Tea drinking is ingrained in Chinese culture, a fact that makes a visit to a traditional tea house an important part of many travellers’ itineraries. Like any experience, however, being aware of the etiquette rules that the locals live by is particularly important. Read on, to discover the top tips you need to know before visiting a tea house in China.
Forget everything you know about tea making
Although Brits seasoned tea drinkers, it’s important to understand that tea drinking is very different in China. The sense of occasion that comes with drinking in a tea house is often compared to the British afternoon tea experience. Yet, you must acknowledge, and respect, the differences between the two. The method of brewing Chinese tea is the first thing that tends to shock British tea enthusiasts. Luckily, travel magazine Marriott Traveler offers some essential advice on the matter:
“Fans of the classic British afternoon tea are first in line to offend the Chinese tea purist. ‘Usually Chinese teas are quick infusions,’ explains Leong. ‘Whereas the English brew it with a large pot and a lot of water for a few minutes, which is not the best way—and perhaps why they add milk and sugar!’ A classicist such as Leong would opt for an unblended tea, typically a single variety of tea, that hasn’t been augmented with flavors of flowers or citrus fruits. ‘It takes away from the chaste enjoyment of tea; just how you wouldn’t add Coca Cola to your wine,’ he laughs.”
Chinese tea houses follow strict recipes to ensure the quantity of tea, temperature of the water, and length of steeping all complement each other.
Learn how to taste – the Chinese way
After making the perfect brew, tea tasting is the next thing to master, whether you are visiting a Chinese tea house or enjoying a drink of Chinese tea in the privacy of your hotel room. Like wine tasting, fine tea tasting is very serious business indeed in China, and is generally completed in intimate groups of 4 people or less. There are a number of factors that must be considered with the quality of leaves, colour of the tea, texture of the drink, clarity of flavour, and intensity of the aroma all excellent topics to cover when tasting in a Chinese tea house.
Embrace the Chinese tea drinking experience
There are a number of etiquette rules that are worth following on a visit to a Chinese tea house. Check out our guide to the etiquette rules of tea serving here. Etiquette can also vary from tea house to tea house, and can be affected by the type of tea being drunk and the equipment used to make and serve the tea. Don’t be confused! These days tea houses understand that not every tourist will have read every etiquette rule. Embrace the Chinese tea drinking experience and be as respectful as possible.