Chinese Tea Ceremony: a Gentle Hospitality

The art of drinking and serving tea plays a major cultural role in China. For centuries, the ritual of preparing and serving tea has held a special place in the hearts and minds of Chinese aristocracy, court officials, intellectuals and poets.

Chinese tea ceremony is quite a different way to drink tea than either traditional English style or Japanese tea ceremony. The Chinese tea ceremony, unlike the Japanese tea ceremony, emphasizes the tea, rather than the ceremony.

What the tea tastes like, smells like, and how one tea tastes compared to the previous tea, or in successive rounds of drinking -- that is what participants of the Chinese tea ceremony are most concerned with. It is not really a ceremony but is rather a gentle hospitality.

Tea Set

Steps for Preparing and Serving the Tea

Step 1: Rinse the teapot with hot water.

Step 2: Use a bamboo tea scoop to fill teapot approximately 1/3 full with tea leaves. Hold the teapot over a large bowl, letting the overflow run into the bowl.

Step 3: Give the tea leaves a rinse by filling the pot half full with hot water, then draining the water out immediately, leaving only the soaked tea leaves.

Step 4: Fill the pot to the top with more hot water, cover and pour additional water over the teapot resting in the tea bowl. Do not allow bubbles to form in the pot.

Be sure to not let the tea steep too long; the first infusion should be steeped for only 30 seconds. In less than a minute, pour the tea into the cups by moving the teapot around in a continual motion over the cups so that they are filled together. Each cup should taste exactly the same.

Step 5: After steeping, the tea can be poured into a second teapot or tea pitcher to be served at leisure. Each pot of tea serves three to four rounds and up to five or six, depending on the tea and the server. The goal is that each round tastes the same as the first. Creating consistent flavor is where the mastery of the server is seen.