Thursday, 28 November 2013

Tea Customs

Compiled from the Origins of Chinese Tea and Wine
        With its long history among the Chinese, tea has become an integral part of the Chinese culture.

  1. Serving tea to the guest. It is a Chinese custom for the host to serve tea to a guest.
  1. In offerings. Tea was originally used as a medicine because of its detoxifying and curative effects. It was therefore revered as a gift of the gods, and was used in offerings to the gods and ancestors.
  1. Dou Cha (tea competition). In ancient times, tea drinking was a noble activity fovoured by the educated crowd. During the Song Dynasty, tea competitions were popular in literary circles, and scholars would gather to sample and discuss the merits of various types of tea.
  1. Accepting tea. In the past, tea was presented as a gift during weddings. It was seen as a sign of loyalty because a tea tree can’t be transplanted once it is sown. The bride must also accept the tea from the groom during the engagement: this is called shou cha (accepting tea). Tea also signifies everlasting love as it is evergreen. The fact that the tea plant has many seeds also represents prosperity (having many children).
  1. Returning tea. Not only is tea a token in engagements, it is also used to break off an engagement. In the olden days, there was an interesting custom of ‘returning tea’ in Guizhou. If a woman wished to break off an engagement, she would wrap up some tea leaves and bring them to her fiance’s house. After the customary courtesies, she would put the tea down and leave the house. If the man had known of her intentions beforehand, he and his family could seize her and throw a wedding banquet immediately. Thus, the girl had to be very careful when returning the tea to avoid being detected. It took a lot of guts and wits. As such, a girl who managed to return the tea successfully would be highly praised.
  1. Drinking morning tea. The Cantonese like their morning tea. Every morning, the tea houses will be thronged with customers. A pot of good tea served with dim sum is something characteristically Cantonese.
  1. Yuanbao tea. In the past, there was a practice of drinking morning tea at tea houses on Lunar New Year’s Day. On this day, the waiter would serve yuanbao (money) tea with one or two olives inside. There was an auspicious rhyme that went with it: ‘Drink yuanbao tea and make more money throughout the year.’ The customers would be happy to hear that and give the waiter more tips. The custom of drinking yuanbao tea during Lunar New Year became common among the public. In certain places in China, yuanbao tea was served when welcoming guests. Sometimes, red dates were also used instead of olives.
  1. Gongfu tea (skilled tea). This custom, popular in Guangzhou and Fujian, may have evolved from tea competitions. Brewing gongfu tea requires oolong tea leaves and spring water. The tea set has to be small and elegant. It is best to use zisha teapots from Yixing and white porcelain teacups that hold only one mouthful.
·         The host introduces the tea leaves, and passes the leaves around for the guests to sample the scent.
·         The host then pours hot water onto the leaves.
·         The porcelain cups are then lined up; tea is poured into each cup in quick rotation until the teapot is empty.
·         Tea is then served to guests, starting from the eldest or the most revered guest.
·         The guests then sample the colour, fragrance and the taste of the tea through small sips.
·         After the first brew, steps two and three are repeated.

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