Thursday, March 22, 2012

Tea Drinking in the Tang Dynasty

The painting of a Tea Banquet at the Qingming Festival (the Tang Dynasty 618-907)

In the Tang Dynasty, the imperial court often held tea banquet at the Qingming Festival (Pure Brightness/Tomb-Sweeping). Every year in early April, emperors received tribute teas from various places. First, some would be offered as a sacrifice to their ancestors. Then, some would be given to their favorite officials and servants as rewards. And held Royal Qingming Tea Banquets to entertain high rank officials.

According to Chinese historical records, tea began to gain fame in the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The Tang Dynasty is regarded as the golden era for tea.

Before the Tang Dynasty (618-907), people in south China loved drinking tea while people in the north hated tea and regarded tea drinking as a strange custom or even a shameful practice. By the Tang Dynasty, tribute tea promoted the rise of tea. The famous tribute teas included the Zisun Tea produced in Guzhu of Changxing, Zhejiang Province and the Yangxian Tea produced in Yixing, Jiangsu Province. The imperial government moved the tea manufacturing center from Sichuan to the area south of the Yangtze River, which promoted the tea-making techniques in the new center and brought along the tea production and development in the whole country. Since then, tea drinking has become popular in the whole country.

In the Tang Dynasty (618-907), tea was divided into raw tea, loose tea, dust tea, and caky tea. Of them, caky tea was the main type. Tang people made tea by by cooking it. First, they dried the caky tea by baking. Then, they bagged the tea to keep its aroma. Later, after the tea had cooled, they ground it into fine powder for cooking, during which, they added salt or other spices.

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