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Customs in Tea Drinking

It is Chinese traditional custom that a host has to serve a visiting guest a cup of tea firstly when he enters his house. A poem by Du Luei of Tang Dynasty shows an aspect of the function of tea:
Guests coming in, in the cold, cold night,
I serve cups of hot tea in the place of warm wine.

Ways of Serving Tea

How to serve a cup of tea to a visiting friend differs from place to place in China.

In Jiangsu and Zhejing provinces, a porcelain cup or a glass tumbler is used to brew Longjing, Biluochun, Maojian or just ordinary green tea. Chrysanthemum tea is sometimes used in hot summer season to reduce the hot from outside. In the Spring Festival, in some well-off families the guests may be entertained with Yuanbao tea (gold-ingot tea) to two fresh olives submerged in the tea to bestow blessings. In the countryside, when people visit their relatives, they are usually served with “egg-tea”. To be frank it is not a kind of tea but a bowl of pouched eggs, so called to show the publicity of the idea of tea.

Tea Drink

Hosts in the Northern provinces usually entertain their guests with a cup of scented tea, which is very popular in the North China cities, while in the colder north-eastern provinces, the enthusiastic hosts would provide warm black tea with sugar added to ensure warmth.

In some coastal provinces such as Guangdong Province and Fujian Province, a pot of Oolong tea, congou tea or Pu-er tea is the usual treat. If you go to visit a family in the mountainous Xiushui County, you would be served a cup of “sesame-bean tea” (sesame seeds and baked beans scattered in the liquor which are to be chewed and swallowed on emptying the cup). Iced tea is even common in modern families as most homes are equipped with refrigerators.

Serving tea to guests is a common practice among the 56 ethnic nationalities in China. But in the border districts different tea is used. In Inner Mongolia, a guest is entertained with milky tea. In the Jingpo family, you would be given baked tea (tea in water and baked in an oven to be made hot).

Milky Tea