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Tea Culture

The Chinese Art of Tea

The Chinese Art of Tea

  • Saturday, 05 November 2022
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Tea has been a part of Chinese culture for thousands of years. Lu Yu, a Scholar from the Tang Dynasty in China, wrote an influential book on tea called "The Classic of Tea" in 760 AD. This book introduced many details about how tea should be planted and picked as well as processed. Lu Yu's detailed instructions on how the beverage should be prepared, brewed and served led to its adoption as an art form by subsequent generations. Today, tea is enjoyed by people all over the world thanks to Lu Yu's work.

Tea has been a part of Chinese culture for centuries, and its popularity has still grown in recent years. The art of tea appreciation, known as Cha Yi (茶艺) in Chinese, is an intricate process that involves special equipment and ritual. However, it is also about much more than just drinking the beverage; it is about how people interact with their surroundings to create ceremony-like experiences for one another, even when they are alone. 

Tea drinking habits vary greatly across China: generally southerners like green tea, oolong tea and black tea, northerners like flower tea, and Chinese in southwestern provinces revere black tea. But as the largest and oldest ethnic group in China, Chinese Han people has special and traditional preference to drink pure tea. Although the method differs, most of Chinese Han People respect pure tea drinking, which can maintain the tea " authentic " with the experience of the "original tea nature ":it is to directly brew or boil tea with boiling water, without adding milk, mint, lemon and other beverages and spices or fruits in the tea soup. Pure tea drinking method is typical for traditional Chinese tea art. 

To truly appreciate tea, one must have the proper utensils and know the proper procedure and rituals. But even more important than that is understanding the role tea plays within Chinese culture. By understanding the history and tradition behind tea, we can better appreciate the simple beauty of this delicious beverage.

Tea ceremonies have been an important part of Chinese culture for thousands of years. There are several key aspects to a traditional Chinese tea ceremony:

1.Water.

Chinese have always valued the quality of water. In Chinese, water is used to describe liquid forms of nature, essence, spirit or energy. Water is the carrier of tea, with good water, you can smell the fragrance of tea, taste the sweetness of tea, and enjoy the beautiful colour of tea soup. Ancient Chinese attached great importance to making tea with spring water,science proves that springs are home to numerous microorganisms and these are essential to healthy skin and hair. Owing to a high mineral content found in rocks nearby, springs contain plenty of minerals that can be absorbed by earth's surface waters.

These elements team up to provide clear fresh drinking water which is the very foundation for tea making where the water can be seen playing a crucial role in not only extracting the rich aroma and flavors from tea leaves but also in bringing out its magical colors; this match between tea and water has existed long before there was ever any such thing as bottled water on Earth.

The water for tea should be clear and light, not stagnant or heavy. It must also have good taste so that you can experience the true flavor of your beverage without any interference from other factors.

2.Tea tools to make tea. 

There are many tools that you can use when preparing Chinese tea, but some of them serve an essential purpose while others just make life easier. Below is a list to help get started!

Teapot

Chinese teapots are tasked with brewing some of the most aesthetically pleasing and delicate tea in the world. While there are many kinds, each type has its own traditional aesthetic. From hand-sized cups to antique dragon-shaped pots, each teapot holds its own appeal for the history within it. 

Some teapots were originally made out of clay without any glazing which makes them cool to touch even when hot (which means you won't burn yourself). There are also some Chinese teapots made of ceramic, such as white porcelain and blue-and-white porcelain. Most of the Gaiwan that we often see are ceramic. 

The Gaiwan is a form of Chinese teapot used in Asia since the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). They have "lidded" sides and can be made from both porcelain or clay pottery. As one of the earliest forms of teapot design, the purpose of this lidded form is to minimize contact between leaf and air, so as to prevent oxidization and ensure that the brewed tea maintains its flavor.

Chinese tea lovers often "raise" several clay teapots, each for a different kind of tea. The verb “raise” that means to breed in Chinese also applies in this instance! As the clay pores absorb some tea, they'll gradually fill up with oils from tea leaves which then shine through as you use your teapot again and again! New teapots should be bathed in hot tea before their first use to eliminate any smells that may have been on them during production. There is no need to wash your teapot with detergent. Just pour hot water in it and let the brew do its job!

