Sunday, August 31, 2014

Tea-Drinking Customs In Fujian And Guangdong Of China

"Gongfu" Tea In Fujian And Guangdong Provinces Of China

China is the home of tea, and drinking tea is a national obsession.  Chinese are the most likely to delight in drinking tea as well as being the most discriminating in the way tea is made and served.

Tea-drinking tradition from the Ming and Qing dynasties, which features infused tea, has been inherited in most parts of China. But people from different areas favor different teas. Generally, people in northern China, northeastern China and Sichuan Province, love jasmine tea; those living in Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Anhui provinces favor green tea; and along the southeast coast, Oolong tea is preferred. People from Hunan Province have an interesting habit: they chew and swallow the tea leaves after drinking the infusion.

Distinct customs in different areas and minorities compose the variety of China's tea-drinking tradition.

Preparing and drinking "Gongfu" tea involves elaborate procedures. This tea is popular in Yunxiao, Zhangzhou, Dongshan and Xiamen in southern Fujian Province, and Chaozhou and Shantou in Guangdong Province.

The antique-looking "Gongfu"tea set includes "Four Treasures for Tea-Making": one is a reddish-brown kettle, "yushuwei," with an oblate body that holds only 200g of water; the second is "Shantou Wind Stove," which is a small, exquisite and vented stove, used to boil water. Today, for convenience, many people use the electric stove. The third is a teapot, "Mengchen Pot," the size of a goose egg, made of zisha, a fine clay from Yixing that holds just over 50g of water. The last is "Ruochen'ou," an extraordinarily small cup about the size of half a pingpong ball, which holds only 4ml of the brew. Usually, four cups make a set and are placed on an oval tea tray. Besides pottery tea sets, there are porcelain ones, which look distinct with blue floral patterns glazed on a white background.

With "Four Treasures", you can make tea. In preparing "Gongfu" tea, you must undertake a unique process. First, rinse the tea set in clean spring water and place it on a tea tray. When the water in the kettle is boiling, use some to warm the pot and cups. Then put tea leaves in the tea pot until it is half-full and add boiling water until it reaches the brim. Purists will immediately pour out the first infusion and warm the tea cups with it. Again, fill the pot with boiled water, using the lid to skim off the foam before covering the pot to preserve the aroma. Arrange the four cups in a square, their mouths all touching. Wait a moment (less than one minute) before lifting the pot and moving it in circles over the cups while pouring tea until each cup is filled. Known locally as "General Guan Patrollinging the Town," this ensures that the density of tea is the same in each cup. Even the final and most dense bit is poured evenly into the four cups-- known as "General Han Xin Dispatching Troops."

Once the tea has been poured in the tea cups, that does not mean you can drink it immediately. According to the practice of "Gongfu" tea, you should first lift the cup to your nose and inhale the fragrance. Then take a sip, and hold it in your mouth to taste its flavor; in no time you will feel your nose and mouth filling with the fragrance, your throat moistening, and the secretion of saliva increasing, which will comfort your whole body. Add more water to the pot and enjoy another round of tea. After, at most, the fifth round, replace the tea dregs with new tea and start over.

The best tea for "Gongfu" tea is Oolong -- for green tea has a "cold nature" that pains the stomach and black tea has a "hot nature" that seems to dry the stomach; neither is suitable to be drunk undiluted. Only the half-fermented Oolong, having a "warm nature" and enduring infusion, is best for "Gongfu" tea.