agriculture", in special issue (6) on Chinese tea culture, from 1993 p 144. (by the way, both publications use 工夫 rather than 功夫).

Some of the early references to gongfu tea do mention Lu Yu ("The proper way to make congou is to obey Lu Yu's tea ceremony but with more exquisite tea sets…"), so it's possible that folks who think "Tea Classic" mentions gongfu tea may have it backwards.

I don't have any documentation one way or another, but I've always understood gongfu black (red) tea to refer to the skill / work involved in making the tea, rather than suggesting that this type of tea is actually used for making gongfu tea (which usually involves wulong / partially-oxidized tea).

I also kind of agree with the commenter in that thread that it doesn't really matter whether it's 工夫茶 or 功夫茶 - the meaning is more or less the same in either case.