Tea Culture - Tea Ceremony
Historically, the tea ceremony is designed to focus mental energies and encourage relaxation.
Serving and drinking tea plays a major cultural role in China. The word "ceremony" does not imply that each server will perform the ritual the same way, and there are no religious connotations. Each step is designed as a sensory exploration and an appreciation, so much so that the event often inspires poetry and music. Mutual love of tea cements lifelong friendships, a concept usually beyond the grasp of foreigners. Such friendships developed among the ancient Chinese aristocracy, court officials, intellectuals and poets just as much as among ordinary people.
In China, tasting and serving tea is an art. Tea is the symbol of elegance. So people use small tea cups to taste tea which is different from drinking tea.
Small is Beautiful
Chinese-style tea-drinking calls for the use of small cups which match tiny, unglazed clay teapots. Each cup contains just two "swallows" of tea. Before it is poured, both teapot and cups are cured. A good amount of tea is placed in the pot with tweezers, when along with the cups it is washed in special bowls already filled with hot tea. This "seals" the cups with the tea"s resins. Prior to serving, only water that is actually boiling is poured into the teapots, which are filled to overflowing. Any lesser heat would fail to draw out the true flavors of tea leaves during the "mashing" process. For hygienic reasons as much as tradition, teapots and cups are not touched by hand when being washed. Again, tweezers are used.
If you attend a tea ceremony, never gulp your tea or swallow it in one go. Etiquette demands that you gently sip it through the lips and teeth, creating a slight hissing sound. The sniffing and drinking of tea, and its numerous servings, can take over an hour 脙鈥?time for the chatting which is so integral to a tea ceremony. How do you know that a true tea-master is running the show? Simply by the fact that each round of tea should taste exactly the same.
In modern times, there are three major ways to drink and appreciate tea.
1. Gaiwan (cap-cup) Tea. Drinking tea with a cap-cup is the most prevalent way adopted by imperial family, officials and civilians. The typical illustration can be found inViewing and Admiring the Moon, a picture drawn by artist Leng Mei living in Emperor Kangxi"s reign of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
2. Chaniang (Mother Tea). This has been the most popular way adopted by ordinary people. In this method, tea is poured from a big pot to several small cups. The typical illustration can be found inA Spring Market in A Time of Peace and Prosperity, drawn by Ding Guanpeng living in Emperor Qianlong"s reign in the Qing Dynasty.
3. Kung-fu Tea. Developing from the method recorded inClassics of Teawritten by Lu Yu of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), Kung-fu tea is popular in southern Fujian area and Guangdong Province. In this method, tea is brewed with spring water. When the water is boiling, put Wuyi tea into a Yixing pot and brew it with the boiling water, and then pour warm water over the pot. The specialty of this method is to heat the pot with warm water both inside and outside in order to bring out the best quality of the tea.
As one of the tea ceremonies, Kung-fu tea originated from the Song Dynasty (960-1279). Chaozhou Kung-fu tea, popular in Chaoshan area of Guangdong Province and Zhangzhou and Quanzhou area of Fujian Province, is a kind of tea ceremony which combines spirit, ritual, brewing technique, art, and appreciation into one.
Tea sets used in Kung-fu tea are delicate, with special brewing techniques and drinking procedure. This ceremony is not only a pastime but also a social activity to promote friendship and greet guests. The tea set, small and exquisite, usually comprises a pot and three cups, sometimes two or four cups. As for the water, better use spring or well water to brew tea. Kung-fu tea requires a special tea named Oolong, such as Iron Kwan-yin, Asphodel, and Phoenix tea. Oolong is a kind of half-fermented tea, amidst green tea and black tea. Only this kind of tea has the very color, scent and flavor required by Kung-fu tea.
One should use boiling water when brewing Kung-fu tea and bear in mind several key techniques, namely high pour (pour water from a high level), low pour (pour tea into cups as low as possible), scrape off the foam and clean the lid (use the pot lid to brush away the foam floating on the water surface and then wash the lid with warm water), heat the pot and cups, and clear up. Kung-fu tea is famous for its strong taste that is too bitter for the first taste. But once one gets used to its strong taste, she/he will feel unsatisfied with other tea.
The standard Kung-fu tea requires ten special techniques, namely back fire, shrimp-palp water (water with a temperature near boiling point), present the tea, put the tea, heat the cups, heat the pot, high pour, low pour, scrape off the foam, and clean the lid. Generally, there are four people involved in a Chaoshan Kung-fu tea ceremony, including the host who handles the process. First boil water and put tea into the pot, with an amount of 7/10 pot. Then pour the boiling water into the pot and scrape off the foam with the lid. Use the first brewing tea to wash cups with a purpose of creating a special atmosphere and making guests get the first touch of the tea spirit. After washing the cups, pour in the shrimp-palp water. Here, the tea has already brewed to a perfect state, ready to be served to guests.
Put the four teacups in two rows, close to one another, and pour tea in a circular motion into all the cups at the same time until water in each cup fills 7/10 cup. Here, water in the pot is supposed to be poured out almost completely, with only a few drops left. Then, one needs to hold the teapot above a teacup, secure the lid with one"s thumb, accelerate towards the teacup, breaks just above the cup and let gravity draw the last few drops of tea. Repeat that with all the cups. These two rounds of action are known as General Guan Patrols City and Han Xin (also a general) Counts Soldiers among local people in Chaoshan. To be qualified a skillful brewer, the amount and color of the tea in the four cups have be the same. Finally, the host offers the tea to guests with two hands in turn from the oldest to the youngest. The tea-offering order should be first from the most distinguished guest to the guest on the left hand and then to the guest on the right hand and last to the host himself/herself.