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Chinese Tea Culture

Tea drinking customs

Tea is so widely spread and loved in almost every part the world, and with such long rich history, tea drinking customs can vary greatly in different regions. Ranging from formal tea drinking events and casual consuming, these customs are unique in every way.

Western cultures are familiar with the customs of tea parties and afternoon tea, in Japan tea is used as a treat for special guests and a favourite beverage for afternoon break, and is famous for their delicate green teas. In Burma, tea is not only drunk but eaten as a dish. Example of these unique drinking cultures exists in every part of the world. Having the longest history of tea drinking, Chinese take their customs of tea drinking very seriously.

Originated as a drink discovered by the emperor, tea not only serve as a great beverage, but also has a profound impact on Chinese society and culture.

Casual teahouses can be located in most business districts and neighbourhoods in major cities. Serving alongside with special snacks, the teas served in these teahouses include both hot and cold teas and is loved by anyone that is looking for a break in a busy city life. Formal teahouses also exist with more precise serving methods and mouth-watering gourmet tea snacks. Specialised tea vendors exists in a lot of major markets, providing fellow tea lovers with countless varieties of tea leaves, brewing equipment and beautifully crafted tea pots.

For Chinese, tea is always a part in life. Tea is consumed in all occasions, and good quality tea has a special place in Chinese culture. For example, a formal way of making apologies for Chinese is to brew a cup of good tea for the person, alongside with the apologies. Brewing a good cup of tea is regarded as showing great respect, and drinking the tea means the apologies are accepted. Another occasion where tea is highly regarded is during wedding ceremony. One of the most important steps of Chinese wedding ceremony involves tea brewing. The bride has to brew a cup of tea for her soon to be mother and father-in-law. Again brewing tea here is regarded as showing great respect, and accepting the tea also means accepting the bride as a new member in the family. Alongside with these examples, good quality tea is regarded as a great gift in Chinese culture, and an expression of friendship when one treat it to friends.

Tea Appreciation

Aside from using in ceremonies and normal consumption, tea appreciation is itself a popular activity among Chinese and Japanese cultures. The idea of tea appreciation is to enjoy not only the taste of the tea, but also the process of preparing it. For Chinese, enjoying good tea includes brewing the tea step by step like crafting a delicate art piece, smelling its aroma, trying to describe and distinguish between fragrances, admiring and categorising the colour of the tea as well as the shapes of the leaves and savouring its flavour. Whole sets of individual tea wares are used during tea appreciation, from small ovens to tea pots, tea cups and uniquely crafted wooden tray. Tea prepared in this way is often called gongfu Cha, which translates to ‘skilled tea’.

Tea appreciation is now becoming an illustration of supreme taste and life style among Chinese, Taiwanese and Japanese culture. For those who are really keen into tea, they must at least heard of 'Cha Dao'. 'Cha Dao' literally means the way of tea, or the art of tea. Those who practice Cha Dao takes the custom of tea drinking to a higher level, involving discipline in every step of tea brewing and making, going through complex ceremony in search of deeper meaning in the process. This form of art goes beyond just the technique of making good tea and brings tea drinking to a spiritual level.