The Fairness Cup

If you’ve ever seen or experienced a real Chinese tea ceremony, you probably noticed that the tea artist first pours the tea from the teapot into a pitcher. Such a pitcher is known as a “gong dao bei”, which literally means ‘fair cup’. In the West, it’s more often called a fairness pitcher. The history of this piece of tea ware can be dated back to Ming Dynasty in China, when loose leaf tea started to become more popular than tea compressed in cakes.

Steeping time is crucial to the taste of the tea, especially when you brew black tea. The intensity of the taste of tea changes even during the seconds you pour it out of the teapot. So, for example if you pour the liquor directly into 6 cups, the tea might taste different from cup to cup. Not strange, as the tea in the first cup might have stayed in the teapot for just 10 seconds, while the last cup you pour might be inside for 20 seconds. That’s a 100% difference in steeping time! Every cup will have a different color and therefore a different taste intensity. You can probably imagine now why it’s hard to enjoy together like this.

This is why you should pour the tea into a fairness pitcher first. This balances the concentration and the taste of the tea. Every cup of tea will have the same color! Now when you sit together with your tea friends, you drink and talk about the same tea!

So with a fairness cup, the tea in each cup has the same taste; and each cup has the same amount of the tea. So it’s ‘fair’ to everyone! After all, when you appreciate tea together you want everyone to drink the exact same taste.