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Inside a Chinese Teahouse

Inside a Chinese Teahouse

Inside a Chinese Teahouse

Inside a Chinese Teahouse

Bee Making Chinese Tea in Long Jiang, Shunde

Making Chinese Tea

Making Chinese Tea

Making Chinese Tea

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Social Observations - Etiquette
Chinese Etiquette - Chinese Tea
Chinese Tea
Taking Tea is very central to Chinese peoples, and the Japanese Tea Ceremony you may know from books and film, is based in Chinese Tea Culture (Just taken to extremes)

When meeting at home, work or for leisure, Chinese always offer tea. Sometimes this is just plain water, which is usually served warm. Sometimes people go straight onto the beer or rice wine. Etiquette dictates you should be proficient at making and serving Chinese Tea, even in a restaurant!

Making Chinese Tea = Before you Begin:

This is quite easy, as long as you have the necessary equipment? You should have a minimum of:
a. Good teapot - See Below 1
b. Good tea - See below 2
c. Tea utensils. A bamboo pot containing wooden: Scoop (Use 1 or 2 measures only), Tongs (For cleaning cups etc with boiling water), Small Dibber (For unblocking holes in spout etc), and Large Dibber (For various uses). This is the very basic pack, and there are other specific tools also
d. Teacups. These are normally very small clay finger-bowls made from un-fired clay, and ruddy in colour. It is ok to have them with ceramic glazes on the outside, but not really approved of. Ceramic bowls are a no-no.
e. Serving jug and filter - The jug is usually ceramic or better, glass. The filter is nearly always a metal conical sieve
f. Chinese Kettle - Think household coffee pot here. These are normally metal or clear glass. They have two settings: Heat and Keep warm. Unlike the West, Chinese tea is never made with boiling water (And like good coffee), and the ideal temperature is around 80 degrees (I think 78 is perfect?). These kettles do it right anyway's.
g. Drip Tray plus associated pipe and bucket - because during the ceremony, you need to splash hot water everywhere ... and it needs to go somewhere
h. Tea Table. Ideally you should invest in a specific Chinese Tea Table (Pictured left), which retail for around ¥3K, or $200 USD

Good Teapot
1. Chinese clay teapot
is normally a ruddy brown colour with makers stamp on the bottom. No stamp means it is a cheap copy and no good. There are also beige teapots, which are manufactured using a different process, and are essentially sun-baked not ovened. These are used for very specific teas only!
2. Test your teapot by filling it with hot water, including pouring water over the lid. Place a finger on the small hole centre of lid and pour. Without any pressure, no liquid should come out of the spout. If your teapot does not pass this test, sling it in the bin - it is useless!
3. Cleaning a teapot should only be done using warm water. Never use scouring pads or cleaning agents, as these will render the pot useless! Over many years of use, encrustation's will build up, and this is seen as positive proof of a very good teapot
4. Most Chinese have a selection of teapots, which they use with specified types of teas

Choose a Good Tea
1. There are only two cultures of Chinese teas: Green (Instant) and Black (Sometimes referred to as Red = specific version).
2. Green tea is common tea, it is very cheap comparatively, and needs to be used within a few weeks. It has no status, and should never normally be used for making Traditional Chinese Teas as described here (A few exceptions). Equate this to a young red wine, with the exception being Beaujolais.
3. By comparison, Black Tea is Vineyard and hillside specific Chianti, whilst Red Tea may equate to good French or Californian table wines
4. As an outsider, your best way out of this mess is to collect various teas over time ... including both ones you like and dislike, and offer your guests a selection = let them choose.
5. The very best Black Teas are sold as blocks, compressed into fine designs, and wrapped in special paper
6. Small vacuum packet alternatives are quite common and generally acceptable, so long as you have a couple of blocks of real tea (You like)

Making Chinese Tea = Actually Making it:

