The Chinese tea ceremony is an experience that you should enjoy when you travel to this great country. For more than a century, tea has been used in China to show respect to guests. And there are several types of ceremonies depending on the category of the person to whom you would like to entertain. Although the best-known ceremony is the Japanese, it actually emerges from China.
The discovery of the tea: 2,737 BC
The oriental countries are very rich in legends. Especially to explain the birth of ancestral customs or the discovery of crucial elements of their cultures. Tea is one of those elements. Therefore, it is not surprising that there are dozens of stories that talk about how it was discovered.
The most popular of such legends places its appearance in the year 2373 BC, during the reign of the Divine Emperor Sheng Nong. On one occasion when he was sick, he sat under a tree and prepared to purify a little water. In the meanwhile, he fell asleep. When he awoke, some of the leaves of the tree had fallen into the hot water.
The emperor tried them and discovered two things. On one hand, the taste of the infusion was slightly bitter. On the other hand, he felt better after drinking it.
It may surprise you to learn that Sheng Nong is the inventor of the pharmacopeia and the man who started the habit of boiling water before drinking it. In fact, in China, they dring hot water instead of cold. The heat relaxes the belly and improves its moisturizing effect.
Tea as a real drink: the beginnings of the Chinese tea ceremony
We have to wait until the 8th century for tea, in China, to stop being considered only as a medicine or food. From this moment on, the high classes began to take it and it acquired the quality of a refined drink.
The point that the poet Lu Yu, who lived during the Tang Dynasty, wrote the first Tea Code. It described how to grow it, collect it and prepare it. The poet was a renowned tea taster. So much so, that its dictations on the quality of the water and its temperature were considered another form of art.
Imperial taxes and the importance of tea
It was the year 782 of our era when the Emperor De Zhong, from the Tang dynasty, put the first tax on tea. Neither more nor less than 10%. Given the high tax rate and popularity that tea already had at that time, it is not surprising that it became one of the court’s main sources of income.
Tea houses after the imperial era
We arrived in the second half of the 20th century. The Chinese empire has ended and the customs of the country change due to the new regime. Many tea houses, that used to celebrate the Chinese tea ceremony closed down. The large families that had dedicated themselves to the cultivation of the plant lost their plantations and were assigned to other functions.
China began to cultivate tea intensively and industrially. And it is not until 1984 that the tea of this country regains its original quality. In the 80s and 90s, the Chinese government started to recover the tea culture and also the Chinese tea ceremony.
The Chinese tea ceremony, how is it?
To perform the Chinese tea ceremony correctly, it is necessary to use three teapots. In the first one, they heat the water, in the second one they prepare the infusion of tea leaves is and in the third one is where the guests are served.
We believe that the most important thing is tea leaves, but water has the same importance as them. It has to be good quality water, but not distilled. The best would be spring water collected in nature. The best temperature to prepare the tea is between 75 and 85 degrees Celsius. This water is not only used to prepare tea, but also to heat utensils.
Tableware for the Chinese tea ceremony
Unlike in the West, the cups used to drink tea in China do not have a handle. They are heated in advance so that the infusion maintains its temperature inside.
They do not use the whole hand to hold the cup. Remember this is not about warming your hands with boiling tea, but to correspond with education to the respect you are being shown. Therefore, take the cup with the fingertips of two fingers only: the index and the thumb. The middle finger is used to hold the cup underneath.
The person in charge of the Chinese tea ceremony fills the cups, which will seem small to us, only up to its half. The rest is filled with affection and friendship.
There is also a specific order to serve the tea: the first ones to be served are the elderly. After, the guests will smell the tea and later, at last, they will take it.
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