In China, tea is one of the “seven things you need every day”: rice, salt, oil, vinegar, soy sauce, and firewood. Chinese tea culture has some differences from Japanese, European and British tea drinking occasions, cooking methods, and drinking. In China, it is customary to drink tea in everyday situations, and during rituals, official events. Tea is not just a drink, it has an important place in Chinese cuisine, in traditional Chinese medicine and Buddhism.
The traditions of tea cultivation and consumption listed as “Chinese” would more properly be called “the tea culture of the Central Plains of China”. In addition, there are largely original tea traditions of Southwestern China, the routine of which is common in the provinces of Guizhou, Yunnan, and Sichuan. These areas, where tea has been grown since ancient times, have been much less influenced from outside in modern times, so they have preserved many old tea traditions that have long been forgotten in the regions of Central China.
The tea culture of Tibet is also immensely original. According to many, it was formed in the Tang Dynasty in the mid-700s. In Tibet, it is customary to use butter and milk tea, which is completely uncharacteristic for the rest of China.
In the southern regions of China, there is yamcha (“tea drinking-饮茶”) – this kind of tea culture. In Macau, Guangdong, and Hong Kong, it is customary to drink tea in the morning before the start of the working day. At the same time, the drink is drunk together with various snacks-dimsams.
In ancient times, the inhabitants of Southern China used to retire to tea houses for tea drinking. Now the lively dim sum restaurants are popular. The yamcha ritual is especially carefully observed by pensioners. Often the tea party is preceded by taijiquan (Chinese fist waving) – a kind of wushu.
The traditions of Hong Kong tea drinking are characterized by some conventions. If the visitor wants to give the waiter a sign that the teapot has finished brewing, then it is necessary to remove its lid and put it next to the teapot on the tablecloth.
Tea is a traditional drink in China, consumed every day. However, among the younger generation of Chinese, there is a decrease in interest in tea drinking and a fascination with Western sweet carbonated drinks. Some Chinese scientists regard this as an alarming symptom.
Currently, the family tea party becomes a tribute to tradition and an opportunity to mark the unity of the family on the occasion of a celebration. To do this, it is customary to brew green tea in a large teapot (faience, porcelain, clay) for the whole family, after which they pour it into bowls or cups, from which they drink.
The Chinese distinguish several types of special circumstances in order to prepare and drink tea together. “A sign of respect.” To offer a cup of tea – this is how it is customary in Chinese society to pay respect to the elders. And one of the traditional pastimes on weekends in China is to invite relatives or friends to a restaurant for a cup of tea, paying for a tea party. In modern China, there are cases when parents offer tea to children, and even the boss pours tea to subordinates. But at an official event, never will a higher-ranking participant present tea to a subordinate.
“An apology.” In Chinese culture, there is a custom to pour tea to a person who is asked for forgiveness or to whom they apologize. This is a sign of sincere repentance and submission. “Expressing gratitude to your elders on your wedding day.” The bride and groom at a traditional Chinese wedding ceremony should kneel in front of their parents and present them with tea as a sign of respect. At the same time, the newlyweds say: “Thank you for raising us. We are forever in your debt!” Parents drink tea, then the newlyweds are given a red envelope as a symbol of good luck. “Maintaining the tradition”. There is a tradition in the Chaoshan culture (in the east of Guangdong province) to gather in the tea room with relatives and friends for the Gongfu Cha ceremony. During the ceremony, the older participants share with the younger ones about the rites and rules, passing on the ancient traditions.
In the life of the Chinese, tea has a special meaning, and tea drinking is a ceremony in which a certain sequence is observed in the brewing of tea. The main purpose of the tea ceremony is to more fully reveal the aroma and taste of the drink. A prerequisite for the ceremony is a calm state of mind. The special atmosphere of the ceremony is created by ornate items of tea utensils, small exquisite dishes, quiet quiet music. Most Chinese people prefer to drink tea at any time of the year: both in the cold and in the heat. This drink perfectly quenches thirst, strengthens the immune system.
In the Middle Kingdom, there are many different ways to brew tea, depending on the pretext and circumstances of the tea party, the type of tea being brewed, and the wealth of the participants. So, green tea is more tender than black tea or oolong, and not very hot water is used for brewing.
In a cup of chaou (gaiwan), any tea is brewed, but this method is best used for weakly fermented species. Gaiwan-the current name of the vessel, literally translated “bowl with lid” – is a set that includes a cup, lid, saucer.
Especially popular is the method of brewing in a teapot. In this case, the tea is brewed in a large (so that the volume is enough for all those gathered) teapot made of porcelain, clay or earthenware. The peculiarity of the Chinese teapot is that the tea leaves are poured into a small, perforated, inserted into the inside of the cup-strainer, made of the same material as the teapot.
When brewing, the strainer is filled with half-two-thirds dry tea, i.e. it performs the role of a welding dispenser. In the kettle, hot water is poured through a cup-strainer, “washing” the tea leaves. When the kettle is full, and the tea leaves are soaked, it can also be squeezed out a little with a spoon for a more saturated extraction. There is an opinion that tea is better washed in a strainer and more fully gives the substances contained in it. The highest grades of green tea and oolong can be brewed several times. The water temperature and the time of infusion depend on the tea varieties.
The Gongfu Cha tea ceremony owes its popularity to the traditions of the peoples of Chaozhou or Chaoshan (east of Guangdong) and Minnan (south of Fujian). In this method, a small teapot with a capacity of about 150 ml, made of Yixing clay (zisha), is used. The teapot serves not only as a decoration of the ceremony, but also contributes to the “rounding” of the taste of tea. The method of brewing in the Yixing teapot is used both for individual tea drinking and for treating guests.
The method of brewing, used only for oolong, is considered an art in China. The water is heated to approximately 95 degrees. In order not to spoil the water and tea, you can not boil it. Warm up the dishes; for this, water is poured into the kettle and cups. Be sure to get acquainted with the tea: consider and breathe the tea leaf. The amount of tea leaves is poured into the kettle in accordance with its volume. Then you need to “exhaust the tea”, i.e. remove the tea dust. Water is poured into the kettle from a great height, and immediately poured out: the first brew is not drunk. The newly poured water is infused depending on the type of tea. Good Oolong teas are brewed from five to seven to ten times. During the ceremony, the soul and body should be calm, as this is a very important event. For such a tea party, it is desirable to have a teapot made of Yixing clay, a set of tea tools, a tea board, chahai, chahe, a tea pair, a kettle on a live fire for water.
The Chinese tea ceremony has long been very popular not only in China, but also abroad. The art of making and drinking tea sets people up for a contemplative mood, helps to distract from the daily hustle and bustle, and share peace of mind and tranquility with others.
Now in China, more than 500 thousand tons of tea are consumed every year. Tea culture has become a precious asset of the Chinese nation on both the material and spiritual levels.