One of the best things I experienced as an exchange student to China would be the tea ceremony. The Chinese always make a fuss about it and it sometimes lead us, the tourists, to a big question mark.
I kinda wanna do some geeky list about Chinese tea, so here are some perspectives on Chinese Tea and a glimpse into the traditional ceremony. The tea culture of China is quite different from Japan and Britain, especially in terms of preparation, occasion and a bit of the taste. During Chinese tea ceremony, dried fruits and sometimes grapes are served with tea. It is recognized as happy, fun and positive occasion and often there is a girl playing gentle Chinese melody with a harp.
Well, there are in general six major types of tea in China they say. That is (it’s pretty easy to remember- white tea, black tea, dark tea, green tea and Oolong Tea. The tea type is distinguished according to their ways of production, harvesting and weather the tea leaves are grown.
A bit of history
There are a lot of underlying stories and chronicles for drinking tea. However, in folklore, there was a man named Sheng Nong and on one day, after a long walk, he felt thirsty and exhausted. Thus, he boiled a pot of water right under the tree he was relaxing. A few leaves fell into the pot without his notice, but then he drank it anyway and had an extraordinary taste that he never tasted before. The aroma, the taste, the color felt so wonderful and he decided to make such drink.
Serving the Tea
I had the pleasure of drinking tea and attending tea ceremony during my visit. Different province of China has a slight difference in serving tea, such as the use of tea leaves, the utensils and the ambience they create. The tea pots and cups used are pretty much smaller in size than in west, and perhaps even a mere tinier than those of Japanese.
It is interesting to note that Chinese never use metal or their hands directly to handle tea leaves, instead the wooden or bamboo spoons are advised to utilize. Although many Chinese nowadays are using instant tea bags soaked in the glass tea pots, I was still admiring their customs in tea ceremony; they strictly follow the rules that are set.
One of the vital rules is to always boil the water on a stove in a traditional way and never to use the water from the dispenser or microwave the water. Then, the teapot is wrapped in a cloth so that it is still cozy and warm. The tea boat, the tea table plays a significant role in this ritual as it is not just a table. It is a piece of art and functional ornament that is usually made of wood or bamboo. And it also represents the imagination and ingenuity of the carpenter.
My tour guide mentioned that if the hosts genuinely welcome you, they will serve you with the smallest tea cups they possess as they enjoy your company and would like you to be at their home for a longer time.
Always offer tea to others before you serve yourself. In Chinese etiquettes, it is considered rude and lack of manner if you serve yourself first. Whenever someone pours tea for you, tapping gently to the table twice is the way to say thank you without interrupting the conversation.