Tea Cups

The teacups are a symbol of pure beauty. They come in many shapes and sizes, tall like miniature fruit juice glasses or short with stout bodies! One cup can typically fill four to six cups depending upon the size of your teapot.

Tea Pitcher

It is important to have a second teapot, called "tea pitcher" for pouring the tea when it's ready. Because the tea must not be left on the leaves more than a few minutes, and guests might not drink quickly enough. Sometimes they pour their drinks through small tea filters so small leaf particles don't get through into servings.

The Six Gentlemen of the Tea Ceremony

The Six Gentlemen of the Tea Ceremony is a set of essential tools for making Gongfu tea. These pieces can be found on any traditional tea table and they each have their own unique function in this process: The Six Gentlemen of the Tea Ceremony consists of six tea utensils: tea utensils bottle, tea funnel, tea needle, tea tong, tea piker and tea spoon. 

The tea funnel is the perfect tool to enjoy high-quality teas right at home. The funnel lets loose leaves rest in a clean, dry spot in the pot while their flavour makes its way into your hot water. The tea spoon is used to take tea. Its handle can probe into the depth of your teapot, making it easy for you when handling tea leaves by hand!  With its long handle, you can use the tongs to remove them with ease.

The pointed end of the tea needle can clear twists and clogs from the spout of your teapot.Tea tong‘s main role is to clip the tea cup, when the tea maker needs to wash the cup or take the cup from the sterilization bowl, is to use the tea tong to replace the hand, so that it can prevent scalding while also more hygienic. Finally, the tea poker is a small but significant part of preparing high-quality teas. With it, you can scoop out any stubborn dregs that remain after drinking and make sure they're gone for good.

How did the set of tea utensils in the Chinese tea ceremony come to be named Six Gentlemen of the Tea Ceremony? At first, these six people were known as 'the six gentlemen'. Residing in the Song dynasty, they contributed a lot to the promotion of Chinese tea culture.The term "six gentlemen" refers to six people in Song Dynasty in China,they are Shi Dao,Zheng Ru,Zhang Yonghui,Wu Chunweng, lv Yuanjun and Song Wenfu.When Chinese Emperor Shen Zong(宋神宗,1048-1085ADof Song Dynasty had his monopoly on the tea trade, he imposed heavy taxes and regulations that caused many average people in southwest region of China to suffer. At this time six brave men decided they would rather risk their career future and lives; so these onward-thinking gentlemen submitted a proposal to the Emperor for how tea trade could help out southwest people. And the tea trade was finally approved by the Chinese Emperor. And then the tea farmers and tea merchants are grateful for the contributions made by these six people to tea and the average people, and people gradually called tea utensils set commonly used in the Chinese tea ceremony.

There are also other important Chinese tea tools in traditional Gongfu tea ceremony too.

Tea Canister

The tea canister needs to stay sealed up tight, so that moisture and oxygen won't get in.Tea canisters come in many different shapes and sizes; they're often made of ceramic, tinplate or paper.

Tea Tray

The tea tray not only keeps your table clean and hygienic, but also provides a beautiful environment for tasting. The discarded leaves can be temporarily stored in this handy device which will help to protect the surface of the tea table!

Tea Cloth

The tea cloth is a small yet clever invention that makes sure your cup never gets dirty or holds any kind of residue. It can be used to dry off anything when you are drinking tea.

3.Temperature

Since we know so much on traditional Chinese tea ceremony tools, let us talk on another important factor of Chinese tea art:Temperature.

Depending on the tea type, water temperature may vary. Because green teas usually contain a large amount of tender buds and leaves that are easily destroyed by high heat, they need to be brewed with 80 to 85 degree Celsius water. While black, oolong and puerh teas come from matured tea leaves and can be brewed with around 100 degree Celsius water at most.White and flower teas can be brewed at higher temperatures ranging around 90 to 95 degrees Celsius. 

