Probably no country in the world has such a strong tea drinking tradition as China. That is why when I heard about a possibility to go to a Tea Tasting Ceremony in one of Beijing’s tea houses, the tea lover inside of me got extremely excited.
There is something so special about tea drinking in China. Even the way it is done! You simply do not drink tea from a huge mug with your uni logo on it. You should get yourself one of the million varieties of the cutest tea pots you have probably ever seen. Made of clay, porcelain or sheer glass, up to you. This goes with the tiniest tea glasses you can imagine!
China and Tea Drinking Tradition
It is believed that Chinese people have been drinking tea for 4000 years. Back in the past, tea was not only something to enjoy, but it had medicinal purposes. Even today, tea has its place in the traditional Chinese medicine, particularly different types of green tea and black pu-erhs. Tea was also used to achieve better meditation and thus quickly became popular among Budhist priests. Later on it was introduced to aristocracy and for some time only people of high standing coming from these circles were allowed to drink tea regularly.
Nowadays, tea is an important part of people’s daily rituals in China. In every restaurant or home visit, you will be served tea, whether it is time for breakfast, lunch, dinner or you are just chatting away with friends. The most popular tea to drink is green tea. Other very popular types are white tea, black tea, oolong and pu-erh tea.
Tea Tasting Ceremony
The Chinese tea ceremony is called Gong Fu which is similar to the Japanese tea ceremony. In such ceremony, the person preparing the tea is a master, who is considered to be some kind of an artist. The master uses special movements during the tea preparation. The ceremony itself is supposed to embody the principles of harmony, peacefulness, relaxation and has its spiritual meaning.
There are many different styles of pouring the water and tea and it takes a great amount of practice to master this. The usual “equipment” would be a clay pot, small tea cups, bowl for the water and bamboo tools.
Such tea ceremonies are performed in tea houses all over China. If you are in Beijing, I would recommend you to visit the Jian Cha Shu Ji Teahouse, where I went to the tea tasting ceremony. Moreover this teahouse even offers lessons to learn this traditional practice. The owner, Mr. Zhu Jin Wu (who is a master of this practice) and his wife, Mrs. Jiang Li Yan, are tea enthusiasts and they let us fully indulge in the atmosphere of their cozy tea house and told stories about how tea is made and the beauty behind this tradition. Having a great selection of teas made in their own factory, I am sure you will leave with a package of this healthy goodness. As special dress up is a part of every tea ceremony, they kindly let us try on gorgeous traditional dress!
Another place in Beijing which will guarantee you a pleasant evening, during which you will not only taste great tea but also enjoy traditional shows such as puppet theatre or famous Beijing Opera, is Lao She Teahouse.
If you are not planning a tea house visit or want to purchase a good quality tea of more affordable price, head to Beijing’s Yabaolu Market, also known as the “Russian Market.” Located in Chaoyang district, it has a high Russian population because of expats and traders coming mostly from this country. This market is huge and has everything – including tea shops with teas from all over China. Each of them is specially packed, depending on the type of the tea. If you are struggling to pick one, you can taste a few. If you are still struggling, ask for the “100 flowers tea.” It tastes like a dream!