Chinese Tea Ceremony

Chinese Tea Ceremony

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Gongfu tea ceremony

The gongfu tea ceremony or kung fu tea ceremony (Chinese: 工夫茶 or 功夫茶 ), is a kind of Chinese tea ceremony, [1] [2] involving the ritual preparation and presentation of tea. It is probably based on the tea preparation approaches originated in Fujian [3] and the Chaoshan area of eastern Guangdong. [4] The term literally means "making tea with skill". [5] The approach often involves using smaller brewing vessels and a higher leaf-to-water ratio than in western-style brewing. Today, the approach is used popularly by teashops carrying tea of Chinese origins, and by tea connoisseurs as a way to maximize the taste of a tea selection, especially a finer one.


The concept of tea culture is referred to in Chinese as chayi ("the art of drinking tea"), or cha wenhua ("tea culture"). The word cha (茶) denotes the beverage that is derived from Camellia sinensis, the tea plant. Prior to the 8th century BCE, tea was known collectively under the term 荼 (pinyin: tú) along with a great number of other bitter plants. These two Chinese characters are identical, with the exception of an additional horizontal stroke in the Chinese lettering 荼, which translates to tea. The older character is made up of the radical 艸 (pinyin: cǎo) in its reduced form of 艹 and the character 余 (pinyin: yú), which gives the phonetic cue.

There are several special circumstances in which tea is prepared and consumed in Chinese culture, and is preserved completely in Mainland China and Taiwan.

A sign of respect According to Chinese tradition, members of the younger generation should show their respect to members of the older generation by offering a cup of tea. Inviting their elders to restaurants for tea is a traditional holiday activity. Newly married couple serving tea to their elder family members .In the past, people of a lower social class served tea to the upper class in society. Today, with the increasing liberalization of Chinese society, this rule and its connotations have become blurred. To apologize In Chinese culture, tea may be offered as part of a formal apology. For example, children who have misbehaved may serve tea to their parents as a sign of regret and submission. To show gratitude and celebrate weddings In the traditional Chinese marriage ceremony, the bride and groom kneel in front of their respective parents , as well as elderly relatives such as grand parents and serve them tea and then thank them, together which represents an expression of their gratitude and respect. According to the tradition, the bride and groom serve both families. This process symbolizes the joining together of the two families.

Light finger tapping is an informal way to thank the tea master or tea server for tea. While or after one's cup is filled, the receiver of the tea may tap the index and middle fingers (one or more in combination) to express gratitude to the person who served the tea. [1] This custom is common in southern Chinese, where their meals often are accompanied by many servings of tea.

This custom is said to have originated in the Qing dynasty when the Qianlong Emperor traveled in disguise throughout the empire and his accompanying servants were instructed not to reveal their master's identity. One day in a restaurant in southern China , the emperor poured tea for a servant. To that servant it was a huge honor to have the emperor pour him a cup of tea. Out of habit, he wanted to kneel and bow to express his thanks to the emperor, however he could not do this since that would reveal the emperor's identity. Instead, he tapped the table with bent fingers to represent kneeling to the Emperor and to express his gratitude and respect. In this sense, the bent fingers supposedly signify a bowing servant.

In formal tea ceremonies nodding the head or saying "thank you" is more appropriate.

The different ways of brewing Chinese tea depend on variables like the formality of the occasion, the means of the people preparing it, and the kind of tea being brewed. For example, green teas are more delicate than oolong teas or black teas therefore, green tea should be brewed with cooler water. The most informal method of brewing tea is to simply add the leaves to a pot containing hot water. This method is commonly found in households and restaurants, for example, in the context of dim sum or yum cha in Cantonese restaurants. Another method for serving tea is to use a small lidded bowl called a gaiwan. The Hongwu Emperor of the Ming dynasty contributed to the development of loose tea brewing by banning the production of compressed tea.

