Observations - Etiquette
- 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
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
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
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
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,
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
8. Washing the drinking bowls is next,
although after some practice you will already have started
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
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
14. 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
1. As host, serve all your guests first and yourself
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
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
3. Keep up with toasts, and empty your bowl as soon
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
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'
Pages: Etiquette; Tea,
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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