Chinese tea culture refers to how tea is prepared as well as the occasions when people consume tea in China. Tea culture in China differs from that in European countries like Britain and other Asian countries like Japan, Korea, Vietnam in preparation, taste, and occasion when it is consumed. Tea is still consumed regularly, both on casual and formal occasions. In addition to being a popular beverage, it is used in traditional Chinese medicine as well as in Chinese cuisine.
|Chinese tea culture|
|Alternative Chinese name|
The concept of tea culture is referred to in Chinese as chayi ("the art of drinking tea"), or cha wenhua ("tea culture"). The word cha (茶) denotes the beverage that is derived from Camellia sinensis, the tea plant. Prior to the 8th century BCE, tea was known collectively under the term 荼 (pinyin: tú) along with a great number of other bitter plants. These two Chinese characters are identical, with the exception of an additional horizontal stroke in the Chinese lettering 荼, which translates to tea. The older character is made up of the radical 艸 (pinyin: cǎo) in its reduced form of 艹 and the character 余 (pinyin: yú), which gives the phonetic cue.
There are several special circumstances in which tea is prepared and consumed in Chinese culture.
Light finger tapping is an informal way to thank the tea master or tea server for tea. While or after one's cup is filled, the receiver of the tea may tap the index and middle fingers (one or more in combination) to express gratitude to the person who served the tea. This custom is common in southern Chinese, where their meals often are accompanied by many servings of tea.
This custom is said to have originated in the Qing dynasty when the Qianlong Emperor traveled in disguise throughout the empire and his accompanying servants were instructed not to reveal their master's identity. One day in a restaurant, the emperor poured tea for a servant. To that servant it was a huge honor to have the emperor pour him a cup of tea. Out of habit, he wanted to kneel and express his thanks to the emperor, but he could not do this since that would reveal the emperor's identity. Instead, he tapped the table with bent fingers to represent kneeling to the Emperor and to express his gratitude and respect. In this sense, the bent fingers supposedly signify a bowing servant.
In formal tea ceremonies nodding the head or saying "thank you" is more appropriate.
The different ways of brewing Chinese tea depend on variables like the formality of the occasion, the means of the people preparing it, and the kind of tea being brewed. For example, green teas are more delicate than oolong teas or black teas; therefore, green tea should be brewed with cooler water. The most informal method of brewing tea is to simply add the leaves to a pot containing hot water. This method is commonly found in households and restaurants, for example, in the context of dim sum or yum cha in Cantonese restaurants. Another method for serving tea is to use a small lidded bowl called a gaiwan. The Hongwu Emperor of the Ming dynasty contributed to the development of loose tea brewing by banning the production of compressed tea.
Gongfu cha, meaning "making tea with skill", is a popular method of preparing tea in China. It makes use of small Yixing teapots holding about 100–150 ml (4 or 5 fl.oz.), the size being thought to enhance the aesthetics and to "round out" the taste of the tea being brewed. Brewing tea in a Yixing teapot can be done for private enjoyment as well as to welcome guests. Depending on the region of China, there may be differences in the steps of brewing as well as the tools used in the process. For example, Taiwanese-style gongfu cha makes use of several additional instruments including tweezers and a tea strainer. The procedure is mostly applicable to oolong teas, but it is some used to make pu'er and other fermented teas.
Tea has had a major influence on the development of Chinese culture, and Chinese traditional culture is closely connected with Chinese tea. Tea is often associated with literature, arts, and philosophy and is closely connected with Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism. Roughly since the Tang Dynasty, drinking tea has been an essential part of self-cultivation. Chinese Chan (similar to Japanese Zen) philosophy is also linked with drinking tea.
Traditionally, tea drinkers were regarded as the 'academic' and 'cultural elites' of the society. The practice of drinking tea was considered to be an expression of personal morality, education, social principles, and status. Increased enthusiasm for tea drinking led to the greater production of teaware, which significantly popularized Chinese porcelain culture.
Ancient Chinese scholars used the teahouse as a place for sharing ideas. The teahouse was a place where political allegiances and social rank were said to have been temporarily suspended in favor of an honest and rational discourse. The leisurely consumption of tea promoted conviviality and civility amongst the participants. The teahouse is not only a minor by-product of Chinese tea culture; it offers historical evidence of Chinese tea history. Today, people can also sense a kind of humanistic atmosphere in Beijing's Lao She Teahouse and in other teahouses in East China cities like Hangzhou, Suzhou, Yangzhou, Nanjing, Wuxi, Shaoxing, Shanghai, and other places. The teahouse atmosphere is still dynamic and vigorous.
