Tea drinking the Chinese way
As far as I am concerned, I know of two methods that are used by Chinese for tea drinking and preparation, as used today. These are both essential parts of contemporary Chinese tea culture.
One is Gongfu tea, where infusing the leaves and everything happens in
front of the present people, either on the main table or on a side
This method is predominant in Taiwan and Fujian province. The other method, which is a
specific way to drink tea from lidded cups, is also described below.
These two methods concern Chinese tea culture in view to serving or
drinking tea for the sake of the tea itself, or for sitting together and
talking, etc. (in the same way western people might have a cup of
Tea is generally also drunk as a beverage accompanying meals, but
this is unrelated to Chinese tea culture, as far as I see it. It is just
that - a beverage for tea lovers.
Historically, it is known that (some) Chinese did drink tea directly from the spout of the teapot. This is thought to be the reason that some teapots were made so small. They were intended for the use of one person only.
It is unknown, however, how far this custom was spread.
Tea drinking a thousand years ago
In ancient times (e.g. the Tang (618-907) or Song (960-1279) dynasties) the tea would be drunk only after grinding it. From the Ming dynasty onwards whole tea leaves would be infused, the same way as we drink Chinese tea today.
Tea preparation and utensils were quite different in the time from the Tang to the Song dynasties.
In preparation for drinking the tea was ground with a pestle in wide
bowls with an incised criss-cross pattern. A necessary preparation
before drinking, as coarse tea was used at the time.
were made of pewter until later in the Song dynasty, when clay pots
started to appear and all but displaced pewter in the Chinese tea
culture. The tea used also became more refined during the Song dynasty
until no preparation with the pestle was required before the infusion
of tea leaves.
Tenmoku bowl ( Song dynasty)
the Tang and Song dynasties wide-mouthed bowls were used, like the Tenmoku
Originally, celadon bowls were preferred, admired for their beauty, but
as tea contests became widespread, black bowls gained poularity. The
contestants would whip tea and the one whose froth remained the longest
As black glazed bowls showed the froth better, black
later replaced celadon bowls as the preferred color of tea bowls.
Chinese Tea Drinking Today
Presently, for 'Gongfu tea'* drinking, Yixing clay teapots enjoy immense popularity
(see Yixing pottery
However, porcelain teapots like the one shown on the right were and are
also widely used.
With all teapots of this type the infusion
of the tea leaves happens in the teapot. The tea is then
poured into small cups immediately before drinking.
is another, usually larger type of porcelain teacup with a wide mouth,
rather like a bowl, and with a lid. These may contain the tea leaves
themselves. At the time of drinking the edge of the lid is used to move
the leaves to the side. These cups are usually made of porcelain.
tea' is one of the names used by the Chinese for Chinese tea that is
prepared in a specific way for drinking. Sometimes it is also called
'Laoren tea' (=old men's tea), presumably because the steps of its
preparation take some time and only old men would have the leisure for
This type of tea drinking is currently done mostly with the use
of Yixing pottery wares.
Tea Drinking in China