Chinese Tea Culture
Previously we discussed the wonderful process of tea fermentation - a process that can take anything from 24 hours to several years.
This week we're exploring the way in which tea ceremonies in China are used to bring people together and highlight social dynamics and relationships.
Tea in Chinese culture has been used for centuries as a significant social event. Whereas in the UK, a cup of tea is something comforting to have in front of the TV or as a pick me up half way through the day, the Chinese place much more emphasis on the entire process. The preparation, serving and consumption of tea is done with great care, precision and deliberation; and in society, can indicate power, respect, love or unity, and depending on the group drinking the tea, their intentions and the occasion.
Originally, pouring tea was something that indicated respect between the youth and their elders; with the children or youngest in the family preparing tea for their parents or grandparents. Unfortunately, it was also an indication of status; those who were regarded as lower class, perhaps employees, would serve tea to those who were seen to be above them.
The social boundaries in Chinese society have changed, and so has the tradition of preparing and drinking tea. Now the rules are much more relaxed, with the old rules being deliberately broken to signify something like love or equality between families and groups of individuals who were once seen as divided.
Yet the importance of tea has not changed and some parts of the tradition still stand, adapted to suit the modern age. Younger generations will often take their parents out for tea once they've left the home and serving parents at weddings has been preserved as a traditional part of the ceremony. Tea houses are still incredibly popular all across China and are a common way for people to meet up and spend time together, much like the coffee culture that's popular elsewhere in the world.
Showing appreciation for the way in which the tea has been prepared and served is also an important factor in Chinese tea culture, and again plays a role in the relationships around the table. Tapping a finger against the tea cup, nodding or slurping loudly are all indications of appreciation and gratitude to the server of the tea, and showing gratitude and respect is still expected to this day, though tapping is no longer as commonly used.
The culture of drinking tea varies throughout the world, yet despite the different customs and variations, there is no doubt that tea is used as a meaningful way to slow down and enjoy the company of others. Whether that's sitting in a Chinese tea house, on the sofa among family or at a local health shop; the art of drinking tea with one another is a beautiful way to connect.