Tea World

Lesson 31

Chinese Tea Culture and Traditions

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In China, long before tea became the beverage of choice and a way of life, it was considered a medicinal staple. Tea was not only a treatment for individual illnesses, but was also a general health tonic, said to promote long life and vitality. Even today, in traditional Chinese medicine, green teas and pu-erhs are prescribed for a variety of complaints, especially as modern research has come to support many of these claims. Tea was also used by those wishing to achieve better results while meditating, and became popular with Buddhist priests who later introduced it to the aristocratic circles. For some time, only people of high standing in the imperial courts and some selected priests were able to drink tea on a regular basis. But later on, tea became more widely available to all people, and the lower classes were also finally able to enjoy tea more frequently.

It was not long before tea was incorporated more and more into daily life, and began to be enjoyed solely for its own pleasures. Since the beginning of the Ming dynasty, teahouses sprung up all over the country, and people of all ages   come at all hours of the day to drink tea and enjoy each others’ company. In this way, tea was never confined to a strict time of the day, but could be taken at any time. The teahouses would usually serve nothing except tea, and became a part of most people’s daily ritual. Today in China, while the teahouses still retain popularity as gathering places, the importance of tea in daily life is usually evident at the table. Tea is one of the most important parts of every meal, whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner. At home or in a restaurant, one will always find a cup of tea set in front of them. Besides mealtime, tea is served to welcome guests as a form of respect, and is a long-held tradition in all classes. In China, green tea is consumed the most, with oolong tea being a close second, followed by Pu-erh. White tea and black tea are drunk less frequently, but still deserve some recognition.

Tea Ceremony-a Tea culture

Tea ceremonies are a part of tea culture in some countries. A tea ceremony is a ritualized form of making tea  practiced in  Asian culture by the Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese and Taiwanese. The tea ceremony, literally translated as "way of tea" in Japanese,  and "art of tea" in Chinese, is a cultural activity involving the ceremonial preparation and presentation of tea. One can also refer to the whole set of rituals, tools, gestures etc. used in such ceremonies as tea culture. All of these tea ceremonies and rituals contain "an adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday life", as well as refinement, an inner spiritual content, humility, restraint and simplicity "as all arts that partake the extraordinary, an artistic artificiality, abstractness, symbolism and formalism" to one degree or another.

“Gong Fu”-the Tea Ceremony of China

The Chinese practice, a form of Tea Ceremony called “Gong Fu”, which means the art of doing something well. In the tea ceremony the implication is that time, dedication and effort will produce an ultimate tea experience. The phrase is also spelled as kung fu, kung fu-cha or gong fu-cha.

Gong fu is a formal Chinese tea ceremony. A specialty of Fukien, a major oolong tea-producing area in mainland China, it has become a signature tea service in the Republic of China (aka Taiwan and formerly known as Formosa). When politics impacted Fujian centuries ago, many tea manufacturers moved from there to Formosa and brought both their oolong tea growing skills and tea ceremony to the island country.

Although there are many steps in the Gong Fu tea ceremony, they are easy to master and they rarely take more than ten minutes to perform. Guests usually number two to four.

In a Gong Fu style tea ceremony, the tea master preparing the tea for the group is considered an artist in his or her own right. Styles for pouring the water and tea vary individually, and many devote a lot of time practicing difficult and artistic maneuvers. Usually the equipage for this tea ceremony would be a clay Yi-Xing pot and several small tea cups, a tea sink or shallow bowl for draining water into, and a few bamboo tools for handling the hot objects.The tea master arranges the tea pot and cups in a circular fashion over the tea sink or in the bowl, and pour hot water into each to rinse the objects and to warm them so that the temperature of the tea is more consistent. This rinse water is discarded, and then the tea leaves, usually oolong,is measured into the pot. More hot water is then poured into the pot and the tea leaves will begin steeping. Every infusion in Gong Fu ceremony is very quick, about 30 seconds, though the method for timing is never exactly precise.

 In one tradition, hot water is poured over the outside of the teapot, and when the water is seen to be fully evaporated, the tea is ready to be poured. In another, the tea master must count a full 4 deep breaths before beginning to pour. Either of these methods is roughly a 30 second steep, and remains consistent throughout the multiple following infusions. Then the tea master will begin pouring in a continuous flow around to each of the tea cups, a little at a time, resulting in each person having the equal amount and strength of tea in his or her cup. After enjoying this first round of tea, the leaves may be resteeped for many more infusions.

Chinese Tea-Customs  

Chinese tea is present in almost all occasions in a Chinese everyday life,be it casual occasion, weddings, formal occasions, etc. Tea must be present and without it the occasion will not be completed. It will be interesting for you to know some of the Chinese customs and traditions.

Chinese Tea and Weddings

In a traditional Chinese wedding, the groom and the bride must serve their parents a cup of tea while kneeling in front of them. This means that the newlyweds are being grateful to their parents that if they didn’t bring them up as they do, they will likely not be there in front of them.

Chinese Tea and Respect

One way to show the respect of young ones to their seniors is through a cup of tea. Back in the old days, in a family or an organization, only those in the lower level serve tea to the higher ups. Of course, nowadays, anyone can serve a cup of tea to anyone. Parents can serve their kids a cup of tea or a boss serving his or her employee a cup of tea and no one will raise an opinion about it. But on formal occasions the traditional approach is still the one that is being applied, where an individual will serve the one on much higher rank.

Chinese Tea and Apologies

If someone is serious about making amends to the one he has made a mistake with, saying how sorry he is, is not enough. He needs to serve that person a tea and apologise. This act shows submissiveness and regret for the things that he has done.

Chinese Tea and Thank You

 Some Chinese after someone pours a cup of tea for them they tap their two fingers against the table.It is only their way of saying thank you to the one who serve them a cup of tea.

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