Way of Tea

Way of Tea

Wether you are visiting China for a holiday or on a business trip, and while planning your free time to visit temples or ancient palaces, you may want to reserve a couple hours for a “way of tea” or tea ceremony.

If each continent has a cultural image, tea is undoubtedly one that belongs to Asia. Tea ceremonies are common in several countries, from Japan to China, Korea, Taiwan or Vietnam. Originated in China and extended to Japan in Medieval time, the way of tea is a ceremonial preparation and presentation of tea.

Tea boxes in a small shop in Mainland China

Tea boxes in a small shop in Mainland China

Our first experience in front of a gongfu tea table was halfway between fascinating and comical. We had been invited by Chinese work colleagues for a lunch in their apartment, and after the meal, we were offered tea. The ceremonial started with a gongfu table placed in front of us, and the pouring of hot water on a small cabbage-shapped ornament. The slight change in colour must have given the indication to our host that tea could be served. The flavour was refine and light, nothing close to a breakfast tea, nothing that would have made my husband beg for sugar.

As the warm beverage was poured into mini cups, we carried on various conversation with our hosts. As we drank the first cup in just one sip, due to the small content, we were served a second cup, which we drank happily as the experience was very pleasant and interesting. Our caring host then filled the cup a third, a fourth, a fifth time. As my husband started realising we may have been the cause of the refill by emptying the cup so happily, he decided to cary on the conversation without drinking the seventh or 8th cup. I had personally decided to keep my cup captive in my hand, simply not putting it back on the table, preventing any extra refill. But after no more than 5 minutes, our host noticed Steve’s cup was full… and thinking the tea had got cold, he emptied it over the table which is made to receive liquid, and filled the cup anew…

Preparing tea in China can require many delicate or rustic tools, from carved spoons to brushes.

Preparing tea in China can require many delicate or rustic tools, from carved spoons to brushes.

If you decide  to buy tea in China, each tea shop owner will be happy to prepare a way of tea for you, making you try a selection of teas just like in a wine of food tasting in Europe. In a country where urbanisation has left the visitor longing for more tradition and a slower tempo, a tea ceremony is a perfect activity to celebrate and partake into China’s ancestral culture.

Preparing tea for customers

Preparing tea for customers

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