Chinese Tea Ceremony

History of tea ceremonies in China

The evolution of the Chinese Tea Ceremony mirrors the growth and importance of tea within Chinese culture. In the beginning, tea was cultivated and used solely as herbal medicine mostly within temples. Monks began to use tea to teach a respect for nature, humility and an overall sense of peace and calm.  In fact, the spirit of the Chinese Tea Ceremony is described as he, jing, yi, zhen which translates to peace, quiet, enjoyment and truth.  Monks felt they could illustrate deep philosophical concepts through tea service.  It is for that reason that the underlying philosophies of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism blend together through the Chinese Tea Ceremony.  Over time, people recognized the health benefits of tea but also its overall enjoyment.  Tea ceremonies could be seen in memorial celebrations for both emperors and family ancestors.

The first written account of tea ceremonies was during the Tang Dynasty over 1200 years ago.  The term to describe the serving of tea was initially called cha dao or the way of tea.  Japanese monks traveling through China during this period began to learn tea and tea culture.  After bringing this knowledge back to Japan, tea ceremonies evolved in Japan as it blended with Japanese culture resulting in the well-known Japanese Tea Ceremony and is still called cha dao.  Although cha dao originated in China, many felt a new term was needed to distinguish between Japanese and Chinese tea ceremonies.  In 1970, a Taiwanese tea master Lu Zi Kuang coined the term cha yi or art of tea, to represent current Chinese tea ceremonies.

Gong Fu Tea Ceremony Demonstration

There are six major aspects to consider when performing a Chinese Tea Ceremony. The following is a summary of both the technical knowledge and subtle skills for a successful ceremony.

  1. Attitude – The attitude of the person performing the ceremony should reflect both a happy and confident demeanor. The performer should exude a calm and relaxed manner to create a peaceful and enjoyable tea ceremony.
  2. Tea Selection – There are many considerations when selecting the right tea. In addition to fragrance, shape and taste, the tea should have a beautiful story and name.
  3. Water Selection – The best quality tea leaves will have poor taste if bad quality water is used. Therefore, select pure, light and clean water to ensure a wonderful tasting tea.
  4. Teaware Selection – It is important to select the correct teaware for brewing your tea leaves. In addition, allow your participants to fully appreciate the teaware by selecting both useful and beautiful items.
  5. Ambiance – A peaceful and calm environment can be created with a clean, comfortable and quiet room. Artwork can be used to enhance the overall atmosphere of the space.
  6. Technique – The basic skills for brewing tea are needed but also a graceful manner reflected through hand movements, facial expressions and clothing.

Puer Tea Ceremony Demonstration