Tea drinking is not just a way to quench your thirst, but a full-fledged ceremony, the culture of which is full of subtleties. It comes from China, where people treat every little aspect of it with special attention: in the morning, in the evening, during the day, in spring, summer, winter and autumn, the Chinese use different varieties of tea.
The history of the tea leaf.
The tea history begins almost 5 thousand years ago. According to legend, this tonic drink was discovered by the mythical god Shen Nong (“Divine Farmer”), who taught the Chinese to work with the earth: grow cereals and other useful plants. Shen Nong roamed the world in search of medicinal herbs, studying all the plants and separating the poisonous from the useful ones. It is said that, having once tasted an unknown herb, he poisoned himself and fell to the ground under another unfamiliar bush. When he closed his eyes, he felt a drop of dew fall from the leaves of the bush onto his lips. Shen Nong swallowed a dewdrop and cheered up. A sense of relief told him that the plant is useful, so God always took the miraculous leaves with him on the road and taught the Chinese people to use tea as a medicine.
Only the richest people could afford such a medicine, but during the Han Dynasty, tea became more common and affordable. With the advent of the Tang Dynasty, the art of tea drinking, growing and processing tea leaves began to develop at an accelerated pace. In addition, tea also affected the cultural side of the nation: they dedicated literary works to him, wrote songs about him, depicted him in drawings, and so on. The first complete description of the tea ceremony, as well as stories about the culture of tea drinking and related traditions – “Cha Ching” (“Treatise on Tea”) by the famous poet of that era, Lu Yu, belongs to the Tang period. Beginners who study tea culture should definitely read a copy of the treatise, because it contains descriptions of all the varieties of tea and methods of its preparation that existed during the Tang dynasty, the traditions of tea culture in different provinces, the difference between the waters from different sources. Lu Yu is still revered in China as a tea deity. Figurines depicting him holding a cup of tea in his hands are placed in a prominent place in tea rooms.
The difference between green tea and black tea.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, you should drink green tea in summer, red tea in autumn, black tea warms you perfectly in winter, and tea with flower petals invigorates you in spring. This ancient truth is known to every resident of China, and those who are beginning to delve into the culture of Chinese tea need to remember it well. What is the difference between black tea and green tea? At least-by the method of manufacture.
From tea bushes or a tea tree, young leaves and buds of tea are plucked, dried and twisted. Next, fermentation is performed – a process that is something between the oxidation of an apple and the destruction of grass. The longer the tea is fermented, the darker it becomes. The taste and color of the leaves change, and the drink is called black. Green tea is practically not fermented.
Spring Chinese tea.
Flower teas are invigorating and tonic, so they are usually drunk in the spring, when nature is just waking up from hibernation, and a person feels tired and sleepy. The most popular flower tea in China is jasmine. A hot drink made from green tea leaves and jasmine petals has an amazing, slightly tart and very exciting taste.
Summer Chinese tea.
Even despite the summer heat, tea in China is most often consumed hot. So it is better to quench your thirst, and the immune system increases, and the taste of tea turns out to be correct. When you want to refresh and cheer up from the sweltering heat, the Chinese make exceptions-they drink chilled green tea or add a couple of ice cubes to hot tea. Green tea, traditionally brewed by the Chinese in the summer heat, is a variety of Longjing, Bilochun and Tai Ping Hou Kui.
Autumn and winter Chinese teas.
Oolong is a type of tea that has long been consumed only in autumn. This tea is not fully fermented, so it combines the taste and color of red and green tea, which is why Oolong is called turquoise tea. The most valued Oolong is produced in the provinces of Fujian and Guangdong, as well as in Taiwan.
Black tea, which is traditionally drunk in the winter, cold season, has strong warming properties. Sometimes, after drinking a delicious, strong, hot black tea, it throws you into a fever, and it becomes difficult to cool down.
Water for making tea.
The attentive attitude of the Chinese people to the water for brewing tea has been observed for centuries. The famous “Treatise on Tea” says that the best tea is brewed from mountain or river water. Well water is not at all suitable for a tea ceremony. However, in the modern world, there is no special choice, so many people use ordinary water, but a good option in modern conditions would be to use purified water.
Tea ceremony.
Traditionally, in China, a family tea ceremony is held daily, for which special tea sets are used. Tea is brewed in a large teapot made of porcelain, earthenware or clay. It is necessary to serve tea to the most adult or the most respected participant of the ceremony.
A meeting of separated relatives or a holiday is necessarily accompanied by a tea party – this is a kind of family value of Chinese culture. In addition, adhering to their customs, the Chinese always offer a cup of tea to guests as a sign of respect. When apologizing, you just need to pour a cup of tea to the person whose forgiveness is expected – this is a symbol of remorse and a show of your submission. On the wedding day, the newlyweds traditionally thank their parents by presenting them with tea and kneeling down. Also, a family tea party often serves as a welcome to the family of new members. It also happens that the joint drinking of tea is accompanied by the transfer of customs and ancient traditions from the older generation to the young participants.
If you want to thank the person who poured the tea, the Chinese of the southern side of the state tap the table three times with their bent index and middle fingers. This custom originated in the Qing Dynasty. The emperor of that era liked to travel anonymously and observe the people. The two men recognized the emperor and wanted to fall to their knees, but they were afraid. At the end of the conversation with the ruler, the men stood up and knocked on the table. The emperor asked what it meant, and found out that it was a symbol of worship and gratitude. And so the custom appeared.
Brewing tea.
For different types of tea, the brewing time and water temperature are different.
If the tea is brewed in a teapot, then its size should be large enough to give everyone a drink. The tea leaves are poured into a strainer, through which hot water is passed. When the tea is brewed, the tea leaves are squeezed out of the strainer with a spoon. Good tea is brewed repeatedly.
If the tea is brewed in a cup of chaou (gaiwan), you need to preheat the dishes with boiling water. Then the tea is poured inside and quickly rinsed. After that, the chaou is filled with two-thirds hot water along the wall.
After 30 seconds, the tea can be poured.
The Gongfu Cha ceremony is performed using a small teapot (150 – 350 ml) made of Yixing clay. Such a tea party takes place alone or is performed for children. It is considered an art in China and it is very difficult to perform it. You need to act as carefully as possible. It is difficult for beginners to master the process, so you should not take it immediately.
Tea culture today.
The culture of tea and tea ceremonies has been carefully preserved for centuries, and therefore remains a national value in modern China. Teahouses in Chinese cities are as easy to find as fast-food establishments in Europe. For example, Lao She is a tearoom named after a famous Chinese writer, where you can take part in a tea ceremony and drink fragrant Chinese tea.
Malyandao Street in Beijing is another fabulous place where everything related to Chinese tea culture is gathered. The three-kilometer street on both sides accommodates shops, shopping centers and shops, where not only beginners, but also connoisseurs of the ceremony will find absolutely everything you need for a tea party: teapots, drinking utensils, tables, music discs with records for tea ceremonies, all possible varieties of tea produced in China and other things.