We get a conclusion here: the darker the leaves are, the hotter the water should be.The leaves rolled in tiny beads after the first infusion shows that they were not hot enough so that the tea leaves do not open. If the water temperature is too high, the bitterness of tea soup will intensify. In order to avoid bitterness and astringency, the temperature of the water and steep timing used for tea can be adjusted. 

How to Make Gongfu Tea?

Gung Fu tea is a traditional Chinese tea brewing method that originated in the Song Dynasty and is mainly popular in the southern China regions of Wuyi Mountain, Fujian and Chaozhou-Shantou region, Guangdong. Yixing Zisha teapot is the best tool for brewing Gungfu tea.

The first step is to make sure you have everything set up before you start. Either choose the Chinese-style purple clay teapot or other Chinese teaware.The volume of the teapot should be appropriate for the amount of tea leaves, but make sure you have enough tea and water for what you're making. The cups and teapot are washed in boiling water. Clean the utensils and put the amount of leaves that you want into the teapot.

 

The process of making a perfect cup begins with pouring water into the pot, up to its lid. Sometimes some on top is used for heating purposes too! The infusion time can be flexible depending solely upon your taste.

Third, wash the tea. The water temperature should not be too high to avoid the loss of nutrients, and the water used to wash the tea can also be used to wash the cup. This process ensures that the leaves are clean enough for a great tasting infusion! Afterward, hot boiling water is poured into your bowl. At this point in time, your tea leaves have been soaked with hot water and begun to bloom; their true nature has been revealed! 

Fourth, the tea steeping time. The thing about steeping is that it really varies by tea type and even leaf quality — darker teas prefer longer steeping times, and low-quality leaves might need shorter ones to produce a flavourful brew. Generally, we recommend 2-4 minutes for brewing most teas — but again, you can adjust according to your preferences!

The tea is then poured into the cups and any leftover liquid has to be drained from leaves before drinking. Tea tasting is more than just a social activity, it's also a way to learn more about yourself and your environment. Gongfu Tea tasting happens in three stages: sip, taste and aftertaste. The flavor of tea reflects its origin: the minute differences between teas harvested in different times and places, the quality of growing conditions, and the brewing methods used. With practice comes an understanding; with understanding comes appreciation. In these fleeting moments of reflection, we soak in everything that makes us happy.

After enjoying the Gongfu tea,the last important element in the Chinese tea art is the best timing of tea drinking.

The Best Drinking Tea Time and Shenshi Tea(申时茶)

In ancient China, the day was divided into 12 Shichen(时辰,1 Shichen is equal to 2 hours), and Shenshi(申时)refers to the two hours from 3 to 5 pm.The traditional Chinese medicine believes that drinking tea at the Shenshi (3-5 pm) is beneficial to health.The ancient people of China have the habit of drinking tea at Shen Shi. Because 3-5 pm is the time when the bladder is most active, the body needs sufficient water to replenish, so there is a certain scientific basis for drinking Shenshi tea. Shenshi tea has a very good detoxification effect. At this time to drink more tea, help the bladder to eliminate body waste, promote metabolism, speed up the benefits of toxic substances and waste discharge in the body.

Tea has been drinking since ancient times, but it was originally cold in nature. The famous Chinese medical scientist Li Shizhen(李时珍,1518-1593 AD) wrote Compendium Of Materia Medica(《本草纲目》),which notes that tea tastes bitter and is considered to be a healthy drink because its ability minimize internal heat in human body.The different production processes in nature have led to a variety of warm and cool teas.Fermentation makes the difference between hot and cold teas in nature. The lower degree of fermentation, the greater its chill is; higher levels of fermentation bring more warmth to a drink.The non-fermented green tea is cold in nature,while the completely fermented black tea and puerh tea are warm, and the heavy fermented oolong tea and aged white tea are in between green tea and black tea in nature.

During Shenshi period(3 to 5 pm), it is not advisable to drink cool tea, such as green tea, yellow tea, raw puerh tea stored within 3 years or white tea stored for 3 years, etc. The bladder is the most active time, and the bladder is where the yang energy is. Warm tea should be served during Shenshi period, such as Pu-erh ripe tea, aged white tea, black tea, etc. are most suitable for drinking at the Shenshi.

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