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Guest mirela_violeta

tea culture in China

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Guest mirela_violeta

I think tea plays an important part in chinese daily life. They say it brings a lot of benefits to your health if you drink tea especially green tea which is the favourite chinese tea. They also like wulong tea and have many different kinds of tea: hua cha, hong cha, bai cha... Especially if you are tired, a cup of tea is just what you need. Having written a paper on tea culture I discovered a lot of interesting stuff about tea. For example the word tea comes from the chinese cha, believe it or not. Before the same character had different pronunciations: cha and te, because it was used not only for tea but also for some plant. And some languages took the te pronunciation: english tea, german Tee...and others took the cha pronunciation, in romanian, bulgarian...ceai. And I guess you all know how it happened that English people drink black tea. A ship brought green tea from India but it fermented on the way to England..cause black tea goes through a process of complete fermentation. Anyway the chinese invented the teapot, but the english invented the saucer and the cup handle or whatever you call it. In China there was a real teahouse culture and in the teahouse people would gather and listen to storytellers. And tea was only served up to a certain hour and in each teahouse there was a main table for special guests and no one dared to sit there. Teahouses were thus places for social gatherings where a lot of cultural and literary activities took place. I've also read that in Tibet they drink tea with butter and salt....I wonder what it tastes like? Has anyone drunk something like that? I remember a story about why chinese are tapping when they want their cups to be refilled: long time ago a king was fascinated about the pouring tea skill and wanted to learn how to do that without spilling the tea. But he couldn't learn properly because his men always bowed before him. So he told them instead of bowing they should tap with the three middle fingers instead, one symbolising the head and the other two the shoulders.in order to show their respect. Have you experienced something like that? Do chinese really do that ? I've only read about it.

If you know something interesting about tea share it with me or if something funny happened to you and it involves a story about tea I'm interested.

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wix
For example the word tea comes from the chinese cha, believe it or not. Before the same character had different pronunciations: cha and te, because it was used not only for tea but also for some plant. And some languages took the te pronunciation: english tea, german Tee...and others took the cha pronunciation, in romanian, bulgarian...ceai.

Actually the word tea comes from the Hokkien word teh. Cha comes from the Cantonese cha.

I've also read that in Tibet they drink tea with butter and salt....I wonder what it tastes like? Has anyone drunk something like that?

I've drunk it. It tastes like warm sea water with milk in it :twisted:

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Guest jinshan

To me, it (Tibetan yak butter tea) tasted more like popcorn.

The finger tapping thing isn't really still common. I used to do it, because I'd read about it too, but I was told it's a very 'feudal' (i.e. old, formal) thing to do. Teahouse culture still thrives here in Sichuan, though, and I like nothing better than to spend a lazy afternoon sitting in a bamboo chair in one of the outdoor teahouses, watching the ear-cleaners, mahjiang experts and the shuffling old men with the caged birds, and chatting with the inevitable students of English who want to 'practice'. It's difficult to explain to them that I teach all week for a living, and I'd actually rather not do it in my spare time too...

Jinshan

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JoH

I have Chinese friends in London who do the finger thing but they are mainly from HK families. I wonder if its still done in HK?

Tea culture is alive and well in Chaozhou too (in Guangdong province I think). People sit around for hours drinking those tiny little cups of tea. A very civilised way to spend the day.

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wix
The finger tapping thing isn't really still common. I used to do it, because I'd read about it too, but I was told it's a very 'feudal' (i.e. old, formal) thing to do.

I know the finger tapping is still common in Fujian and Taiwan and the people who do it definitely wouldn't be considered "feudal." Incidentally Fujian and Taiwan are were the best teas come from, too.

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JackP

the (Tibetan) Yak butter tea is foul stuff...

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TSkillet
The finger tapping thing isn't really still common.

uhm, I think it depends on where you are. It's super common all over Southern China (including Hong Kong) and Taiwan. I've also seen it a lot in my visits to Shanghai and Beijing.

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roddy

Another tea custom I was told about recently is that it's impolite to fill your guests cup to the brim - it implies that you don't want to refill it too often and that you are tired of offering hospitality. However, it didn't seem to be that well known even to the Chinese.

Roddy

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holyman

the northerners probably lost much of that being too close to the central govt and after much political movements. people in the south are further away and they stick to old customs, esp in guangdong and fujian. probably all cantonese do the tapping thing. chao zhou is famous for 'kungfu tea', and fujian are more used to a set of tea etiquette that is a little simliar to japanese tea culture.

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Guest Anonymous

The tapping thing is also pretty common here within the Chinese community in the U.S. Although I see it much more frequently when I go have dim sum then at regular Chinese restaurants so I'm assuming it is in fact more common for Southerners.

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Guest js

After a life long interest in tea, I've found that there is so much misinformation out there. Be careful as you go, mirela_violeta!