Gongfu cha (Kung fu tea) Edit

Gongfu cha, meaning "making tea with skill", is a popular method of tea ceremony in China. It makes use of small Yixing teapots holding about 100–150 ml (4 or 5 fl.oz.), the size being thought to enhance the aesthetics and to "round out" the taste of the tea being brewed. Small tea cups are being used along with Yixing teapots. Gongfu tea is best consumed after meal to help digestion. Brewing tea in a Yixing teapot can be done for private enjoyment as well as to welcome guests. Depending on the region of China, there may be differences in the steps of brewing as well as the tools used in the process. For example, Taiwanese-style gongfu cha makes use of several additional instruments including tweezers and a tea strainer. The procedure is mostly applicable to oolong teas, but it is some used to make pu'er and other fermented teas.

Tea has had a major influence on the development of Chinese culture, and Chinese traditional culture is closely connected with Chinese tea. Tea is often associated with literature, arts, and philosophy and is closely connected with Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism. Roughly since the Tang Dynasty, drinking tea has been an essential part of self-cultivation. Chinese Chan (similar to Japanese Zen) philosophy is also linked with drinking tea.

Teaware Edit

Traditionally, tea drinkers were regarded as the 'academic' and 'cultural elites' of the society. The practice of drinking tea was considered to be an expression of personal morality, education, social principles, and status. The price of tea ware varies depending on the material and quality of it. A set of jade tea ware can cost hundreds of thousands dollars whereas a set of low quality tea ware may only cost less than a hundred dollar. Increased enthusiasm for tea drinking led to the greater production of teaware, which significantly popularized Chinese porcelain culture.

Teahouse Edit

Ancient Chinese scholars used the teahouse as a place for sharing ideas. The teahouse was a place where political allegiances and social rank were said to have been temporarily suspended in favor of an honest and rational discourse. The leisurely consumption of tea promoted conviviality and civility amongst the participants. The teahouse is not only a minor by-product of Chinese tea culture it offers historical evidence of Chinese tea history. Today, people can also sense a kind of humanistic atmosphere in Beijing's Lao She Teahouse and in other teahouses in East China cities like Hangzhou, Suzhou, Yangzhou, Nanjing, Wuxi, Shaoxing, Shanghai, and other places. The teahouse atmosphere is still dynamic and vigorous.

Modern culture Edit

In modern China, virtually every dwelling—even down to the simplest mud hut—has a set of tea implements for brewing a cup of hot tea. They are symbols of welcome for visitors or neighbors. Traditionally, a visitor to a Chinese home is expected to sit down and drink tea while talking visiting while remaining standing is considered uncouth. Folding the napkin in tea ceremonies is a traditional act in China performed to keep away bad qi energy. In Taiwan, tea ceremonies are held not only in daily life but also on important occasions.

Tea was regarded as one of the seven daily necessities, the others being firewood, rice, oil, salt, soy sauce, and vinegar. There are many different types of tea such as : green tea, oolong tea, red tea, black tea, white tea, yellow tea, puerh tea and flower tea. Traditionally, fresh tea leaves are regularly turned over in a deep bowl. This process allows the leaves dry in a way that preserves their full flavor, ready for use.

Chinese Tea Art

In the heart of the Chinese capital, the Beijing’s Hutongs (1, Zhongku Hutong,) a young woman hands on her passion for the tea.

She pours some warm water into a cup, in which is put another even smaller cup, until it overflows a little. Then she fills a third one in which some tea leaves were placed, before set the lid. Her gestures are accurate. She waits a little, and then decants finally the tea in the smallest of the cups.

The novice expects to be able to savour the contents, but Liu Xiao Xiao asks them to turn the cup, and to smell. As the cup cools, the fragrance evolves to become milder. Drinking is now the next step subjected however to hold the cup with three fingers, as explains Miss Liu.

Every day, she repeats the same protocol, to make discover to non-initiated the Chinese tradition of the tea.

One of the ancient Chinese arts that has certainly not been forgotten or discarded is the art of making and serving tea.

