History of the traditional Chinese tea ceremony

real-life traditional chinese tea ceremony

82gab/ via Flickr

When you think of China, what do you see? Is it the Great Wall? Dumplings? Temples? Or is it tea?

Central to the country’s identity, tea in China is a far cry from the tea bags you use at home. The making and drinking of tea is as elaborate as it is methodical, made with ingredients and movements that are mesmerizing. Whether tea is your morning drink of choice or this is your first sip, there is no experience quite like a traditional Chinese tea ceremony. A small step out of your comfort zone, but a full cultural immersion into the past.

The origins of tea drinking are so old that no one can seem to pin down an exact date, but some of the first references in Chinese history were over 5,000 years ago. The ceremonial drinking of tea began during the Tang Dynasty and was originally reserved for religious ceremony and medicinal purposes. Monks saw tea ceremonies as a representation of humility and respect for nature—Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism eventually melding to create the ritualistic nature of traditional Chinese tea ceremonies still practiced today.

While the religious connotation has somewhat subsided since tea ceremonies became more social in nature, they remain the same at their core. Steeped—pun intended—in themes of peace, truth, and mindfulness, the traditional Chinese tea ceremony creates a unique opportunity for true appreciation. All of your senses are engaged in this process. As you taste the different flavors you will simultaneously inhale the scents from the smelling cup, feel the movement of flipping your cup before you drink it, and watch the precise process demonstrated before you.

During the tea ceremony, you’re supposed to finish your cup in just three sips (it’s small, don’t worry). The first sip is small, the second is large, and the third is meant to enjoy the aftertaste and empty the cup.

As you take each sip, consider the implications of this precise and ancient ritual. There is something unifying about a traditional Chinese tea ceremony. The elements of the ceremony, right down to the taste of the tea, have been replicated over and over again for thousands of years, and yet is still unique to you.

Take a look at the video below to see the ceremony in action.


Topics: Culture, Food, Religion, China

Julia Karam

Julia is a student at Northeastern University. She traveled with EF in 2015, and now is a content marketing co-op at EF Tours. She has traveled to 10+ countries and will study in Florence, Italy during the Fall 2018 semester.

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