This "And I guess you all know how it happened that English people drink black tea. A ship brought green tea from India but it fermented on the way to England" is only a popular urban myth. Yes, black tea is fully oxidised, but the whole process (green or black) would have been stopped before anything chemical could have happened on those Indian boats! Also, there are differences in the processing of Indian and Chinese teas (green or black). Fermenting tea entails a slightly different process and the best example of this is Yunan Pu-er tea. Often pressed into tiny bowl shapes, or melon or brick patterns. I think this tastes like dirt, but those who like it compare it with a rich, flavourful red wine. I'm more game for a good Fujian or Taiwanese oolong (very fragrant with no extras - like jasmine or rose - added).

Or, if I feel like watching a biology experiment, I'll make some 8 treasures tea (ba bao cha) in a glass jar.

I've tried the Tibetan yak butter tea - forced into being polite at a tent maker's home - It's quite strong, but worth the friendship.

As far as the tapping, I've found that in Beijing it's usually seen as a quaint mannerism, nothing more beyond that.

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ChouDoufu

I heard the finger tapping thing was because of a king who liked to go out in public incognito. His guards who couldn't bow to him in public, lest everyone know that he was different, tapped their fingers to represent a bow when the king poured them tea...

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TSkillet

ChouDouFu - that's one of the stories you hear. I've also heard that you do different taps depending on if you're married, or single or whatever - but the traditions varied from villiage to village. I got to know a lot when i lived in guangdong since my students came from all over the province and would often argue amongst themselves as to the meanings of certain traditions.

Me? I jsut wanted more tea.

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Guest yorkie_bear

My dad told me a story about teahouses in Chengdu when he was a kid. Teahouses would often have certain types of customers. There was one which was much frequented by teachers and at that time, teachers would be employed yearly. So when it came for the new school year to begin, all the teachers would gather in the teahouses and the schools would select the teachers they wanted. Of course the best teachers could enjoy being haggled over!

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Guest Andrew

Yes they're all tapping their fingers when tea is poured in HK. Seems the usual thing to do there. Each person has a very slightly differing story of the king and the lowly table tappers.

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skylee

In HK, we all tap our fingers when people pour tea for us. It means "thank you', and yes it represents bowing. Everyone here does this, within family, among friends. I would consider someone rude if he does not tap or acutally say "thanks" when I pour tea for him. But this may be just the HK customs.

And our teaching is this - you must fill the cups of the others before you fill your own. And when the teapot is empty, we take up the lid, and seeing this the waiters will pour in water. But I guess this is a very HK style, because waiters in other Chinese cities don't seem to know what this means.

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Guest Emerald Eye

Can't imagine China without it, imagine a Europe without beer-gardens cafes or pubs, or picture an America without pizza n hot-dogs?

tea_bg.jpg

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pazu
In HK, we all tap our fingers when people pour tea for us. It means "thank you', and yes it represents bowing. Everyone here does this, within family, among friends. I would consider someone rude if he does not tap or acutally say "thanks" when I pour tea for him. But this may be just the HK customs.

Oh Skylee, do we have a generation gap? Whenever I pour tea for somebody I would just like to hear them saying back "thank you", or just give me back a polite nodding.

When I see some people tapping their fingers on the table, I would think:

1. They're tourists, who have just read some cultral notes about Hong Kong.

2. They're old people.

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Ian_Lee

A "real" teahouse restaurant does not require customer at the same table to pour tea for each other.

Why?

Because everyone has his own small tea-bowl to serve himself instead of a public-shared teapot.

There are two main reasons for such practice:

(1) Everyone has his/her own preference for the kind of tea leaf, i.e. I prefer Luk An but you may prefer Jasmine and he may prefer Dragon Well but she may prefer daffodil. So for the "real" teahouse they would equip every customer with a small tea bowl to pour tea onto his/her own cup.

(2) Tea is best served really hot. But for the teapot, the tea will get cold since it holds about 8-10 cups volume. But the individual tea bowl just holds about 1-1 1/2 cup volume. With the constant refill, the tea temperature can be kept up to a certain degree.

For these traditional teahouse restaurants, a electrical stove would be kept by the side of every three or four tables with a big water pot on top so that water can be constantly kept boiling for frequent refill at customers' request.

Moreover, it is customary for the waiter to rinse off the dust of the tea leaf by dumping away the first round of fill in the spittoons under the table.

But anyway, the number of these traditional teahouses has dwindled to a token in HK but are still very crowded.

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Ian_Lee

But of course this kind of "real" teahouse restaurant is not for everyone.

Why? Because the customer will easily get their fingers "boiled" during the pouring. It takes days or months practice to perfect the art of pouring.

Most people, especially those younger generation, cannot master this art and either "boil" their fingers or splash hot water all over the table.

Of course, you can order a teapot instead of a teabowl but everybody would know that you are a rookie.

I still kept a newspaper scrip from the '90s which showed that some western tourists deliberately visited this kind of restaurant on its last day of operation after 50 years of business.

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