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May 26, 2014

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Ceremony combines precision and friendship

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DRINKING tea is more than a simple thirst-relieving act in Chinese culture. It can be a divine ceremony that helps people slow down their pace and forget about life’s distractions while focusing on the beauty of tea.

Burning incense and playing beautiful melodies will help create the proper environment for the ceremony. Guests usually sit around the table in the order of importance from left to right. The most important guest will sit to the left of the tea server.

A cha pan, or tea tray, is given to the tea server. A cha he, or tea holder made of bamboo, wood, clay, porcelain or tin and with the right amount of tea leaves is by the server’s left hand.

Gai wan, or covered bowl, features a small bowl (cup), a cover and a dish. It is the most common tool for tea making. Made of porcelain, it does not change the taste of the tea.

Once the tea is ready, it will be put into a gongdao bei, or justice cup, before being served to guests from left to right. The justice cup, usually an uncovered tea pot without any tea leaves, ensures the tea tastes the same for each guest.

Before serving, the tea server will usually dry the bottom of the justice cup on the cha jin, or tea towel, by his/her right hand.

The tea server will always go in an anti-clockwise direction, as it embodies a gesture of inviting guests in rather than pushing them out, which might be implied if it is done in the clockwise direction. And to show respect to the tea, no movement should be done directly above the tea tray.

“It’s all necessary for making a good tea beverage, while more importantly, the guests will naturally enter the peaceful world of tea by following the server’s movements,” says Zhou Ziou, a tea specialist at Ziyi Tang, a private tea workshop.


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