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LIFE NEEDS A TOUCH OF DIFFERENCE
One of the ancient Chinese arts that has certainly not been forgotten or discarded is the art of making and serving tea. This particular art is popularly practised among the common people, be they Buddhists, Daoists or Confucianists, because tea is taken not just as a means of quenching thirst and ridding the body of excessive oil, but also to nurture the spirit. The varieties which seduce most the Chinese are the green tea and the Pu'er, the black tea of the Yunnan province, not to amalgamate with the western or South Asia black tea which is named red tea in China.
Lu Yu established many tea houses to facilitate tea drinking ceremonies. Through his works the names of tea leaves, the utensils used for making tea, the materials used for boiling water and the tea houses were known to a large following of tea drinkers. Another promoter of the art of tea drinking and author of books on the tea ceremony was Su Shi, an expert tea maker of the Song dynasty. During that period tea makers improved the process of tea by laying down seven steps.
The first was to ensure the tea leaves were picked at the right time and with the nails of the workers rather than the fingers. The second was to make sure the tea leaves were properly classified. The third was to make certain that the tea leaves were appropriately steamed. The fourth to the seventh were that the making of tea was done in the best way. By the Ming and Qing dynasty the types of tea leaves can be broadly classified into four namely ming, mo zi, la and mao.Ming tea consists of young tea leaves and it is drunk with the leaves. Mo zi is dried and is ground into powder while la consists of tea leaves made into a biscuit first before it is washed and made into tea. Mao is made from tea leaves and other fruits in little hard pieces.
The skill of tea making and drinking is expressed in seven basic steps: the preparation of the tea leaves, the preparation of the water, the starting of the fire for boiling the tea, getting the right temperature of the water for the boiling of the leaves, putting in tea leaves, boiling the tea leaves and serving the tea. The best type of water for high quality tea is water from the hills. Tea drinking today is usually streamlined into a simpler ceremony. It may be carried out in one of three ways, namely gai wan shi (covering the cup style), cha niang shi (tea and paternal style) and gong fu shi (skilful style). Gai wan shi is the simplest because only a tea cup with its cover are used to contain the tea and the tea drinker simply sips the tea and enjoys it. Cha niang shi is the most common and it is made in a teapot (symbolising the mother or parent) and served in cups (symbolising the children). Gong fu shi is the most authentic as it has its origin and tea ceremony from Lu Yu’s treatise. The utensils used are: a heating stove, a teapot, a tea tray and some teacups, a fan, and a pair of chopsticks. First of all, the water is boiled over the porcelain stove and once it has boiled it is poured into the porcelain teapot just to wash the tea leaves. More water is boiled again and poured over the outside of the teapot and into to make the tea. The water is then poured away and more boiled water is added. After about 30 seconds the tea is served.