A while ago a friend asked me to do a blog on the Traditional Chinese Tea Ceremony. I’ve been putting it off because I knew it would take a lot of research. I wasn’t wrong! I’ve spent 7-10 hours researching the topic in hopes that I can scratch the surface in a blog. This by no means will do it justice, but hopefully it provides a good overview of the traditional Chinese tea ceremony.
I went into my research with next to no knowledge on the subject. Now I know the Ceremony changes based on the type of tea (green, black, white, yellow, puer, oolong, etc.) you’re brewing. Also, if you are brewing the tea using a porcelain teapot, clay teapot, or gaiwan.
First, before preparing the tea, you need to prepare your body and mind. The Chinese tea ceremony is rooted in Daoism, Buddhism and Confucianism; focusing on self cultivation. It aims to calm your mind, help you enjoy nature, clear your heart, and respect life and earth. The ceremony is considered one of the highest arts in China and takes years to master.
The following steps are condensed to what each ceremony has no matter the type of tea or vessel it’s prepared in.
Step 1: Check the tea leaves. Make sure the tea is good quality.
Step 2: Prepare the tea set. There is a tray, teapot or gaiwan, pourer, strainer and it’s holder, tea cups and multiple other pieces that play a role in most ceremonies.
Step 3: Wash the tea set you’ve prepared using boiling water. This cleans off any dust collected since the tea set’s last use, gets each piece warm in preparation for the hot tea, and aides in the tea tasting better. The water will go into (and overflow) the teapot or gaiwan, through the strainer into the pourer, into each cup (and overflow) and finally emptied onto the tea pet (yes, tea pet, not pot) on top the tray. The overflow of water is caught by the tray and is helpful in warming the outside of each piece as well.
Step 4: Add the tea to the teapot or gaiwan. About 3-6 ml of tea leaves should be used in a teapot or gaiwan that holds about 150 ml (about 5 oz) of fluid based on how strong you prefer the tea. Keep in mind teacups for the traditional Chinese tea ceremony hold about 50ml (or 1.5 ounces). These leaves can be resteeped over 3 times.
Step 5: Add boiling water into the teapot or gaiwan full of tea leaves. Water is added in a counter clockwise motion on the edges of the vessel. It is not poured directly onto the leaves, as that can cause the leaves to burn. The circular motion will keep the movement of the liquid and energize the tea, so all the tea leaves can evenly brew.
Step 6: Pour the tea into the tea cups. The first brew of the tea is to “wake up” the tea leaves. This will not be drank, but will still be poured into the tea cups in order to add aroma to the cups. The first brew will be emptied onto the tea pet on the tray.
Step 7: Repeat steps 5 and 6 to have drinkable tea for as many brews as the tea leaves allow. The second brew is only kept in the teapot or gaiwan for 20-30 seconds before being emptied into the pourer. Each brew after will hold the boiling water for longer as the tea leaves become weaker.
The traditional Chinese tea ceremony has constant flowing movement. It’s believed that moving water is healthiest and the healthiest time to drink tea is when the tea’s temperature is about the same as the human body’s.
By the end of the tea ceremony, your mind and body should be peaceful and relaxed.
Hopefully this is a good overview of a condensed Traditional Chinese tea ceremony. There are many areas of the ceremony I didn’t touch on, but maybe this post will peak your interest to dig a little deeper 😉