Tea Drinking Ceremony in China: Taking Local Beverages to the Next Level

By Mark Wiens 27 Comments
Cha (茶)
Tea Drinking Chengyang, China

I’ve always been a tea and coffee drinking fanatic. I even tend to overdo it sometimes, constantly drinking each beverage at rapid rates.

When I was in Argentina I got hooked on drinking yerba maté (this was one of my first posts ever on Migrationology over 2 years ago, so be careful!), a richly bitter and potent (delicious) herbal beverage. I loved everything about it, the taste and the social aspects. When on the coast of Tanzania I drink my fill of ginger coffee.

So it was only natural for me to latch onto tea while in Yangshuo, China.

In China, tea has been an integral part of the culture for thousands of years.

Tea, known in Chinese as Cha (茶) is not just a drink, but throughout the dynasties of Chinese history tea has become more of an art.

Chinese Tea Drinking Ceremony
Black Chinese Tea

While visiting the old antique town of Chengyang, I stumbled into a lady vending tea under a neat little veranda. At that moment I decided that I wanted nothing more than to buy some quality Chinese tea to drink.

When she asked me if I wanted to have a taste, I couldn’t resist!

This isn’t exactly an official symbolic Chinese tea drinking ceremony, but she did perform a few of the normal Chinese tea drinking rituals.

Blackish Red Chinese Tea
Blackish Red Chinese Tea

I actually chose 2 different types: A blackish red tea and a high grade green tea. Pictured above is the blackish red tea before she doused it with boiling water.

Chinese Tea Drinking Ceremony
Chinese Green Tea

The leaves were placed in a medium sized Chinese cup on a saucer with a lid.

Tea Drinking Cups
Tea Drinking Cups

The small little shot glass like cups were nestled together in a bigger glass bowl before I got served.

Pouring Water Into Tea
Pouring Water Into Tea

The first step of the Chinese tea drinking ceremony was to fill the little bowl of tea leaves with boiling hot water from the water boiler.

Instantly the leaves began to unravel and unleash their fragrant power.

First Batch of Tea
First Batch of Tea

After a few seconds she put the lid on the cup of tea and poured the water into a small strainer on top of a pitcher, the lid blocking the leaves from falling in.

This was not tea to drink!

Drinking Chinese Tea
Washing Tea Cups

She took the little glass cups, picked them up with bamboo tongs and washed them out with the scorching hot tea. The entire process was conducted on a bamboo tray that was outfitted with gutters so all the excess tea flowed off.

First Cup of Black Chinese Tea
First Cup of Black Chinese Tea

She repeated the process again, pouring hot water into the tea leaves, straining the leaves with the lid and putting the finished tea into the glass pitcher. From the glass pitcher she filled up the cleaned little shot glass cups with fresh drinking tea!

The tea was robust yet there wasn’t even a hint of bitterness to it. It was pure and crisp.

It would have gone great with a few bites of Chinese mooncake!

Drinking Tea in China
Drinking Tea in China

After such a wonderful tea ceremony just for a taste, she had totally sold me – and I wanted nothing more than to buy some tea for myself.

The black tea was 320 CNY ($50) per 1/2 kilo and the green tea was 300 CNY ($46.90) per 1/2 kilo. I got 20 CNY ($3.13) of each (a good sized bag – tea is quite light)!

Do you get attached to the local beverage of a country? Coffee, tea, beer?

27 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • Vishal

    2 years ago

    It’s really great, I really enjoyed the tea when I visited Sri Lanka.

  • Vishal

    2 years ago

    Well done !! I really appreciate your content and writing skills. Keep it up man…

  • Pedro

    8 years ago

    Great post Mark! We will be in China this September and this is for sure one of the things we are going to do.

    • Mark Wiens

      8 years ago

      Thank you Pedro, glad to hear you’ll be going to China soon!

  • Hannah

    8 years ago

    The best bit about this experience is the aroma from the leaves 🙂 great post and lovely pictures!

  • Bhathiya

    9 years ago

    Sri lankan tea is the best one …
    i mean black tea not green tea …
    you need to taste the Ceylon tea world best tea …..
    you would not believe me try Ceylon tea ….

    • Mark Wiens

      9 years ago

      It’s really great, I really enjoyed the tea when I visited Sri Lanka.

  • Juno

    9 years ago

    I’m heading to China soon, and drinking tea is high on my list. Great post Mark!!

    • Mark Wiens

      9 years ago

      Thanks Juno, you’ll enjoy some good tea while in China!

  • [email protected]

    9 years ago

    I love the Chinese concept of how tea (often oolong) compliments food so well.

    While in India, I also like my daily street chai, but I try to make sure the man is mixing ginger in as it makes such a difference. Some add fresh ginger while some don’t. I’m not a fan of the heaps of sugar they tend to add, but, when in Rome regarding the culturally charming chai…

    • Mark Wiens

      9 years ago

      I fully agree Mike. I love drinking Chinese tea with meals in China, many don’t even drink plain water with meals – just tea. Indian tea is also fantastic, but when it’s really sweet and milky it’s more of a dessert to me. I also love it with ginger!

  • inka

    9 years ago

    When I looked at these pictures, I could actually smell the tea. What does that say about your talent?

  • Maria

    9 years ago

    Really like the way you post all the steps. I’ve got to search out that blackis-red tea and Ginger Coffee I’ve not heard of before. Definite hunt going on now!

  • Global Basecamps Adrienne

    9 years ago

    While in Brazil, I loved relaxing on the beaches at night with some yerba mate. Can’t wait to try cultural Chinese teas one day!

    • Mark Wiens

      9 years ago

      Thanks Adrienne. It’s been a few years since I had yerba mate and I would love some! I love all the drinks, mostly teas and coffees from around the world.

  • Arti

    9 years ago

    Looks Delicious. In India too, we are addicted to tea. Try out the ginger tea or the masala tea, its great.
    Have a fabulous weekend Mark:)

    • Mark Wiens

      9 years ago

      Thanks Arti! Indian ginger and masala milk tea is another one of my favorites! Hope you have a great weekend too!

      • Lakmal

        9 years ago

        Hi…Mark, I Think you have visited Sri Lanka. How about Ceylon (Sri Lankan) Tea. Sri Lanka is one of best quality tea exporter.

        • Mark Wiens

          9 years ago

          Hey Lakmal, yes, I drank a lot of Sri Lankan tea while I was there, and I bought a lot of tea to bring with me too! It’s great!

  • Melissa

    9 years ago

    Wow – what a great post, and absolutely amazing shots! Really love the one of her cleaning out the cups. Thanks for sharing!

    • Mark Wiens

      9 years ago

      Thanks Melissa! It really brought Chinese tea to the next level for me!