This particular art is popularly practised among the common people, be they Buddhists, Daoists or Confucianists, because tea is taken not just as a means of quenching thirst and ridding the body of excessive oil, but also to nurture the spirit – yi qing yang xing (怡情养性, to move the feelings and nurture the spirit).

The varieties which seduce most the Chinese are the green tea and the Pu&apos Er, the black tea of the Yunnan province, not to amalgamate with the western or South Asia black tea which is named red tea in China.

Miss Liu customers are not only foreigners. Many Chinese want to exchange on the subject and to improve their knowledge of the tea some take themselves of passion for the subtleties of its taste.

Contrary to preconceived ideas, the young Chinese develop a growing interest  for this traditional drink, not only elderly people.

The making of tea and the art of serving it have been written about by many scholars through the centuries.

During the Han dynasty (3 rd century BC) Wang Bao and Tong Yue wrote the world’s oldest essays on tea drinking. In the Jin period (3 rd century AD) Xie An, a calligrapher, wrote on the subject of tea.

By the Tang dynasty (618-907 AD) many authors wrote on the tea ceremony and the art of making tea. Some of these authors were: Lu Tong, Jiao Ran and Lu Yu.

Song writers from the 10 th to the 13 th century included Tao Gu, Cai Xiang and Su Shi. De Hui, a Yuan dynasty writer, was well known amongst Buddhists for his tea ceremony. Noted Ming dynasty authors included Xu Ci Shu and Zhou Gao Qi.

By the Qing dynasty many writers, such as Wang Hao, Chen Meng Lei and Liu Yuan Chang, wrote on tea drinking as a form of art.

The habit of drinking tea in China started during Zhou dynasty (1066-256 BC).  The skill of making and serving tea was regarded as important as early as the Han dynasty (206 BC-220 AD).

Zhu Xi, a South Song dynasty philosopher, started the practice of drinking tea in a certain ritual and his tea ceremony was handed down and further highlighted by such scholars such as the 8 th century scholar, Lu Yu (Tang dynasty) and Huang Ru Ze (Song dynasty).

Today, the tea ceremony is being revived by overseas Chinese and it is a popular cultural activity.

Lu Yu wrote a book named Cha Jing in which the origin, the production, the utensils, the making and the dinking of tea were discussed. He also popularised the art of tea drinking as he travelled widely and associated with all kinds of people ranging from scholars to businessmen.

He established many tea houses to facilitate tea drinking ceremonies. Through his works the names of tea leaves, the utensils used for making tea, the materials used for boiling water and the tea houses were known to a large following of tea drinkers.

Another promoter of the art of tea drinking and author of books on the tea ceremony was Su Shi, an expert tea maker of the Song dynasty. During that period tea makers improved the process of tea by laying down seven steps.

The first was to ensure the tea leaves were picked at the right time and with the nails of the workers rather than the fingers.

The second was to make sure the tea leaves were properly classified. The third was to make certain that the tea leaves were appropriately steamed. The fourth to the seventh were that the making of tea was done in the best way.

By the Ming and Qing dynasty the types of tea leaves can be broadly classified into four namely ming, mo zi, la and mao.

Ming tea consists of young tea leaves and it is drunk with the leaves. Mo zi is dried and is ground into powder while la consists of tea leaves made into a biscuit first before it is washed and made into tea. Mao is made from tea leaves and other fruits in little hard pieces.

The skill of tea making and drinking is expressed in seven basic steps: the preparation of the tea leaves, the preparation of the water, the starting of the fire for boiling the tea, getting the right temperature of the water for the boiling of the leaves, putting in tea leaves, boiling the tea leaves and serving the tea.

The best type of water for high quality tea is water from the hills.

Tea drinking today is usually streamlined into a simpler ceremony. It may be carried out in one of three ways, namely gai wan shi (covering the cup style), cha niang shi (tea and paternal style) and gong fu shi (skilful style).

