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Chinese Tea Culture Beyond Gong Fu Cha

Posted by Angelina Kurganska on

While we are not originally from a Chinese background, like many of our followers, we enjoy learning about the Chinese Tea Ceremony and everything it offers. It is easy to get carried away in the world of aromatic teas and breathtaking teaware. We are always eager to expand our knowledge of brewing techniques and proper tea preparation methods. However, today we will talk about the parts of Chinese tea ceremony culture that we don't part take in as often as we would in Gong Fu Style tea brewing.

Nowadays, you will find everyone drinking quality loose leaf teas through prominent tea-growing regions of China. It is hard to walk into any shop without seeing a gaiwan or perhaps some grandpa style tea awaiting another brew.

This wasn't always the case. With the rise of tea in the Tang Dynasty, tea was used primarily as a tribute. High-quality teas that were grown on temple grounds were prepared for the Emperor, high ranking officials, and affluent families as a tribute — a sort of gift.

These traditions have not entirely faded, and in some instances, tea is still offered as tribute around China, as well as other tea growing countries around East Asia.

Tea In Weddings

Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremonies have existed for centuries. They are considered the most important ritual of the entire wedding ceremony. Although they are slowly fading out in light of more Westernized wedding ceremonies, most families will follow this tradition.

The first accounts of Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremonies date back to the Tang Dynasty (618–690, 705–907). In such a ceremony, the bride and groom must show respect to their elders by serving them tea, after exchanging vows.

Originally the bride and groom would kneel before the groom's parents and serve them tea publicly. Afterward, the bride would serve tea to her parents in private.

Nowadays, when couples choose to follow the Wedding Tea Ceremony, they will serve tea to both the bride and groom's parents publicly at the same time. After the parents are served, other family members will also be offered tea by the newlywed couple. Often the kneeling will also be omitted. The original ceremony procedures are rarely practices nowadays. Mostly very conservative families practice them.


wedding gong cha

Why Is Tea Served During Weddings?

In Chinese culture, tea is a sign of respect. When an honored guest enters your house, you will serve them your best quality tea. The same is done during the tea ceremony. Serving high-quality tea to the parents is a symbol of honor, respect, and gratitude.

Furthermore, the pureness of tea symbolizes the pureness of the hearts during the marriage. Many believe that by serving top quality, pure tea, the union will remain pure for many years.

What Kind Of Tea Is Served During The Wedding Ceremony?

There are no strict guidelines on which tea to serve. Usually, the couple will try to pick out a tea that their parents enjoy the most and purchase the highest quality available. Since it is only meant for one tea ceremony, just a small amount of tea leaves is needed.

The tea is then served in a red gaiwan. While during gong fu cha, using a white gaiwan is common and acceptable, it is generally not an auspicious color. It should not be used at ceremonies or birthday parties. White is most commonly associated with funerals and death.


yixing gaiwan

It is not uncommon for couples to use a gaiwan that has been in their family for generations. This gaiwan is often kept solely to be used during wedding ceremonies.

The Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony is one of the instances when a gawain is used as both a brewing vessel and a teacup, as it was created to be used.

Chinese New Years Tea Ceremony

This type of tea ceremony is perhaps performed even less frequently nowadays than the Wedding Tea Ceremony. While Chinese New Year remains one of the most celebrated holidays in Chinese culture, the tea ceremony is no longer as prominent. Nowadays, families will generally gather to enjoy good food, play mahjong, relax, and exchange red envelopes!

Traditionally, the Chinese New Years Tea Ceremony would happen first thing in the morning on the first day of the new year. The elders of the family will sit comfortably. At the same time, the younger generation will offer them freshly brewed tea together with good wishes for the coming year. After the elders drink the tea, they offer the younger generation red envelopes filled with money in return.


chinese new year tea

An interesting part of the Chinese New Year Tea traditions is that the tea served is usually sweetened. Generally, it is not acceptable to drink high quality sweetened loose leaf tea. However, during the new year's traditions, the tea is sweetened with dried candied fruits. Each of the sweetened fruits has a particular meaning and is chosen following that. The tea used is either black tea, pu erh, or a strong oolong, as these pair better with sugar. Green and white teas would generally not be used. The tea is steeped for longer than usual to balance out the sweetened fruits.

Chinese New Year is later than the New Year that we celebrate in the West. It generally falls around late January to mid-February, in accordance with the moon. Chinese New Year is also commonly referred to as the Spring Festival. It is accompanied by cleaning, buying new clothes, and decorating the house with fresh flowers. It is a welcoming of Spring and of new beginnings. In this sense, tea serves as a reconciliation of misdeeds and a welcoming of a new, sweeter period of life.

Read more: The Tradition Of Drinking Tea And Eating Moon Cakes.

Do you know of any tea rituals that we haven't mentioned?
Would you like to share some of the tea rituals practiced in your country?
Let us know in the comment sections!