Tea drinking

Tea drinking

The main secret to creating a wonderful beverage is hidden, primarily, in the qualities of the tea itself. High-quality elite Chinese tea of the new harvest – is the first step on the way to delighting in the unbelievable range of fragrances and the diverse palette of striking flavors.

Ancient wise men used to say that wasting good tea by maladroit preparation is great disappointment. In fact, every sort of tea possesses a kind of individuality, and a person should correctly select external conditions in order to get the tea to reveal its true nature. To obtain a drink possessing a rich aroma, a deep color and a wonderful taste one should pay close attention to the following factors: the amount of dry tea leaf, the temperature regime applied during brewing and the time of steeping. As a rule, high-quality green, white, and yellow tea of new harvest are prepared using boiled water cooled down to 75-85°C; for the rest of the sorts fresh 95-100°C boiling water is suitable. The tea is taken in the proportion of 3-5g of leaves per 200-300 ml of water, oolongs being the exception (during the Gongfucha ritual a small pot is half-filled with dry tea). Green, yellow, and red teas are steeped for 3-5 minutes, oolongs – 2-3 minutes, Pu’er, Bai Hao Yin Zhen – 5-10 minutes. Most of the sorts can be brewed again up to three times, although semi-fermented and black teas bear 4-6 consecutive brews. Undoubtedly, these parameters may vary depending on the selected method of steeping and personal preferences.

Currently, the following tea brewing methods exist in China: steeping the tea in a pot, in a gaiwan, in glasses, as well as the traditional tea ceremony of Gongfucha using entire sets of special tea utensils.

STEEPING THE TEA IN A TRADITIONAL CERAMIC TEAPOT

This method is suitable practically for all kinds of tea. In the process of preparing the drink a required amount of dry tea leaf is placed into a well-heated tea pot and kept there for about two minutes. Boiling water is then poured over the leaves in a specific way. The vessel containing the hot water is carried around in a circle over the neck of the tea pot three times, and then the pot is filled with water to its 80% capacity, the water poured from above. In the very end a method called “Three bows of Phoenix” is used when the vessel containing the water is lowered and lifted, this repeated three times: a certain rhythm is kept doing this, imitating the Phoenix bird’s thrice lowering and lifting its head, this ritual symbolizing a bow of the Phoenix bird expressing gratitude to the guests. The tea is left to steep for several minutes and then poured into the cups in stages, ensuring that each cup contains the liquid of equal strength by pouring into each following cup just a tad more of the tea than the cup preceding it. The last cup is filled fully, after which the remaining liquid is poured into the cups in the opposite order. The cups should never be filled to the very top so that the participants of the tea drinking would not burn themselves with the hot infusion.

STEEPING TEA IN GAIWAN

This method is also suitable for almost all kinds of tea. A gaiwan (literally a cup with a lid) is a traditional Chinese vessel for steeping and drinking tea. In this case the name speaks for itself: a gaiwan is in fact a 100-250 ml cup with a lid and a saucer. A gaiwan is made in the shape of a wide-necked cup, and having taken the lid off one is able to study the aroma of the infusion, admire the delicate leaves or examine the tea’s palette of colors. The tea preparation process begins with the warming up of a gaiwan: boiling water is poured into the empty cup thoroughly rinsing it and simultaneously heating up the vessel as well as the lid (the lid is passed through the boiling water inside the cup in slow rotating motion), after which the cup is emptied. After the gaiwan heating up is complete, the required amount of dry tea leaves is placed into the gaiwan. Then the boiling water is poured into the vessel and, right away, after putting the lid in place, the water is poured out. Thanks to washing off with the boiling water, the leaves get rinsed off, absorb the moisture and are warmed up for better opening up during steeping, which, in turn, allows the tea’s flavor and fragrance develop in their fullness. After the tea leaves are rinsed off, the gaiwan is filled on 1/4-1/3 with boiling water poured counterclockwise; then right away the cup is entirely filled with water with the pot lifted and lowered three times (the three bows of Phoenix method). The tea is left to steep for a few minutes. Drinking the tea from a gaiwan should be performed following certain rules. Women should be drinking holding the cup on the saucer: the saucer is placed in the palm of the left hand, with the thumb and the middle finger of the right hand supporting the gaiwan at the sides, and the index finger pressing at the lid. The infusion is drunk through a small opening purposely left between the lid and the edge of the cup. Men are allowed to just hold the cup (no saucer) using the thumb, the middle and the index finger.