Gai wan shi is the simplest because only a tea cup with its cover are used to contain the tea and the tea drinker simply sips the tea and enjoys it. Cha niang shi is the most common and it is made in a teapot (symbolising the mother or parent) and served in cups (symbolising the children). Gong fu shi is the most authentic as it has its origin and tea ceremony from Lu Yu’s treatise.

The utensils used are: a heating stove, a teapot, a tea tray and some teacups, a fan, and a pair of chopsticks.

First of all, the water is boiled over the porcelain stove and once it has boiled it is poured into the porcelain teapot just to wash the tea leaves. More water is boiled again and poured over the outside of the teapot and into to make the tea.

It is often said that “tea started in the Tang Dynasty and flourished in the Song Dynasty”. In the Tang Dynasty a method called “green steaming” was invented, the aim of which was to rid tea leaves of their “grassy” flavor.

After steaming, the tea leaves were ground, made into cakes, and then dried and sealed for storage.

Before Tang Dynasty

Before the Tang, tea was known by many names, one of these being a Chinese character meaning “bitter”.

It was also in the Tang Dynasty that teahouses in their true sense came into being, and in some big cities, there were also tea shops, which stored large amounts of tea leaves and prepared tea for their customers. Poems and articles dedicated to tea also appeared, and poets such as Lu Tong and Bai Juyi all wrote about tea.

Tang Dynasty

Furthermore, the Tang Dynasty also saw the first definitive publication about tea –The Book of Tea, which was the first of its kind in the world.

This book which contained a comprehensive summary of all aspects of the culture of tea including medicinal uses, picking, tea making, cooking, and utensils was then a complete synthesis of knowledge about tea. Its author, Lu Yu (733-c.804), was consequently dubbed the “Saint of Tea” by later generations.

During this period, tea became the most popular commodity in foreign trade, and Japanese Buddhists brought tea leaves back from China to Japan. For the sake of easier transportation, tea leaves were made into bricks, from which convenient pieces could be broken off to prepare tea.

Song Dynasty

The Song Dynasty was a golden age for tea, and the teahouse played a prominent role. The calligrapher Cai Xiang (1012-1067) wrote Record of Tea and Emperor Huizong, Zhao Ji (1082-1135) wrote General Remarks on Tea.

Ming Dynasty

Then, in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), tea culture, which had been set back by Mongolians, underwent a renaissance with the familiar dark tea, green tea, and Oolong tea all developed during this time.

Zhu Yuanzhang (reigned 1368-1398), the first Ming Emperor, oversaw a change from roll tea to lose tea, and this tradition has been retained ever since.

As their understanding of tea improved, people were no longer content to harvest tea from the wild, but began to plant and cultivate tea trees, while at the same time processing techniques were improving, with different methods producing the six major types of tea.

Development of Tea

History of the Chinese Tea Ceremony

When you think of China, what do you see? Is it the Great Wall? Dumplings? Temples? Or is it tea?

Central to the country’s identity, tea in China is a far cry from the tea bags you use at home. The making and drinking of tea is as elaborate as it is methodical, made with ingredients and movements that are mesmerizing. Whether tea is your morning drink of choice or this is your first sip, there is no experience quite like a traditional Chinese tea ceremony. A small step out of your comfort zone, but a full cultural immersion into the past.

The origins of tea drinking are so old that no one can seem to pin down an exact date, but some of the first references in Chinese history were over 5,000 years ago. The ceremonial drinking of tea began during the Tang Dynasty and was originally reserved for religious ceremony and medicinal purposes. Monks saw tea ceremonies as a representation of humility and respect for nature—Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism eventually melding to create the ritualistic nature of the tea ceremonies still practiced today.

While the religious connotation has somewhat subsided since tea ceremonies became more social in nature, they remain the same at their core. Steeped—pun intended—in themes of peace, truth, and mindfulness, the tea ceremony creates a unique opportunity for true appreciation. All of your senses are engaged in this process. As you taste the different flavors you will simultaneously inhale the scents from the smelling cup, feel the movement of flipping your cup before you drink it, and watch the precise process demonstrated before you.

