Chinese tea culture is one of the biggest and most traditional tea cultures in the world. The word Chinese tea culture refers to the methods of preparation, the equipment used and the occasions in which the tea in consumed. Tea culture in China differs from that of Europe, Britain or Japan in such things as preparation methods, tasting methods and the occasions for which it is consumed. Even now, in both casual and formal Chinese occasions, tea is consumed regularly. In addition to being a drink, Chinese tea is used in traditional Chinese medicine and in Chinese cuisine.
There are several special circumstances in which tea is prepared and consumed in china:
- As a sign or respect
- For a family gathering
- To apologise
- To express thanks to your elders on ones wedding day
- To connect large family’s on wedding days
- Folding the napkin in tea ceremonies is regarded as one of the seven daily necessities to keeping away bad Qi energy
All of these factors allow the Chinese tea culture to have value, something that our western tea culture does not share.
The Chinese tea ceremony, also called the Chinese Way of Tea, is a Chinese cultural activity involving the ceremonial preparation and presentation of tea leaf. The manner in which it is performed, or the art of its performance is shown in the tea ceremony. Taoism has also been an influence in the development of the tea ceremony. The elements of the Chinese tea ceremony is the harmony of nature and enjoying tea in an informal and formal setting. Tea ceremonies are now being revived in China’s new fast-paced culture, and continuing in the long tradition of intangible Chinese art.
Influence of tea on Chinese culture
Tea has had a major influence on the development of Chinese culture. Chinese traditional culture is closely connected with Chinese tea. Tea is often associated with literature, arts, and philosophy. Tea is connected closely with Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism. Roughly, since Tang Dynasty, drinking tea is a must for self-cultivation. Chinese Chan (or Japanese Zen) philosophy is also linked with drinking tea. The eastern world is very strongly connected with the values of tea.
Traditionally tea drinkers were regarded as the academic and cultural elites of society because 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 tea ware, and also significantly popularized Chinese porcelain culture.
Chinese scholars have used the teahouse for places of sharing ideas. Teahouse is the by-product of Chinese tea culture but it also the historical evidence of Chinese tea history. Currently, people can also feel such a kind of humanistic atmosphere in Beijing like Lao She Teahouse and East China like Hangzhou, Suzhou, Yangzhou, Nanjing, Wuxi, Shaoxing and Shanghai and so on. It 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 hot cup of tea. These implements are symbols of welcome for visitors or neighbours. Traditionally, a visitor to a Chinese home will be expected to sit down and drink tea while talking; the Chinese consider having such visits while standing to be uncouth. There are several types of tea: green tea, oolong tea, red tea, black tea, white tea, yellow tea, puerh tea and flower tea. Tea leaves are traditionally produced by constantly turning fresh leaves in a deep bowl. This process allows the tea to dry with its full flavour ready to be used.
Traditionally, the elites of Chinese society have regarded particular teahouses as sanctuaries for sharing ideas. The teahouse was a place where political allegiances and social rank were said to have been temporarily suspended in favour of honest and rational discourse. As cited above, the leisurely consumption of tea was common in promoting conviviality and civility amongst the participants.
Chinese Brewing Methods
There are many different ways of brewing Chinese tea depending 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 and should be brewed with cooler water as a result. Two other primary methods of brewing tea are the Chaou method and the Gongfucha method. Chaou brewing tends towards a more formal occasion and is generally used for more delicate teas, medicinal teas and tea tastings. Gongfucha brewing is a far more formal method of tea brewing although even this method can be made more or less formal depending on the occasion.
The chaou is a three piece teaware consisting of a lid, cup/bowl, and a saucer. Chaous are generally made of porcelain or are glazed on the inside in order to prevent a buildup of tannins. The chaou may be used on its own or with tasting cups on the side. Chaou brewing is usually employed in tea tasting situations, such as when buying tea, where neutrality in taste and ease of access to brewing leaves for viewing and sniffing is important. This method of serving is often used in informal situations, though it can also be used on more formal occasions. Chaou brewing
can be used for all forms of teas though lightly oxidized teas benefit most from this brewing method.
Gongfu chadao/ (tea ceremony) brewing
The Gōngfu Chá Dào also known as “Gongfucha” or the “Kung Fu Tea Ceremony” is a relatively famous tradition of Minnan and Chaozhou or Chaoshan. It makes use of small Yixing tea wares teapot of about 100 – 150 ml (4 or 5 fl.oz.) to enhance the aesthetics, and more importantly “round out” the taste of the tea being brewed. Yixing teapot brewing sides towards the formal, and is used for private enjoyment of the tea as well as for welcoming guests. Depending on the region of China the steps may differ, as will the tools used in the making of tea (e.g. Taiwanese-style Gongfu cha which makes use of several additional instruments including tweezers and a tea strainer). This procedure is mostly applicable to Oolong teas only although some use it to make Pu’erh and other double-fermented teas.
Chinese tea culture will have to play a vital part in any cultural tea design that I develop and so a great understanding of its philosophy will be essential.