Green Tea in Everyday Life
In China’s vast train stations, travellers fill their tea flasks and large thermoses for free from one of the many hot water fountains.
The widespread availability of boiling water not only highlights how thoroughly tea consumption is woven into the social fabric, but also reveals an intriguing aspect of Chinese tea culture. In their everyday lives, Chinese consumers are very relaxed about tea preparation as just a few unmeasured leaves are thrown in a glass or tea flask, immersed in boiling water, and re-infused throughout the day.
This easy-going approach has deep roots going all of the way back to the Buddhist and Taoist monks who were the first to cultivate and consume tea for its stimulating properties. The act of drinking tea naturally resonated with the spirit of humility and serenity that embodied their meditation practices. Without necessarily attributing an inherent spiritual value to tea, the monks felt that serving tea was also a way of sharing the values of peace, tranquillity, pleasure, and truth.
This sensibility endures in contemporary Chinese tea drinking. For any Chinese tea enthusiast, consuming tea is naturally associated with the spontaneity and carefree attitude at the core of Taoism. True to this spirit, China has not developed as codified a tea ceremony as one finds, for instance, in Japan.
There is, of course, a more refined side to tea culture in China. In Chinese teahouses, the art of serving tea is very much alive and plays an important role in the social fabric of local communities. In most teashops, one employee, seated at a central table, skillfully infuses tea for clients throughout the day. A great deal of care goes into making each infusion, which is carried out with graceful, studied movements.
Many tea preparation competitions are organized during annual festivals and special events. The participants, almost all of them women, are judged for the grace of their gestures, their attitude, and their beauty, as well as the refinement of their presentation. Two tea-preparation methods are usually presented: the Gong FuCha and the gaiwan infusion (see “Preparing Tea in a Gaiwan” pg. 162).
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