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Preparing and Drinking Chinese Tea

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Introduction
Preparing and Drinking Chinese Tea

Instruments for preparing Chinese tea

© 2007 Sara Naumann, licensed to About.com.
In the West, formal tea drinking tends to be centered around grand hotel lobbies or tea-rooms where tea is accompanied by an array of sandwiches and cakes. Sometimes in this process, the tea can become an afterthought as the towers of sweets dominate the visual scene.

Furthermore, when it comes to casual tea at home, we tend to throw a tea bag into a saucer, add hot water and in a few minutes enjoy our steaming brew. If we’ve friends around, perhaps we brew a whole pot. And with black tea, we might even forget the tea itself because we're busy adding sugar or honey and perhaps a splash of milk.

In China, tea-drinking traditions are quite different. While ultimately a social activity, when drinking Chinese tea, one enjoys the fragrance, the color and varying tastes of the tea as the brew grows stronger. Similar to good wine, Chinese teas command different vessels depending on the type of tea. Short-leaf Oolong is traditionally brewed in a clay teapot and green teas are best enjoyed in a glass pot.

Aside from the brewing (pot) and drinking (cup) instruments, traditional tea drinking involves a whole set of utensils.

  • Scoop, tongs and small scoop for taking dry tea and handling the hot tea pot and cups
  • Tea tray – a wooden tray with slats on top and an open chamber within in which excess hot water is poured (the chamber can be emptied)
  • Teapot – the preferred teapot in China, especially for Oolong teas, are small clay teapots from Yixing (pronounced “ee-shing")
  • Glass decanter – a small vessel in which the brewed tea is poured
  • Small metal sieve that will fit on the mouth of your decanter preventing loose tea leaves entering the decanter
  • Fragrance cup – thimble-shaped, receives the first brewed tea
  • Tea cup – small cup from which you drink

The following gives you the instructions for preparing Chinese Oolong tea, called gongfu cha. Cha means tea.

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