Chinese tea culture refers to the methods of preparation of tea, the equipment used to make tea and the occasions in which tea is consumed in China.
Tea culture in China differs from that of Europe, Britain, or Japan in such things as preparation methods, tasting methods and the occasions for which it is consumed. Even now, in both casual and formal Chinese occasions, tea is consumed regularly. In addition to being a drink, Chinese tea is used in traditional Chinese medicine and in Chinese cuisine.
There are several special circumstances in which tea is prepared and consumed.
As a sign of respect: In Chinese society, the younger generation always shows its respect to the older generation by offering a cup of tea. Inviting and paying for their elders to go to restaurants for tea is a traditional activity on holidays. In the past, people of lower rank served tea to higher ranking people. Today, as Chinese society becomes more liberal, sometimes at home parents may pour a cup of tea for their children, or a boss may even pour tea for subordinates at restaurants. However, the lower ranking person should not expect the higher rank person to serve him or her tea in formal occasions.
For a family gathering: When sons and daughters leave home to work and get married, they may seldom visit their parents. As a result, parents may seldom meet their grandchildren. Going to restaurants and drinking tea, therefore, becomes an important activity for family gatherings. Every Sunday, Chinese restaurants are crowded, especially when people celebrate festivals. This phenomenon reflects Chinese family values.
To apologize: In Chinese culture, people make serious apologies to others by pouring tea for them. For example, children serving tea to their parents as a sign of regret and submission.
To express thanks to your elders on one"s wedding day: In the traditional Chinese marriage ceremony, both the bride and groom kneel in front of their parents and serve them tea. That is a way to express their gratitude. In front of their parents, it is a practice for the married couple to say, "Thanks for bringing us up. Now we are getting married. We owe it all to you." The parents will usually drink a small portion of the tea and then give them a red envelope with some money inside, which symbolises good luck. Another variance is for the to-be daughter-in-law to serve tea to her to-be parents-in-law, symbolizing that she is to become a part of the latter"s family.
The tea ceremony during weddings also serves as a means for both parties in the wedding to meet with members of the other family. As Chinese families can be rather extended, it is entirely possible during a courtship to not have been introduced to someone. This was particularly true in older generations where the patriarch may have had more than one wife and not all family members were always on good terms. As such, during the tea ceremony, the couple would serve tea to all family members and call them by their official title. Drinking the tea symbolized acceptance into the family. Refusal to drink would symbolize opposition to the wedding and is quite unheard of since it would result in a loss of "face". Older relations so introduced would give a red envelope to the matrimonial couple while the couple would be expected to give a red envelope to younger relations.
*The picture is from Collections of Baidu pictures.