In modern China, virtually every dwelling—even down to the simplest mud hut—has a set of tea implements for brewing a cup of hot tea. They are symbols of welcome for visitors or neighbors. Traditionally, a visitor to a Chinese home is expected to sit down and drink tea while talking; visiting while remaining standing is considered uncouth. Folding the napkin in tea ceremonies is a traditional act in China performed to keep away bad qi energy.
Tea was regarded as one of the seven daily necessities, the others being firewood, rice, oil, salt, soy sauce, and vinegar. There are several types of tea: green tea, oolong tea, red tea, black tea, white tea, yellow tea, puerh tea and flower tea. Traditionally, fresh tea leaves are regularly turned over in a deep bowl. This process allows the leaves dry in a way that preserves their full flavor, ready for use.
Unfortunately, there have been tricksters who have been exploiting the importance of the Chinese tea culture to hoodwink foreign tourists. They do this by first chatting you up to build rapport. Once rapport has been built, they offer to bring you around as a means of practising English. If you agree, you will be brought to a teahouse where you get to sample a few teas. Next, the bill arrives, and shows an astronomical figure. This is a very infamous scam that has been going on for years.
The Cha Pu (Chinese: 茶谱; pinyin: Chápǔ; literally: 'Tea Manual') is a short work written in 1440 by Zhu Quan, the Prince of Ning, the 17th son of the Hongwu Emperor of the Ming dynasty, and relates the methods of tea preparation and degustation. It is considered by some to be a milestone in Chinese tea culture.
Following the Hongwu Emperor's ban on manufacturing of tea cake, Zhu Quan advocated a simpler way of steeping loose tea, a radical departure from the involved tea cake preparation methods of the Tang and Song dynasties, thus pioneered a new era in Chinese tea culture. There is also a short discussion of tea wares.Chinese social relations
Chinese social relations are typified by a reciprocal social network. Often social obligations within the network are characterized in familial terms. The individual link within the social network is known by guanxi (关系/關係) and the feeling within the link is known by the term ganqing (感情). An important concept within Chinese social relations is the concept of face, as in many other Asian cultures. A Buddhist-related concept is yuanfen (缘分/緣分).
As articulated in the sociological works of leading Chinese academic Fei Xiaotong, the Chinese—in contrast to other societies—tend to see social relations in terms of networks rather than boxes. Hence, people are perceived as being "near" or "far" rather than "in" or "out".Chinese tea
Chinese tea is a beverage made from the leaves of tea plants (Camellia sinensis) and boiled water. Tea leaves are processed using traditional Chinese methods. Chinese tea is consumed throughout the day, including during meals, as a substitute for plain water or for simple pleasure.Gongfu tea ceremony
The gongfu tea ceremony or kung fu tea ceremony (Chinese: 工夫茶 or 功夫茶), is a kind of Chinese tea ceremony, involving the ritual preparation and presentation of tea. It is probably based on the tea preparation approaches originated in Fujian and the Chaoshan area of eastern Guangdong. The term literally means "making tea with skill". Today, the approach is used popularly by teashops carrying tea of Chinese origins, and by tea connoisseurs as a way to maximize the taste of a tea selection, especially a finer one.Green tea
Green tea is a type of tea that is made from Camellia sinensis leaves and buds that have not undergone the same withering and oxidation process used to make oolong teas and black teas. Green tea originated in China, but its production and manufacture has spread to many other countries in Asia.
Several varieties of green tea exist, which differ substantially based on the variety of C. sinensis used, growing conditions, horticultural methods, production processing, and time of harvest. Although there has been considerable research on the possible health effects of consuming green tea regularly, there is little evidence that drinking green tea has any effects on health.Hong Kong tea culture
The tea-drinking habits of Hong Kong residents derive from Chinese tea culture, primarily the Cantonese traditions such as yum cha. After more than 150 years of British rule, however, they have changed somewhat to become unique in the world. This uniqueness is not only in terms of the tea itself, but also in terms of the underlying social and cultural values.Jiaoran
Jiaoran (Chinese: 皎然; pinyin: Jiǎorán; Wade–Giles: Chiao-jan; 730–799), also known by his courtesy name Qingzhou (Chinese: 清昼), was a Tang dynasty Chinese poet and Buddhist monk. Jiaoran has written more than 470 poems and was one of the three major Tang dynasty poet-monks (诗僧), along with Guanxiu (832-912) and Qiji (863-937). He was the 12th generation grandson of Xie An (320-385), a Jin dynasty (265–420) statesman who, despite his lack of military ability, led Jin through a major crisis—attacks by Former Qin (351-394). His friend, Lu Yu, is venerated as the Sage of Tea for his contribution to Chinese tea culture and the writer of The Classic of Tea.List of Chinese teas
This is a list of Chinese teas. Chinese tea is a beverage made from the leaves of tea plants (Camellia sinensis) and – depending on the type of tea – typically 60–100 °C hot water. Tea leaves are processed using traditional Chinese methods. Chinese tea is drunk throughout the day, including during meals, as a substitute for plain water, for health, or for simple pleasure.Lu'an Melon Seed tea
Lu'an Melon Seed (Chinese: 六安瓜片; pinyin: Lù'ān guāpiàn; pronounced [lûán kwápʰjɛ̂n]), also known as Lu'an Leaf, is a green tea from Lu'an City, Anhui Province, China. This is a famous green tea and is listed on virtually all lists of famous Chinese teas. The literal translation for Lu'an Guapian Tea is Lu'an Melon Seed Tea.
