Chinese Tea Culture

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Tea-drinking is a constituent part of Chinese culture. China is an original producer of tea and is renowned for its skills in planting and making tea. Its customs of tea-drinking spread over to Europe and to many other regions through cultural exchange via the ancient "Silk Road" and other channels of trade. The Chinese nation has written a brilliant page for its tea culture in the history of world civilization. The development of tea has been one of China's principal contributions to the world.

First appearing as early as 5,000 years ago, Green Tea is the oldest category of Chinese Tea. The original processing of the tea was quite simple. People either boiled the tea leaves straight from the tree, or sun-dried tea leaves for future use. While the processing methods have changed over the centuries it still resembles its ancient ancestor in that it is not fermented and only very slightly oxidized. This allows the tea to retain more of the original taste of the leaf.

Ways of Serving Tea

How to serve a cup of tea to a visiting friend differs from place to place in China.

In Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, a porcelain cup or a glass tumbler is used to brew Longjing, Biluochun, Maojian or just ordinary green tea. Chrysanthemum tea is sometimes used in the hot summer season to reduce the hot from outside. In the Spring Festival, in some well-off families, the guests may be entertained with Yuanbao tea to two fresh olives submerged in the tea to bestow blessings. In the countryside, when people visit their relatives, they are usually served with “egg-tea”. To be frank it is not a kind of tea but a bowl of pouched eggs, so called to show the publicity of the idea of tea.

Hosts in the Northern provinces usually entertain their guests with a cup of scented tea, which is very popular in the North China cities, while in the colder north-eastern provinces, the enthusiastic hosts would provide warm black tea with sugar added to ensure warmth.

In some coastal provinces such as Guangdong Province and Fujian Province, a pot of Oolong tea, congou tea or Pu-er tea is the usual treat. If you go to visit a family in the mountainous Xiushui County, you would be served a cup of “sesame-bean tea” (sesame seeds and baked beans scattered in the liquor which are to be chewed and swallowed on emptying the cup). Iced tea is even common in modern families as most homes are equipped with refrigerators.

Serving tea to guests is a common practice among the 56 ethnic nationalities in China. But in the border districts, different tea is used. In Inner Mongolia, a guest is entertained with milky tea. In the Jingpo family, you would be given baked tea.

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