History of the Chinese Tea Ceremony:
In China, tea was also used initially for medicinal purposes, much like the tea in Japan. This was strictly within the confines of the temples that dotted the landscape. Soon, monks began to evolve their tea usage and use it to teach a respect for nature, humility and an overall sense of peace and calmness. Monks tried to display these philosophical ideas through their tea ceremonies, mixing Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism in their tea ceremonies. Soon, like the Japanese, the tea ceremonies evolved into a memorial service for both noblemen and family members.
The Japanese came to China and learned more about the Chinese tea ceremony, breaking off and forming their own tea ceremony. Originally, the ceremony was called cha dao, or the way of tea. However, in the 1970s, the Chinese felt a need to differentiate their tea ceremony from the Japanese and re-named their process to cha yi, or the art of tea.
The Chinese tea ceremony has six major parts to it in order to summarize the technical aspects and the skills needed for success. They are:
- Attitude. The host should reflect a happy, calm, relaxed and confident demeanor.
- Tea selection. Tea not only needs to taste good; it needs to have a wonderful name and a beautiful background story.
- Water selection. Tea is only as good as the water it is put in. The water should be pure, light and clean.
- Teaware selection. Guests should be able to admire and appreciate the beauty of the items.
- Ambiance. The ceremony should be in a clean, quiet room that is enhanced with touches of artwork.
- Technique. This not only means the manner in which the tea is brewed. It involves the full body – hand movement, facial expression, grace and demeanor.
Conducting a Chinese Tea Ceremony:
Chinese tea ceremonies are not as ritualistic as Japanese tea ceremonies, but do deserve the same attention and respect as one might offer any culture. You will need:
A tea strainer
A tea pitcher
A brewing tray
A deep pot or bowl, meant to wash the tea-pot, tea cups and to discard used tea
A tea towel
Water (if possible, get high-quality water)
Loose tea leaves (traditionally, it is oolong, though any tea will suffice)
A tea pick to unclog the tea-pot
A tea leaf holder
Scent cups (a cup with a narrow neck so that one can appreciate the aroma of the tea)
Tea cups (handless cups for drinking the tea)
- Cure the tea cups in the same way that you did for the Japanese tea ceremony. However, rather than use tea to soak the tea items, hot water will do. Use the tongs to take the cups and pot out of the hot water, so as not to burn yourself!
- Pour a cup of tea and pass it around to your guests so that they can smell the tea, appreciate the aroma, the look and the quality.
- Make a full pot of tea for your guests now. Take the tea leaves out of the tea leaf holder and pour the tea leaves into the tea-pot. Place the tea-pot into the bowl and pour the water from the kettle into the tea-pot from shoulder height. The tea-pot should overflow.
- Scoop away any bubbles and tea leaves and put the lid on the tea-pot. Pour hot water on the pot so that the internal and external temperatures are the same.
- Pour all the tea into the tea pitcher and fill the tea scent cups. Place the tea cups upside down on the scent cups. This act is said to bring prosperity and happiness.
- This part might take practice for some. Take the tea cups and flip them so the tea goes from the scent cups into the tea cups. Do not drink the tea just yet. Pour this tea into the bowl.
- Using the same tea leaves that have been in the tea-pot, pour heated water into the tea-pot. This time, pour the water just above the tea pot. This is so you do not remove the flavor from the tea leaves too quickly. Place the lid on the tea pot.
- Pour the brewed tea into the pitcher. Pour the tea into the tea scent cups. Transfer this tea into the tea cups. You will use this tea for drinking.
- As a guest, it is proper to thank the person who refills your tea-cup by tapping your pointer and middle finger against your tea-cup. This is appropriate for more casual settings.
- The tea drinker cradles the tea-cup in both hands and they savor the aroma before drinking. The tea should be drunk in three sips total. The first sip should be small. The second sip is the biggest sip that the drinker should take. Finally, the third sip is to empty the cup and savor the aftertaste.
- After the tea has been finished, use the tongs to empty out the tea leaves from the tea pot. Discard used tea leaves in the bowl.
- Finally, the used tea leaves are shown to the guests so that the quality can be appreciated. The tea ceremony is ended.