1. Heat the water to the right temperature = use a Chinese kettle
2. Use the scoop to add one or two spoons of Black Tea to the teapot
3. Wash the tea by filling the pot and letting it rest for 30 seconds. Empty and throw away.
4. Overfill so hot water flows all over the outside, and include the lid. You are actually trying to bring everything to the same temperature here
5. Add hot water to the pot, again overfilling etc. Place lid atop, washing all with hot water again - and doing this exuberantly is very fine.
6. Let it brew for up to 1-minute, never longer!
7. If you are new to this, then guess 50 seconds only, and then upturn the teapot into the sieve, which you have already conveniently placed into the neck of the serving jug ... I hope? Leave it there as necessary
8. Washing the drinking bowls is next, although after some practice you will already have started doing this
9. Splash hot water around liberally, and use the tongs, drenching both inside and outside of each bowl. Watch how others do this, and become adept at this technique. Often they will only drench one drinking bowl, then use this for the rest
10. Serve the tea as soon as possible with most honoured guests first; and always yourself last
11. Repeat whilst the tea is hot = 5 minutes maximum (in summer)
12. Throw away old or cold tea
13. Always make a new pot of tea as soon as the jug is empty or cold

Drinking Chinese Tea is very important to Chinese people!
15. Once you are ok with making this, try getting a second pot on the go for others with different tastes = duplicate equipment really
16. It is very common for girls to drink a different type of tea; simply because boys and girls are not the same. Chinese have specific and beneficial teas for girls. If you have girls present, make a separate pot of special girl tea for them.
17. Taking Chinese Tea is very closely associated with Chinese Medicine, and normally seen as such on local streets by local people.
18. For Girls, taking the right tea at the right time can alleviate monthly problems and cramps, and also assist where HRT fails
19. By ultimate contrast, modern boys may have modern male problems or other dysfunctions = boys teas
20. Normal Black Teas are either thought to be of general tonic benefit, or considered to be for boys only - mainly because this is not a thing Chinese girls usually do; unless entertaining or unwell...

Drinking the Brew

Hosts Duties:
1. As host, serve all your guests first and yourself last.
2. Fill the most honoured person's bowl first
3. Drink immediately, usually accompanied by toasts or raised bowls
4. Slurping sounds are a token of respect. The tea is very hot, so this actually helps cooling
5. Start making the next pot immediately. This can seem to be a continuous process
6. Offer different teas, and especially if guests appear not to like the one you do
7. Ideally use tea for 3 serving before replacing. This can be many more depending upon the tea and brewing time. Practice makes perfect

Guest Duties:

1. Tap your index finger up to four times on the table. This is saying 'Thank you' without using words and saves breaking the flow of conversation. It literally means 'One more please'.
2. Other regions have variations on the same tapping theme - watch what the host or important person does and copy
3. Keep up with toasts, and empty your bowl as soon as possible
4. Compliment the host on his choice of Teas, crockery, and special table if applicable.
5. He will normally be very knowledgeable about teapots, so if it looks old and interesting, ask him about it
6. If you really don't like the tea, ask if he has a lighter one, as you usually drink that 'after meals' = Give a small reason. Better to enquire about other teas he has, and ask to try them showing genuine interest
7. The bowls used will be very hot, as is the tea inside. Try to get used to drinking them hot - it is a game they play!


This about completes your crash-course in Chinese Tea. Some things like tapping fingers will vary with region. Do persevere with drinking quality Chinese tea, it is very good and beneficial once you get the hang of it. Knowing what to do, and especially being able to make it yourself, will give you a very big 'Face'

Related Pages: Etiquette;   Tea,   Beer,   Table Manners
This information is as supplied by the Chinese Embassy in UK, as dated 20th June 2008, and/or other reliable sources. This particular page also contains my personal, unbiased, and apolitical observations. Please check this information yourself as it may alter without notice, and whilst we try our best to ensure it is correct, please do not hold us responsible for any errors - this is intended as a simple guide only
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