Walk into any Chinese home, and chances are you’ll be served a cup of frothy tea as a symbol of welcome. In mainland China, you’ll often see tea houses, also called Chaguan. The tea maker devotes as much time and attention to a teapot as a surgeon would to an operation.
As an Eastern cultural event, the Chinese tea ceremony involves the elaborate preparation and serving of tea. Contrary to the hasty nature of the Western practice, tea-making in China is quite an elegant art. This is distilled from ancient times and sustained through the ages of civilization.
Table of Contents
A Brief History of the Chinese Tea Ceremony
The origins date back to the Tang Dynasty between 607 and 990 BC. In Chinese medicine, tea was introduced by the monks as part of their healing rituals in the temples. Many theories suggest it may have been pivotal in the practice of meditation.
Nevertheless, by the late 15th century, the drink had lost its spiritual connotations. At this time, it had spread all across Chinese society. Since the dawn of modern China, the tea ceremony has assumed a social aura. It is now regularly performed on social occasions, fostering unity. The Wu-Wo tea ceremony, which began in Taiwan, is a famous example of this type of occasion.
Significance of the Tea Ceremony
Over the years, tea-making has significantly influenced Chinese cuisine and, essentially, its culture. Tea ceremonies are often part of traditional Chinese wedding ceremonies. Here, the bride and the groom would kneel before their parents and serve tea.
On receiving the cups of tea, the parents show acceptance of the union. The tea ceremony has evolved to represent a fascinating ritual in Chinese social culture through years of civilization. The tea ceremony also represents a welcome gesture to guests in many homes in modern China.
What Utensils Make Up a Complete Chinese Teaware?
Having a complete tea set is of the utmost importance in any Chinese tea ceremony. It includes brewing vessels and accessories such as a ceramic Yixing teapot. It also comes with a pitcher, or cha hai, which helps to preserve the tea’s flavor.
Generally, you drain the tea into the pitcher before serving it in teacups. Also, you should serve the tea on a tray alongside a small tea cloth. It is uncouth to serve a guest tea without an accompanying tea napkin.
A tea ceremony like the Gongfu Tea Ceremony would include more elaborate utensils. For instance, the cha ze is used for extracting the tea leaves and the tweezers (tongs) to hold the cup while drinking.
How Do You Make a Chinese Tea Ceremony?
First off, wash your hands and introduce your guests to the tea ceremony. Second, prepare the teapot by warming it up and filling it with tea leaves. Of course, the choice of tea leaves will depend on your preference.
For the most part, as a tribute to nature, Chinese tea ceremonies demand the cleanest and purest water for brewing. Next, heat some water in an iron tea kettle. When the water boils, ensure you lift the kettle to shoulder height and pour the boiling water into the teapot until the water slightly overflows.
Put the lid on and spray some boiling water on the outside of the teapot too. The brewing time is between 10 seconds and a few minutes in most cases. When the infusion is ready, drain it into the pitcher and next into the teacups for drinking. Take three sips and savor the flavor of the Chinese tea.
What’s the Ideal State of Mind for a Tea Ceremony?
From the selection of the leaves to the serving, the Chinese tea ceremony calls for meticulous attention to detail. If the tea is to taste its best, the tea artist’s psychology is just as important.
So, a calm, relaxed state establishes a sense of harmony between the tea-maker and his utensils. Conversely, a confused or disturbed state of mind would suggest incongruence between the artist and his art.
As a result, the Chinese tea ritual necessitates the diligence and focus required of any serious art form.
With its nourishing taste and rich origins, Chinese tea has become one of China’s most significant exports.
Centuries ago, it was a ritual practiced only within enclosed societies.
Today, the Chinese tea ceremony has extended into weddings, family celebrations, and even social gatherings within the home.
Although a relic of the past, the Chinese tea ceremony doesn’t cease to fascinate and inspire.
If you ever find yourself in China, you should definitely consider visiting a teahouse (Chaguan).