Lu'an Melon Seed Tea's name is derived from the shape of the processed tea leaves, which are flat and oval and resemble a melon seed. Unlike most green teas which use the new buds in making tea, Lu'an Melon Seed Tea uses the second leaf on the branch. Each leaf's central vein is removed and the leaves are pan fried and shaped to stop oxidizing enzymes and dry the tea.Lu Yu
Lu Yu (simplified Chinese: 陆羽; traditional Chinese: 陸羽; pinyin: Lù Yǔ; 733–804) was a Chinese tea master and writer. He is respected as the Sage of Tea for his contribution to Chinese tea culture. He is best known for his monumental book The Classic of Tea, the first definitive work on cultivating, making and drinking tea.One bowl with two pieces
One bowl with two pieces (Chinese: 一盅兩件) is a slang term that has long been in the vernacular of Hong Kong tea culture, meaning "a bowl of tea with two dim sum". In the past, tea was not offered in a present-day teapot but a bowl in Cantonese restaurants. Dim Sum was not bite-sized. Instead, quite a number of them were simply big buns such that two of them easily filled up one's stomach. The legendary "雞球大包" (Lit. Chicken Ball Big Bun, meaning a bun with chicken filling) serves as an excellent example. This saying, however, is now rendered anachronistic under the heavy influence of the "bite-sized trend".Oolong
Oolong ( ; simplified Chinese: 乌龙; traditional Chinese: 烏龍) is a traditional semi-oxidized Chinese tea (Camellia sinensis) produced through a process including withering the plant under strong sun and oxidation before curling and twisting. Most oolong teas, especially those of fine quality, involve unique tea plant cultivars that are exclusively used for particular varieties. The degree of oxidation, which varies according to the chosen duration of time before firing, can range from 8–85%, depending on the variety and production style. Oolong is especially popular in south China and among Chinese expatriates in Southeast Asia, as is the Fujian preparation process known as the Gongfu tea ceremony.
Different styles of oolong tea can vary widely in flavor. They can be sweet and fruity with honey aromas, or woody and thick with roasted aromas, or green and fresh with complex aromas, all depending on the horticulture and style of production. Several types of oolong tea, including those produced in the Wuyi Mountains of northern Fujian, such as Da Hong Pao, are among the most famous Chinese teas. Different varieties of oolong are processed differently, but the leaves are usually formed into one of two distinct styles. Some are rolled into long curly leaves, while others are 'wrap-curled' into small beads, each with a tail. The former style is the more traditional.
The name oolong tea came into the English language from the Chinese name (simplified Chinese: 乌龙茶; traditional Chinese: 烏龍茶; pinyin: wūlóng chá), meaning "black dragon tea", in which the meaning black is generalized from crow/raven (烏), i.e. "black as a crow". In Chinese, oolong teas are also known as qingcha (Chinese: 青茶; pinyin: qīngchá) or "dark green teas".
The manufacture of oolong tea involves repeating stages to achieve the desired amount of bruising and browning of leaves. Withering, rolling, shaping, and firing are similar to black tea, but much more attention to timing and temperature is necessary.Qingming Festival
The Qingming or Ching Ming festival, also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day in English (sometimes also called Chinese Memorial Day or Ancestors' Day), is a traditional Chinese festival observed by the Han Chinese of China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand. It falls on the first day of the fifth solar term of the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar. This makes it the 15th day after the Spring Equinox, either 4 or 5 April in a given year. During Qingming, Chinese families visit the tombs of their ancestors to clean the gravesites, pray to their ancestors, and make ritual offerings. Offerings would typically include traditional food dishes, and the burning of joss sticks and joss paper. The holiday recognizes the traditional reverence of one's ancestors in Chinese culture.