STEEPING TEA IN GLASSES

This method is used mainly for preparing choice high-quality tea (green, white, yellow, and flower-tea). Using transparent glass tea ware is very convenient for watching the young leaves open up slowly in the crystal clear water and gracefully float undergoing multiple metamorphoses, making a so-called “tea dance”. Here the aesthetic side is extremely important being an essential part of the tea ceremony. Thus, when brewing Bai Hao Yin Zhen for example, the leaves take up an upward position, and, drawn out into a string, move up and down resembling stalactites in a cave – this entire picture being a wonderful spectacle. The green leaves of the Bai Mu Dan tea open up in the cup’s clear water as if supporting the tender bud, which makes it look as if an elegant flower bud is starting to open up in the glass. The leaves of Jun Shan Yin Zhen can make their way from the bottom of the glass to the surface and back again thrice. At the very end the buds remain in the upright position at the bottom of the glass resembling young shoots of bamboo forcing their way to the surface out of the soil. Flower teas with their fanciful shapes of silkworm cocoons, pearls, rings and curls are no less beautiful when opening up in an adorable dance in the breath of fresh jasmine.

TRADITIONAL TEA CEREMONY GONGFUCHA

The main actors in the Gongfucha ceremony are semi-fermented teas – oolongs. The tea ceremony requires readying a full set of tea utensils: a tea board, a small brewing pot made of purple clay, a “sea of tea” vessel for the tea, a set of small smelling (sniffing) cups for breathing in the tea fragrance, a set of tasting cups, a pitcher with tea utensils, a box for displaying the tea, rests for the tea pairs (saucers), a special tea tray with a towel, a spirit lamp and a kettle for boiling water. The main stages in the ceremony include getting acquainted with the tea, initial rinsing and heating of the tea ware with boiling water, pouring the tea, brewing the tea, heating the Cha Hai vessel and the cups with the water left over from rinsing the tea, serving and distribution of the tea (the tea is poured into the Cha Hai pitcher and then poured into narrow smelling cups). The tops of the smelling cups are covered with the tasting cups; after that both cups are turned over and set onto the saucers. A participant of this tea ceremony holds his or her smelling cup between a thumb and an index finger and lifts it up to let the infusion pour out into the tasting cup. After this the infusion’s aromatic qualities are examined and then – the tasting itself is performed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This method is also suitable for almost all kinds of tea. A gaiwan (literally a cup with a lid) is a traditional Chinese vessel for steeping and drinking tea. In this case the name speaks for itself: a gaiwan is in fact a 100-250 ml cup with a lid and a saucer.

 

 

A gaiwan is made in the shape of a wide-necked cup, and having taken the lid off one is able to study the aroma of the infusion, admire the delicate leaves or examine the tea’s palette of colors. The tea preparation process begins with the warming up of a gaiwan: boiling water is poured into the empty cup thoroughly rinsing it and simultaneously heating up the vessel as well as the lid (the lid is passed through the boiling water inside the cup in slow rotating motion), after which the cup is emptied. After the gaiwan heating up is complete, the required amount of dry tea leaves is placed into the gaiwan. Then the boiling water is poured into the vessel and, right away, after putting the lid in place, the water is poured out. Thanks to washing off with the boiling water, the leaves get rinsed off, absorb the moisture and are warmed up for better opening up during steeping, which, in turn, allows the tea’s flavor and fragrance develop in their fullness. After the tea leaves are rinsed off, the gaiwan is filled on 1/4-1/3 with boiling water poured counterclockwise; then right away the cup is entirely filled with water with the pot lifted and lowered three times (the three bows of Phoenix method). The tea is left to steep for a few minutes. Drinking the tea from a gaiwan should be performed following certain rules. Women should be drinking holding the cup on the saucer: the saucer is placed in the palm of the left hand, with the thumb and the middle finger of the right hand supporting the gaiwan at the sides, and the index finger pressing at the lid. The infusion is drunk through a small opening purposely left between the lid and the edge of the cup. Men are allowed to just hold the cup (no saucer) using the thumb, the middle and the index finger.