Chinese Tea Ceremony: All You Need to Know

Among the many things that make Chinese culture so popular is the consumption of tea, as it happens in the rest of Asia. Why do Chinese people consider the “tea ceremony” so important? What does it consist of? In this post we will tell you about it.

In China, the variety of teas is as wide as the country itself. Story tells that the legendary Emperor Shen Nong (神農), who ruled China between 2737 and 2698 BC, discovered the medicinal benefits of drinking different herbal teas.

Why is the tea ceremony so special

As we just mentioned, the variety of plants from which tea is made of is enormous. Each one provides unique flavors, aromas, colors and textures that make each infusion a unique experience.

As centuries went by, and with the study, observation and patience of those who studied the universe of teas, Chinese people internalized the consumption of tea as more than just a hot drink.

The color of the tea-leaf, the timing of the harvest and the process to do it, its age, the temperature of the water that is added to it, the tannins it may have, the bitter taste, the creamy texture, among other things, are take into account when preparing a cup of tea.

Most of us Westerners don’t pause to think about any of that. We might just put a bag in a cup or some leaves in a teapot and then strain it before serving. And there are those who add milk, honey or sugar to make it more tasteful.

Tea ceremony Gonfu

Performing the tea ceremony

To cover all the aspects and ways to prepare tea the Chinese way. So here we’ll see the basics.

Gongfu cha is the traditional Chinese way to prepare tea. Literally, it means something like “make tea with art, or effort.” In fact, Kung-Fu martial arts are also in reference to the effort and technique to achieve something.

It takes three basic steps and different small containers to achieve a balanced flavor. This allows better control of the flavor to be obtained. These steps are used for all types of tea, but mainly green tea, white tea and oolong tea.

Step 1: Infusion

The infusion is prepared by puting boiling water in a gaiwan or in a little kettle with the tea leaves. There it rests for about 30-60 seconds, depending on the desired intensity. With the lid itself, the leaves are stirred a bit.

Step 2: Decant

The tea is decanted into another container, which is usually made of glass, so that the tea doesn’t turn bitter from leaving the leaves in the gaiwan for too long.

Step 3: Serve

The tea is served in cups, which are small and without handles. But the variety of types, sizes and materials with which they are made is also unending.

If you want to have more, repeat the process. This tea ceremony allows you to enjoy a tea that doesn’t get cold and where the taste of the tea isn’t altered. Of course, the leaves end up losing their flavor along the way. So we can compare the first and last sip and to an espresso and a coffee.

Vocabulary

  • Tea ceremony 功夫茶 (gōngfūchá).
  • Tea: 茶 (chá) 
  • Kettle: 水壶 (shuǐhú)
  • Steeping vessel (cup, lid and coaster): 盖碗 (gaiwan), mostly made from porcelain
  • Clay teapot: 宜兴紫砂 (yíxìng zǐshā)
  • Tea cup: 茶杯 (chábēi)

If you are planning a trip to China, the tea ceremony is an experience that you cannot miss. In the meantime, why not take the opportunity to learn more about Chinese culture and language? This is the time to study Chinese, from the comfort of your home!

In our academy of Asian languages, Hanyu Chinese School, we offer everything you need to study this fascinating language. Contact us to find out about our individual, tailor-made plans. If you want to make it more fun, get your friends to study together.

You can also find us on social media. And if you fear you don’t have time to do it, try our On-the-go course. We look forward meeting you!

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