During the tea ceremony, you’re supposed to finish your cup in just three sips (it’s small, don’t worry). The first sip is small, the second is large, and the third is meant to enjoy the aftertaste and empty the cup.

As you take each sip, consider the implications of this precise and ancient ritual. There is something unifying about a traditional tea ceremony. The elements of the ceremony, right down to the taste of the tea, have been replicated over and over again for thousands of years, and yet is still unique to you.

Chinese Tea Ceremony Set: What You'll Need

A full Chinese tea ceremony set will consists out the following accessories:

  • A teapot or gaiwan: the main vessel for brewing leaves.
  • A fairness pitcher: the tea should first be poured into the pitcher before serving.
  • A strainer: such a filter should be put on top of the pitcher to make sure the smallest leaves don't end up in the pitcher.
  • 6 aroma cups: these long shaped cups make sure you can smell the fragrance of the tea better.
  • 6 tea cups: to drink tea.
  • 1 or more tea pets: to improve fengshui and luck.
  • A small tea cloth: to clean and dry the table and accessories.
  • A tea brush: to dry and polish clay teaware.
  • A set of the 'Six Gentlemen of Tea' accessories usually stored in a wooden holder and includes:
    • A teaspoon
    • A tea leaf strainer: this isn't the same as the mesh strainer used on the pitcher. Instead, it's one that's placed on the teapot. This accessory makes sure the leaves don't fall outside the teapot.
    • Cha ze: a small teaspoon to remove the used leaves from a teapot. Gongfu teapots usually have a pretty small opening. In addition, as the tea expands in the pot, it's sometimes tightly filled. Therefore, such a tool can come in handy.
    • Tea cup tweezers: this tool is handy as you don't have to touch the tea cups with your hands, which might be considered unhygienic.
    • Needle: this shouldn't be confused with the tea knives/needles used to pry compressed tea. Instead, the needle is used to clean teapot spout of potential tea leaves that might be stuck inside.

    Chinese Tea History

    Chinese people are believed to have enjoyed tea drinking for more than 4,000 years. Legend has it that Yan Emperor Shennong, one of three rulers in ancient times, tasted all kinds of herbs to find medical cures. One day, as he was being poisoned by some herb he had ingested a drop of water from a tea tree dripped into his mouth and he was saved. This was how tea was discovered.

    For a long time, tea was used as herbal medicine. During the Western Zhou Dynasty (1046 BC - 771 BC), it was a religious offering. The earliest record about tea as a drink appeared in the Western Han Dynasty (202 BC - 9), which indicates the actual time may be earlier than that. Chinese tea culture prospered during the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907) because of a famous person, Lu Yu, Tea Sage of China. The Tea Classics wrote by him is a tea encyclopedia, detailing rules concerning various aspects of tea, such as growth areas for tea trees, wares and skills for processing and tasting of tea, and the history of Chinese tea. Also, in this period, tea seeds were taken to Japan but the tea culture didn&rsquot spread in Japan until the South Song Dynasty (1127 - 1279). In the Song Dynasty, Arabic merchants exported tea from Quanzhou, Fujian Province. Tea was sold to Southeast Asian and South African countries in the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644). In 1610, it went to Europe via Macau in a Dutch merchant ship. Thus it became an international drink.

    Learn Chinese tea ceremony history and etiquette

    Originating in 2737 BC, the tea ceremony is a testament to the impact the drink holds on Chinese culture. With its multitude of health benefits, tea and the act of preparing and serving it is also a means of socialization. These practices differ greatly from other countries, such as Britain and Japan.

    “China has the earliest records of tea consumption with records dating back to the 10th-century BC,” said Xinren Yu, program coordinator at the UT Confucius Institute. “Tea was thriving in the Song Dynasty and popular among literati and poets. In the Tang Dynasty, 618-907 AD, one of China’s golden ages, tea drinking became an art.”

