Posted on December 15, 2017
Chinese Tea Culture Event
This past week, I was invited to join other foreign teachers in my district o Bao’an, to participate in a traditional Chinese Tea Culture Ceremony. It was one of the most interesting things I have done in China to date.
We entered the Tea Mall and signed up for the class that we wished to take. I chose to make Black Tea because I mostly drink black tea. I was then free to walk around to the different tea shops and drink tea. That means sitting at a table, having someone pour tea for you in small Chinese tea cups, making conversation and drinking lots of tea. I chose to save that for later and basically explored the mall. There were many beautifully presented stores with handcrafted tea and handmade tea sets for large amounts of money. It was pleasing to the eye to see the beauty of the tea.
Re-entering the great hall, we sat at low tables with a tea set in front of us. The organizers of the program welcomed the foreign teachers to Shenzen and explained what we would be doing and seeing that day. In the first program, Miss Tea Culture 2017 (or something like that), came to the stage and demonstrated the proper pouring of Chinese tea with an elaborate show. She worked to relaxing music played and the tea flowed.
The next demonstration was of Kung Fu tea. Much like the martial art of Kung Fu, the tea pourer was precise with her movements. She was pouring tea from a tea pot that looked a lot like an old fashioned brass gas can. I know it wasn’t, but that is the best way to describe it. She would dance and pour tea into a cup placed a great distance from where she was. I don’t know whether she spilled or not, not being about to see the table, but I encountered the same style of pouring tea at a restaurant. Those ladies never missed, so I am sure she didn’t either!
The last demonstration was of tea from the Soong dynasty. The tea ladies demonstrated the care and patience that goes into the making and serving of this type of green tea. You must stir and stir until there is a foam on top of the tea, at which point it is ready to serve. Some people make a design in the foam, similar to a barista at your local coffee shop. What does it taste like? Foamy tea.
We, the foreign teachers, were released to go and find our classes. There were four different sessions, Pu’er tea, Kung Fu tea, Soong dynasty tea ceremony and black tea making. Walking around and seeing what the others were doing in their sessions, I must admit, I was a little jealous. I chose a very simple tea making session. However, it was fun.
We walked into a room with baskets full of fresh tea leaves on the table. We then kneaded the tea like bread dough, getting all of the water out and rolling the tea leaves into a ball. By the time we finished, our tea leaves had shrunk in size and turned black. The tea went into a great big bin for fermenting. Fermenting is a bit like drying, but also aging. This being modern times, it can be done in about 30 minutes.
We were encouraged to go and drink tea in the tea shops again. I found a beautifully lit shop with a young woman who knew a few words of English. I used my few words of Chinese and we laughed as we pulled out our phones in order to communicate better.
The young lady served me tea and we talked. She served me more tea, and we spoke more. She served me tea again and I tried to drink slower. Finally, I just could not drink any more tea. I tried asking if it was rude if I just left without finishing the pot of tea. She didn’t understand. “I don’t want any more tea, but I don’t want to be rude. Can I leave?” She thought I wanted to try a different tea. I am about to burst from tea. I need to get back to class. Finally, miraculously, we understood each other and I returned to class.
The black tea came out of the fermenter and needed to be dried. The drying kiln was not hot enough to do the job adequately in the amount of time that we had left, but we gave it a shot anyway. The tea was dumped into the shallow section at the top of the kiln and we all took turns rotating the tea with our hands to get the remaining moisture out. The scent was fresh and very closely resemble freshly cut green grass on a hot summer day. The tea remained somewhat damp to touch. Sifting it around in the kiln, I was able to feel it drying slightly. Then the time was up. The tea needed to return to the fermenting, drying machine. While everyone else was able to receive their tea as they left the event, my group was told we would receive ours in the mail.
I was slightly disappointed, but thankful for the opportunity to participate in something so unique. We were given a small Chinese tea cup and a small sample of tea as a gift from the Bao’an Education Department. We were invited to eat some of the snacks popular in Bao’an at tea time. I like the little cheese cake snack the best, while I took a few peanut butter style cookies in my bag for later.
Once again, as I searched for a taxi, I thought about the differences between the east and the west. I remember having teachers from India, Nigeria, China, Mexico and more countries from around the globe. I doubt they were ever invited to participate in a cultural event, just for them, because they chose to teach at my school. The priviledges that I have keep me humble.
Have you ever worked on a job where they make you feel like royalty just for coming to work? If you have, I would love to hear of your experience.