It’s not just in the UK where a great cup of tea makes the day sweeter. Tea drinking is prevalent across China, but Chinese customs differ from the tea drinking etiquette we have here at home. Chinese tea culture is also very different from practices used in nearby Asian countries. The way tea is prepared, tasted and celebrated is clearly distinct from Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese customs.
Whilst tea is consumed regularly in all the aforementioned countries, the act of drinking tea is done with great ceremony in China. In this blog post, we take a closer look at tea drinking in China, so you can enjoy your own specially brewed cuppa on your upcoming trip. Trust us, it will be a Chinese experience you won’t forget!
The birthplace of tea
Ancient China is actually considered the birthplace of tea, and was one of the very first countries to grow and process the plant. The first mention of the beverage dates back almost 5,000 years. Legend has it that Emperor Shen Nung discovered the drink we know and love today when leaves blew directly from a tree into his pot of boiling water. Since then its popularity has spread worldwide.
Although tea was initially used purely for medicinal purposes, from the 4th to the 8th century the drink was increasingly being consumed for pleasure and refreshment. With the increase in demand, tea plantations sprung up across the country, bringing great wealth to the merchants running them. Before the mid-17th century all tea produced, prepared and drunk in China was green.
After this point, black tea was invented using fermentation, a process that kept the tea leaves intact for much longer. As a result, the more robust black tea was exported extensively around the world.
How tea has changed
Tea drinking is still very much a part of Chinese culture, as it was thousands of years ago. Thanks to China’s long history of tea growing, processing and drinking, there are countless types of Chinese tea to enjoy. These include black tea, green tea, scented tea, oolong tea, white tea and tea lumps.
Tea is so important in China that there is actually an institute to study and perfect the art of tea drinking. The Lu-Yu Tea Culture Institute has schools in Beijing, Chengdu and Shanghai. Many students studying at the institute pride themselves on being able to distinguish between 1,000 different Chinese teas.
Top Chinese tea drinking tips
While we covered Chinese etiquette rules when dining out extensively in a recent blog post, tea drinking has its own unique customs. Following a few rules about how to drink tea will help you enjoy the experience.
As well as avoiding freshly picked leaves, extremely hot and over-brewed tea, the tea drinking experts at TeaVivre offer another essential tip:
“Drinking tea on an empty stomach can upset your stomach and cause you to lose appetite. More seriously, it may even cause gastric mucosal injury, which leads to chronic gastritis. For people who rarely drink tea, if you drink tea on an empty stomach or drink too much tea in a short time, then it would be easier for you to suffer from the “tea drunk”. The symptoms for tea drunk can be varying degrees of heart palpitations, dizziness, nausea, weakness in the limbs and so on.”
Drinking tea is a must when visiting China, so don’t miss out on this authentic experience. Still need to book your trip to China? We are specialists in providing journeys and exciting itineraries to Russia, Mongolia and China. Contact us today for more details.