Art of Chinese Tea

Written by Sally Guo Updated Jun. 23, 2021

You must know tea is important in China, do you know what's the tea ceremony (the art of Chinese tea)? Follow this article for the history, how to make it, and other information.

Art of Tea in Modern China

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

She pours some warm water into a cup, which puts to another even smaller cup until it overflows a little.

Then she fills a third one in which there were some tea leaves, before setting the lid. Her gestures are accurate.

She waits for a little and then decants finally the tea in the smallest of the cups.

The novice expects to be able to savor 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 but to hold the cup with three fingers, as explains Miss Liu.

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

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

Whether Buddhist, Taoist, or Confucian, this particular art is popular among ordinary people.

For tea is not only a means of quenching thirst and getting rid of excess body fat but is also used to nourish the spirit, Yi qing yang xing (怡情养性, moving the mind to nourish the spirit).

The varieties that appeal most to the Chinese are green tea and the Pu' Er, the black tea from the Yunnan province. Not to be confused with the West Asian or South Asian black teas that China calls red tea.

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 in this traditional drink, not only elderly people.

Manners of Tea Drinking
Manners of Tea Drinking

How Did the Art of Tea Develop in China?

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

During the Han dynasty (3rd century BC) Wang Bao and Tong Yue wrote the world’s oldest essays on tea drinking. In the Jin period (3rd 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.

Songwriters from the 10th to the 13th 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 the 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 as to the 8th-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 drinking of tea were discussed. He also popularised the art of tea drinking as he traveled widely and associated with all kinds of people ranging from scholars to businessmen.

He established many tea houses to ease 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 was 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.

green tea
Tea Fixation

How to Make and Drink the Tea?

The skill of tea making and drinking is expressed in seven basic steps.

Chinese Tea Ceremony
Chinese Tea Ceremony

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 (skillful style).

ai wan shi is the simplest because only a teacup with its cover is 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 (symbolizing the mother or parent) and served in cups (symbolizing 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.

Ready for the tea ceremony?

Tea should be made in careful steps.

First water is heated in a glass teapot over the fire of the jiu jiu lu or golden wine stove.

Once the water boils it is poured into the small teapot to wash the tea leaves.

The water is then poured away and more boiled water is added.

After about 30 seconds the tea is served.

More about Chinese Tea

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