Tea drinking, like many other staples of the modern world, including gunpowder, was invented by the ancient Chinese over 4,000 years. The Emperor Nun Shen, a scholar and herbalist, was kneeling beside a fire, boiling water for purer drinking. A breeze blew the topmost leaves of a nearby tree into the pot. Shen tasted the beguiling beverage and proclaimed that this liquid was both delicious and invigorating. 25 different utensils are used for preparing and serving tea in the traditional tea ceremony. Chinese scholars hailed the brew as a cure for a variety of ailments; the nobility considered the consumption of top quality product as a mark of their status, and the rest of the population were simply sustained by it.
Types Of Tea
Forty to fifty kinds of tea are produced in China's Yunnan Province alone. The Chinese have a saying: Firewood, rice, oil, salt, sauce, vinegar and tea are the seven necessities to begin a day. The Chinese proverb “The finest teas grow on mountainsides” was illustrated by legends of tea growing on such inaccessible slopes that monkeys had to be trained to harvest the leaves. Perhaps this is where British tea company PG Tips got their famous idea for using monkeys in the advertising campaigns. For the Chinese, tea drinking and tea tasting are not identical. Tea drinking is for refreshment and tonic.
Tea tasting has acute cultural significance. Tea and its wares should match surrounding elements such as breeze, bright moon, pines, bamboo, plums and snow. All these embody the ultimate goal of Chinese culture: the harmonious unity of human beings with nature. Tea is often compared to character. And also, like a good friendship, tea should not be aggressive; it should be pleasant, low-keyed and persisting. With a cup of tea in hand, enjoying the green leaves in a white porcelain cup, you should feel only peace. Fame, wealth and other earthly concerns are far away. Tea is also a symbol of elegance.
Water for Tea Brewing
People of varying ages or status had tea made with different water in various tea wares. Miao Yu, a nun in a famous Chinese novel, treated aristocratic friends with either well-preserved rainwater from the previous summer or with snow water collected from snow on plum blossoms! A privilege of the past when Chinese air was not full of pollutants.
Similarly, tea-drinking habits vary in different regions of China. Roughly, scented tea is popular in the north; green tea is preferred in east, and black tea is the cuppa of choice for people in Fujian and Guangdong. Yum Cha (meaning tea drinking) is very popular in Hong Kong. Though the famous dim sum snacks are the true highlight of Yum Cha, the cha, or tea, (hence the British phrase for home helps “cha ladies”) is also an essential part of this meal.)