Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Drinking Chinese Tea

In my Chinese classes this year,  we were introduced to the ancient Chinese culture of drinking tea. I have always enjoyed many different kinds of tea -- Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Rooibos, Jasmine, Oolong -- and I like that the flavors are all different and unique. Different cultures produce different teas and different methods of drinking them.  First off, tea is regarded differently in Asia than it is in Europe in the sense that Asian tea-drinking focuses more on the quality and taste of the tea itself rather than on additives such as spices, cream and sugar.  The modern Chinese tea ceremony is further different from the Japanese tea ceremony because, as some would say, it "is more about tasting the tea than it is about the ritual."

Since my Chinese classes, I've visited Ten Ren Tea, a tea shop chain  that originated in Taiwan.  Ten Ren owns tea plantations in Taiwan and China, and it is famous for its oolong tea. If you intend to buy their tea, you can ask them to brew some of their top quality teas the traditional way for you to taste. The top quality oolong tea they sell is quite expensive though: over $100 a pound.

The Chinese way of tasting good tea is to brew them in tiny clay teapots. The most famous of the purple clay teapots are made in the town of Yi Xing in China. When making tea, the beautiful clay teapots are approximately half filled with tea and then hot water is poured into them. The tea leaves expand in the water and fills the tea pot. The tea server then pours the very strong tea into tiny tea cups for people to smell, taste and enjoy. Good quality tea will leave a very refreshing taste in your mouth, and supposedly will also clean your system of grease, and is good for you.

Part of what makes the  Chinese tea ceremony so special is the emphasis on using whole leaves.  The best tea leaves are picked whole at the right time, and then dried or roasted. Sometimes the tea are green, and sometimes they are roasted a little darker. When brewed though, they expand into whole, unbroken leaves.  The more the tea leaves are cut up by the time you brew them, the lesser quality the tea is.  Some people like my mom doesn't like us using her teapots for lesser-quality teas because she's afraid we'll ruin the fragrance and quality of the teapots.

Another neat aspect of the Chinese tea ceremony is that of "nurturing teapots" as if they are little children. Apparently, if you pour the leftover tea on the teapot to stain the pot and then you rub the stain into the clay tea pot every time you've finished drinking tea, your pot will become shiny from the tea oil.  It takes many months and years to achieve that beautiful shiny result. It's funny how teapots are suddenly like little people now: you have to treat them with care and "raise" them properly or they could be ruined. The good thing is that while the teapots are like artworks in themselves, they are meant to be used and not just admired.

I've been making tea a lot recently. For those of you who don't have time for the whole tea tasting ceremony, the easiest way to drink Chinese tea is to throw some tea leaves in a mug and just add boiling water, wait for the tea to cool a bit, and sip. It's nice and refreshing.


  1. thanks for sharing.

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  3. Hi,

    Thanks for sharing such a nice and informative post. Chinese teas are the highly recommended medical drink that rich in antioxidants which is helpful in the fight against cancer, high blood pressure, and weight loss.

    Chinese black Tea

  4. If you like drinking tea, or if you are interested of collecting. Maybe our Yixing Teapots will meet you demand. We have hundre styles of for your choice. The design, price are perfect! Worth you owning!

  5. Surely nice article. I have read it carefully and benefited from it so much. Thanks. I also like tea, but I like Oolong Tea better. I suggest you to write more about oolong tea and that will surely attract more visitors.