The history of Chinese tea
Tea has been drunk in China since the 2nd century BC. One legend goes that, while traveling with his army, the emperor was thirsty and asked for boiled water to drink. A tea leaf accidentally fell into his cup, turning it into delicious tea – which the emperor found so refreshing he introduced it as a popular drink.
Tea was used during the Han dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) as medicine, and some forms of herbal teas are still used in traditional Chinese medicine today. But it was during the Tang dynasty (608 AD – 907 AD) that tea really took off as a social drink, starting the sensation that is Chinese tea today.
Our Shenzhen au pairs enjoyed a short history lesson at the start of this cultural trip to a local teahouse, learning about Chinese tea from the experts!
Learning some Chinese
Before they could start on the tea ceremony, our Shenzhen au pairs first had to learn some of the key Chinese vocabulary relating to Chinese tea culture.
They studied the names of each vessel and utensil used in the intricate tea ceremonies, as well as the words used to describe the various steps in washing, pouring and appreciating the tea.
This was a fantastic opportunity to learn some Mandarin in a real-life context, before directly putting it into practice in the tea ceremony.
Finally, they had the opportunity to enjoy a traditional Chinese tea ceremony, each taking turns to practice the many steps in the process. Today, the au pairs learnt a technique called Kungfu Tea (工夫茶), which originated in Eastern Guangdong province.
Tea drinking is not something to be rushed in China! First the water is boiled, then poured over the loose tea leaves in the teapot. This first round of tea is used to wash the cups and utensils, before another pot of hot water is added to the tealeaves in the teapot, which is served into each person’s tea cup.
After enjoying a relaxing afternoon learning about the fascinating Chinese tea culture, our au pairs gathered together for a final photo before heading off back to their host families!