The Chinese Tea Ceremony: Everything you need to know
The serene lush fields of Jiangnan with swaying plantation of excellent refreshing tea takes one back to a soulful journey and flushes in thoughts of peace and tranquillity into the mind body and spirit. The act Drinking Tea has always been a larger than life experience for the Chinese population. Originally used as an herbal medicinal aid in temples the Chinese have always rewarded the beverage a pivotal and vertiginous space in their culture. In the beginning of its cultivation and widespread usage Chinese Monks used tea as a symbol to show respect for nature, humility and a beverage that exuberates an overall sense of peace and calm.
The spirit of the Chinese Tea Ceremony is described as he (和）, Jing（静）, yi（怡）, zhen（真） which mean peace, tranquillity, enjoyment and truth. Since its inception during the tang dynasty 1200 years the ceremony has been able to beautifully evoke a strong sense of social occasion thus becoming a moment to be together in harmony or a celebration of important life events. The ceremony has been used to exhibit philosophical concepts through tea service. It is for that reason that the underlying philosophies of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism all can be seen appreciated in a Chinese Tea Ceremony.
The tea ceremony exquisitely highlights the tea, rather than the ceremony -- what the tea tastes like, smells like, and how one tea tastes compared to the previous tea in successive rounds of drinking. Ceremony doesn't mean that each server will perform the ritual the same way; it is not associated to religion. Each step is meant to be a sensory exploration and appreciation.
Types of Chinese tea ceremonies: -
Chinese tea ceremony devotes particular care to the fine teas, clean tea water, heat control, tea sets and the peaceful environment.
Sichuan tea ceremony
Sichuan tea ceremony is that the tea master pours boiling hot water into a tea bowl from a 1.2-meter long copper pot, without splashing a drop of water. The tea master fits basic kung fu skills and acrobatics into the tea ceremony, with great commentaries.
Gong fu Tea
While there are other Chinese tea ceremonies, the Gongfu tea ceremony dates back hundreds of years and is the most well-known. “Gongfu” means the art of doing something well, so this ceremony represents that philosophy—you are expected to invest the time, effort and care to create a true art-like tea experience.
The Wedding Chinese Tea Ceremony-
During this important traditional ritual, both the bride and groom serve tea in a gaiwan to both sides of the parents, recognizing the moment where members of each family become relatives. It is an important show of respect and honour.
The Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony-
The Wu-Wo tea ceremony, also quite popular, is a particularly spiritual ritual, which encourages the participants to forget their knowledge and wealth, to establish a group equality, without any prejudices. In Chinese Buddhist usage, wuwo, which derives from Sanskrit, means “no individual independent existence”. The Wu-Wo tea ceremony began in Taiwan and extended to all Buddhist countries
Major aspects of the Chinese Tea ceremony-
Attitude means everything. Chinese people believe that one’s state of mind or attitude can be passed really easily to the others. That is why before actually performing the tea ceremony one needs to relax first, think about encouraging aspects of life and be at harmony with himself or herself and with the entire Universe.
Tea selection is highly important. The tea variety must be carefully nominated in advance taking into account both physical and spiritual characteristics. Physical characteristics refer to fragrance, taste and shape while the spiritual ones refer to the tea’s history, name and origin.
The Chinese have made it easy to select the proper tea for your ceremony or, for life’s non-ceremonial occasions, just a delicious tea to enjoy during your day.
Chinese Green Teas. If you want to relish a traditional Chinese green tea, you can’t go wrong with Jasmine, a fragrant floral tea, Chun Mee, a traditional green summer tea or Lung Ching, a desired worldwide..
Chinese Oolong Teas. If you want to host a Gongfu tea ceremony like a boss, oolong is your traditional go-to. The rolled-style oolongs gradually unfurl with each infusion, yielding a story of flavor.
Matcha Teas. For a truly Asian experience, this ancient tea is a one-of-a-kind drink.
Water selection needs special attention.
A perfect tea needs to be prepared with the flawless water. The best eminent tea leaves prepared with inappropriate water give a bad taste to the tea. For the traditional Chinese tea ceremony only the purest and cleanest water is used to ensure not only a perfect tasting beverage, but also a tribute of respect and approbation to mother nature.
Necessary tools. You cannot prepare the perfect tea without the right tools. For the tea ceremony the perfect tea ware is needed to ensure the right brewing and the charmed atmosphere of the entire ceremony. The items must be both practical and aesthetical, the perfect ying-yang combination. The obligatory tools are a Yixing teapot or a porcelain teapot, a tea pitcher or chahai, a brewing tray, a teaspoon, usually three small cups and a tea strainer.
Don’t forget the ambiance. A peaceful and calm ceremony needs a comfortable, quiet and clean room. Chinese usually use artwork and beautiful items to enhance the overall atmosphere and to make their guests feel relaxed and fully enjoy the entire ritual.
The technique needs to be perfect. The perfect tea and atmosphere aren’t perfect without a technique to match them. The manner of serving should be relaxed and graceful reflected mostly through hand movements, facial expressions and the traditional ceremonial clothing.
Steps involved in the tea ceremony; -
Prepare Tea Set: -
To hold a Chinese tea ceremony, a full tea set is needed, including teapot, teacups, tea strainer, kettle, water, tea leaves, tray, tea leaf holder… Different tea sets should be prepared for different tea. For instance, white porcelain tea set is more often used for brewing and drinking green tea
Rinse Teapot and Teacups
Rinsing is to preheat tea sets as preheating can help fully release fragrance of tea.
The spring water is the best and it should be boiled.
Put Tea Leaves into Teapot
Use tea chopstick to move some tea leaves into the teapot. Usually, tea leaves should occupy 1/3 of the teapot.
Wash Tea Leaves
Pour the hot water into teapot and stay for a few seconds, and then pour out water quickly from teapot to dump out the water of the first brew to remove dust or some impurities on the surface of tea leaves.
Refill the teapot with boiled water, cover it and stay for a few seconds to preserve aroma of the tea soup.
Pour Tea Soup into Tea Cups
First, pour the tea soup into the large fair cup, shake it up and then pour the soup into smaller tea cups.
Offer Tea Cups
Remember to serve the tea to guests with both hands to show respect.
Smell and then Sip Tea
After getting the tea cup, one should sniff the aroma of tea soup, and then sip instead of swig to taste the flavor of the tea soup.
The great Chinese philosopher Confucius said this: “Never give a sword to a man who can’t dance.” Just like all the complexities that go into Chinese tea traditions, we may not understand fully what it means, but we like it! Enjoy this wonderful, ancient world of tea.