Chinese tea and tea sets have been a common sight at home as my dad always brought back tea on his numerous trips to China. I never knew the proper utility of the miniature teacups and teapots but fancied how dainty and unique they were in appearance.
The other day my mom had out on the kitchen table a dark brown clay tea set with the teacups and teapot sitting on a slatted double layered circular tray of the same material. The teacups were tiny with a clear white inner layer. I am still an amateur when it comes to brewing tea the Chinese way. There are different methods, types of teaware and symbolism behind the ceremony as a whole.
Earlier this year I had the pleasure of spending some time in the company of Yvette, owner, and founder of Yvette Tea. She is truly passionate about providing premium quality Japanese tea and also develops delicious recipes using tea as the main component in terms of flavor. It was a truly eye-opening experience watching her brew tea using the gong fu cha style of preparation and everything about it was calm, composed, and elegant.
Chinese tea ceremony – water, teapot, harmony
Unglazed clay is used traditionally in creating Chinese teapots. This is the same material used widely in Indian homes for the authentic preparation of certain dishes. The clay absorbs essences from the tea leaves which add to the enamel and shine in the inner layer of the teapot over each use.
In China, a clay called Yixing clay is used to make the teapots. The clay is believed to absorb toxins from both the water and the tea leaves.
Water & Tealeaves
The teapot is first rinsed with warm water. It has a typical capacity of one cup. Dry tea leaves are then scooped into the teapot 1/3 to 1/4 full using a wooden or bamboo scoop.
Heat water in a kettle with temperatures depending on the kind of tea leaves being infused.
- Green tea – 65°C – 85°C
- White tea – 80°C – 87°C
- Oolong tea – 85°C – 100°C
- Black tea & Rooibos tea – 95°C – 100°C
Fill the teapot with water allowing the water to lightly spill out. Very soon after the tea is poured out into the small teacups in order to warm the teaware. The teapot is refilled with water. The teacups are emptied of their first serving over the teapot which helps it retain its warmth. Thereafter the tea is served and drank adding 30 seconds to the brewing time of each subsequent brewing.
The host offers the teacup and it is kind to accept the tea with cupped hands.
Sometimes the ceremony starts with the burning of incense to create a relaxed space.
“Water is the mother of tea, the teapot its father and the fire is its teacher.” – Chinese proverb