    It is this deep cultural connection to the beverage that inspired the Chinese tea ceremony class series. The six-class series aims to educate UT community members on the finer points of appreciating and preparing tea.

    “We hope that students will not only enjoy the taste of tea, but also learn Chinese culture and tea culture in the class,” Yu said. “Students who are interested in Chinese culture and Chinese tea ceremony will learn about the different types of Chinese tea, utensils for making and drinking tea, stories about tea from ancient times to the Tang Dynasty, as well as how people drink tea nowadays in China.”

    Special occasions where one might be served tea include family gatherings and weddings. Serving the beverage to another person is a sign of respect, gratitude and apology. This means that most times, younger generations are the ones serving tea to their elders.

    The expansive tea culture in China means that every home has the materials necessary to brew a cup of tea. Hospitality to guests always includes serving tea and sitting down for conversation.

    The price to attend the session is $20, with the classes meeting Wednesdays, March 15 to April 19, from 2 to 3 p.m. in Snyder Memorial Building Room 1100.

    In addition to the series, free walk-in classes will be available Fridays, Feb. 17 and 24, and March 3 and 10, also from 2 to 3 p.m. in Snyder Memorial Building Room 1100. These classes will serve as an introduction to the Chinese tea ceremony, with different types of tea being briefly presented, as well as a demonstration of one type of tea ceremony.

    Those interested in learning more about the Chinese tea ceremony may sign up for the class series with Tea Master Xiangling Gong at [email protected]

    © 2020 THE UNIVERSITY OF TOLEDO &bull 2801 W. Bancroft St. &bull Toledo, OH 43606 &bull 800.586.5336

    What is a Chinese Tea Ceremony?

    There are two main Chinese tea ceremonies, the wedding tea ceremony and the Gongfu tea ceremony. Both the ceremonies require the proper tea set. The wedding ceremony is one of the most important wedding rituals where the new bride and groom prepare the tea and serve their elders. The ceremony is meant to honor the elders and thank them.

    The Gongfu tea ceremony, on the other hand, is a more meditative experience. It is an elaborate ceremony with a strict ritual. One must be aware of the &lsquocha qi&rsquo or tea energy and be aware of how it affects one&rsquos body and mind. Careful attention is paid to every step of the brewing, focusing on the aroma and flavor of the tea. It is marked by an almost dance-like motion of the person making the tea. The Japanese tea ceremony may also have evolved from the Gongfu tea ceremony.

    Chinese Teaware: An important part of the tea ceremony is the teaware. Given the cultural importance of tea and the prominence of tea ceremonies, the Chinese teaware developed independently. The unique tea sets are known for their beautiful workmanship and simple elegance. More elaborate than its Western counterpart, the Chinese tea set is also more redolent with a sense of history that is reflective of the beverage itself. In China, tea sets can be an heirloom piece, an exquisite piece of art that is preserved carefully.

    Tea is brewed in a lidded bowl, then poured into a clay pitcher to ensure an even brew. The clay of the pitcher absorbs the tea and some old pitchers may not even need tea leaves for a brew. The absorbed tea in the hot pitcher is enough to flavor the hot liquid! Many families have special pitchers, passed on through generations with beautiful works of art.

    The tea is poured from the pitcher on to scent cups where one can savor the fragrance of the tea. To serve, the tea is poured into cups. Smaller than usual cups, these are cradled in one&rsquos palms. Made of porcelain, the cups, like the pitcher, are also often exquisite. All this is served on a special tea tray with a slatted top. The intricately carved trays are meant to drain out any spills. Other tools include a tea holder to hold the tea, tea tongs to handle the cups, tea brush to wipe spilled tea, tea needle to clean the teapot spout, and a little tea pet to be placed on the tray.

    Chinese tea ceremony. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

    Watch the video: ASMRCalming Chinese Tea Ceremony Tea Pouring, Relaxing


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