Tea Customs in China and Russia
Tea: A Global Natural and Healthy Beverage
Tea is the second most popular beverage in the world. It is enjoyed by many countries globally. However, just like the diversified cultures of different nations, tea is served in quite different manner in different parts of the world. For example, tea was used as a customary way to welcome and treat a guest or friend from the hometown or a faraway remote village thousands of years ago. This tradition is still kept up to nowadays. Another example shows quite different and interesting tea custom: in the British and Ireland, tea, especially English breakfast tea, is utilized to give you or me a pickup at eleven o'clock in the morning, and then, tea (most likely black tea) is served at four o'clock in the afternoon to fill the gap between lunch and dinner. Tea customs in China and Russia are explained in the following paragraphs.
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Chinese Tea Custom
The Art: Drinking Chinese Tea Is an Art of Joy
Chinese have been drinking tea for thousands of year now. This unmatched long history has turned Chinese tea ceremony into an art of drinking and serving tea. The custom begins with very careful preparation of teapot and teacup. The small teapots and teacups, made of special clay, are cured by boiling hot water for a few hours before they are used. One explanation for using small cups is that you should never swallow large amount of tea each time. Simply sip a few drop of tea quietly and joyfully, and focus on its incredible aroma. The guests ought to learn how to appreciate what tea has brought to them: taste, joy, peace and harmony.
Only the highest quality tea, including green tea and oolong tea, is carefully selected for ceremony purpose. One of amazing things in Chinese tea custom is that there are more variety of tea than one can try in his entire life. Tasting different kind of tea at different tea event is so interesting and hard to resist. The tempting and unique characteristics that one tea brings out are hard to describe in simple words.
Hot water is poured onto the top of the teapot two or three times to allow the flavor of tea to penetrate the tea cup completely. To make the tea really good, clean water and consistent water temperature are crucial. The ideal water temperature varies with different tea. Furthermore, different type of water, such as distilled water and tapped water, should be used for different type of tea.
The tea itself is the focus of the entire tea custom. The aroma of the tea, the background music and kind conversation among guests all contribute the true friendship during the tea ceremony. Some of such friendship can last life time. Wide variety of conversation topics can be initialized and discussed during the event. From light daily activities to serious life belief and religion, the subjects cover the entire spectrum of one's life span. That explains why tea event is so crucial in Chinese people's relationships.
Russian Tea Custom
Russian Tea Drinking is More than a Social Event
Tea drinking in Russia has a long history. Back to 1638, a small bag of loose leaf tea was given to a Russian by a Chinese King as a present. Besides its function to keep people's bodies warm in cold climate, tea's unique taste and aroma quickly grasped Russians' attention. Tea trading activity between China and Russia grew stably. People at all of walks began to drink as part of their daily life style. Especially among the elite group of people such as poets, artists and writers, they went to extremity to praise this wonderful natural drink from the Heaven.
There are a couple of unique aspects of Russian' tea customs. One example is that a piece of lemon or a spoon of raspberry jam is normally added into the tea cup to make the taste richer. Additionally, two or three different kinds of tea are mixed to produce heavier flavor. It is not unusual for them to put loose leaf green tea and black tea together.
Another interesting phenomenon of tea ceremony in Russia is that a special brewing tea pot, called samovar, was invented by them. Because tea drinking had become a social gathering event in Russia around 1700's, a small tea pot was not big enough to brew large quantity of tea serving dozens of guests sitting around in the family room. Then an over-sized, made of a few different metals with two or three layers from top to bottom, tea kettle came into being. This brewing equipment was called samovar in most part of Russia. It was the masterpiece of the tea ceremony in the nation. The hot water circulates from top to bottom to keep tea warm during the entire ceremony in cold weather. Additionally, different layers brew different kind of tea. The guests got the richer, mixed and more tasteful drink they wanted.
Besides its function to brew tea, the size of a samovar stands for how wealthy or how friendly of the host's family: the richer of the host family, the larger of the samovar. The friendlier of the host family, the bigger and taller of the samovar. The classification of people can be easily seen from this simple yet amazing social gathering: tea ceremony.