The Qingming Festival has been observed by the Chinese for over 2500 years. It became a public holiday in mainland China in 2008. In Taiwan, the public holiday was in the past observed on 5 April to honor the death of Chiang Kai-shek on that day in 1975, but with Chiang's popularity waning, this convention is not being observed. A similar holiday is observed in the Ryukyu Islands, called Shīmī in the local language.
In mainland China, the holiday is associated with the consumption of qingtuan, green dumplings made of glutinous rice and Chinese mugwort or barley grass. A similar confection called caozaiguo or shuchuguo, made with Jersey cudweed, is consumed in Taiwan.Senchadō
Senchadō (煎茶道, "way of sencha") is a Japanese variant of chadō ("way of tea"). It involves the preparation and drinking of sencha green tea, especially the high grade gyokuro type.Seven necessities
The seven necessities (Chinese: 開門七件事 pinyin: kāimén qī jiàn shì) stem from the phrase "Firewood, rice, oil, salt, sauce, vinegar and tea are the seven necessities to begin a day". The items were known as early as the Song dynasty travel book, Dreams of the Former Capital.The Chinese phrase "seven necessities" literally means "開 open 門 door 七 seven 件事 items" when translated, which is an old Chinese saying. They include firewood (柴 chái), rice (米 mĭ), oil (油 yóu), salt (鹽 yán), sauce (醬 jiàng), vinegar (醋 cù), tea (茶 chá). The seven necessities were made popular in modern tea culture due to the fact the beverage was mentioned as one of the seven necessities of Chinese life.Southern Chinese wedding
Most Southern Chinese weddings follow the main Chinese wedding traditions, although some rituals are unique to southern regions of China (华南), particularly Guangdong, Guangxi, Macau, Hong Kong, Fujian and Hainan, and in Chinese communities in Taiwan and Southeast Asia.Taiwanese tea culture
Taiwanese tea culture includes tea arts, traditional tea ceremonies, and the social aspects of tea consumption. While the most common teas consumed in Taiwan are oolongs, especially Taiwanese oolongs such as Alishan and Lishan, black, red and green teas are also popular. Many of the classical arts can be seen in the tea culture, such as calligraphy, flower arts, and incense arts. Most people in Taiwan drink tea, and tea serves not only as a drink, but also as a part of the culture. The tea culture of Taiwan can be traced back to its roots in Chinese tea culture. Many people visit one of the numerous traditional tea houses or "tea-arts" shops, located all over Taiwan.Tea ceremony
A tea ceremony is a ritualized form of making tea practiced in Asian culture by the Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, Indians, Vietnamese and Taiwanese. The tea ceremony, literally translated as "way of tea" in Japanese, "etiquette for tea" or "tea rite" in Korean, and "art of tea" in Chinese, is a cultural activity involving the ceremonial preparation and presentation of tea. The Japanese tea ceremony is better known, and was influenced by the Chinese tea culture during ancient and medieval times, starting in the 9th century when tea was first introduced to Japan from China. The Vietnamese tea ceremony, also influenced by its Chinese counterpart, is only performed during weddings and other religious rituals. 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.At a very basic level, tea ceremonies are a formalized way of making tea, in a process which has been refined to yield the best taste.
Historical documents on the subject include the 8th-century monograph "The Classic of Tea" and the 12th-century book Treatise on Tea.Tea culture
Tea culture is defined by the way tea is made and consumed, by the way the people interact with tea, and by the aesthetics surrounding tea drinking.
Tea plays an important role in some countries. It is commonly consumed at social events, and many cultures have created intricate formal ceremonies for these events. Afternoon tea is a British custom with widespread appeal. Tea ceremonies, with their roots in the Chinese tea culture, differ among East Asian countries, such as the Japanese or Korean versions. Tea may differ widely in preparation, such as in Tibet, where the beverage is commonly brewed with salt and butter. Tea may be drunk in small private gatherings (tea parties) or in public (tea houses designed for social interaction).
The British Empire spread its own interpretation of tea to its dominions and colonies, including regions that today comprise the states of Hong Kong, India, and Pakistan, which had pre-existing tea customs, as well as regions such as East Africa (modern day Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda) and the Pacific (Australia and New Zealand) which did not have tea customs. The tea room or teahouse is found in the US, the UK, and Ireland.
Different regions favor different varieties of tea—black, green, or oolong—and use different flavourings, such as herbs, milk, or sugar. The temperature and strength of the tea likewise vary widely.
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