Anyone for Tea?

On September 19, 2011, in China Travel Gossip, Cultural Experience, Tips & Ideas, by Jack Li

It is virtually impossible to go on a China tour and not come across Chinese tea. From green tea to oolong tea, China ceases to amazing the palette with it’s variety of smells and tastes of tea. From Chinese shops to Chinese hotels, tea is everywhere.

According to popular Chinese legend, tea was first discovered by the Chinese Emperor Shennong in 2737 BCE when a leaf from a camellia sinensis tree fell into some water that the emperor was boiling. Today the camellia sinensis leaves are still used for Chinese tea. Traditionally there are 4 types of tea: white, green, oolong and black however it is thought that there are over 1,000 types of tea within these categories!

Chinese tea culture is so different to that of the western world. In China, tea is regularly consumed for casual and formal events as well as used in traditional Chinese medicine and cuisine.

Tea customs

There are many tea drinking customs to be aware of whilst you visit China which will help you liaise with the locals:

Sign of respect:  The younger generation should always show respect for their elders and offer them a cup of tea. This is also the case that the workers should offer tea to their boss. However in modern society in informal settings, bosses will make tea for their employees, it should not be expected.

To apologise: People make serious apologies by pouring tea for them and this shows a sign of regret and submission. i.e. a child will pour their parents tea if they have been disobedient.

 

Finger tapping: It is customary to thank the tea server for tea by knocking their bent index and middle fingers on the table to express thanks. This is a common way if you are in the middle of talking with someone at the table whilst tea is being served.

 

How to prepare the perfect cuppa

In order to make the perfect cup of Chinese tea, you can either place the loose tea leaves into a tea infuser, a teapot or a teacup. Then

 

you poor the hot water over the leaves and leave it for a couple of minutes. When the tea is ready to serve you either remove the infuser or strain the tea.

These are the ideal temperatures of water and steeping time for the 4 categories of Chinese tea:

White Tea (Between 65°C and 70°C)  1-2minutes steeping time
Green Tea (Between 75°C and 80°C) 1-2 minutes steeping time
Oolong Tea (Between 80°C and 85°C) 2-3 minutes steeping time
Black teak (99°C) 2-3 minutes steeping time

Eat cup of tea there should be a level teaspoon for white, green and oolong teas whilst black tea needs a rounded teaspoon.

Some teas are brewed several times using the same leaves. Chinese teas are divided into numerous infusions. The first is immediately poured out to was the tea. Every infusion after the first is drunk but the third to fifth infusions are considered the bests. However, different types of tea open up differently and may require more infusions.

 

China tea can come in a variety of weird and wonderful colours and can either be hot or cold. Your China travels are not complete without a sip of tea!

Jack Li

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