For thousands of years, tea has formed its own culture in China, both as a daily beverage and a part of social life. And it might not look like it, but a cup of tea implies a lot of inner knowledge.
In China, one enjoys tea on every kind of occasion, on leasure time as well as during business meals. Tea serves to entertain guests, gather friends or to be enjoyed alone. It is rooted in our life.
Former UK Prime Minister David Cameron learns local tea culture in Chengdu, 2018
Chinese tea attire
Dress and make-up should be kept simple yet elegant, with discrete jewelry, more on line with the peaceful atmosphere of the tea ceremony.
How to hold the tea cup
The rule is different between men and women. Men should hold the cup with the right hand with the thumb and index finger around the rim of the cup, while the middle finger is holds the bottom of the cup. This position is called "three dragons to protect the tripod". The left hand is free.
For women, it is also the cup holding posture of "three dragons protecting the tripod", while the little finger should be tied up to form the orchid finger, which looks more elegant. The left hand can join together.
Keep your back straight and relax your shoulders. Women shall join their hands and lay them on the tea table.
Men is different, with hands open and laid on the table roughly aligning with the shoulders.
While there are formal body gesture rules, you may relax these rules are not in a more casual environment, where you just need to sit straight and be natural.
Rules for the host
When brewing tea, the teapot's spout or other sharp parts should not be facing any guest. If two tea pots are facing each other, make sure their spouts is not facing one another, which is justly called a "fight" !
When pouring tea, make sure not to pour more than three quarters of the guest's tea cup. Indeed, tea is hot , and the guests maybe get burned if the cups are too full.
The order in which the host provides tea to the guests is : guests first, then the host; women first, then men; older people first, then younger people. If another person than the host is preparing the tea (called silu), that person is served last.
A good host will always care to fill an empty cup. If there is half a cup of tea left, the guest doesn't need more tea now. If the guest's tea is cold, the host has to replace it with hot tea.
If the color of tea is too pale, which could mean that the tea is used, you need to change it with new tea, or the guests may take it as a hint to make them leave.
As a host, you need to know the gesture of "palm extension", which means "please" or "thank you". When you extend your hand to show something, put four fingers naturally together, with your thumb slightly open. In addition, while doing the palm extension, you should nod with a smile.
Rules for the guest
First of all, be on time. This is the basic rule .
When the host (or silu) is pouring tea, "knock the table" as a way to say thank you. Let us explain the different ways to do it below.
Younger guests being poured tea by elders should put their hand into a fist to gently tap the table, equivalent to kneeling down to bow. Tapping three times is enough.
Guests from the same generation as the host put their index and middle finger together to tap on the table , equivalent to a lighter bow to the host. Knock three times to show respect.
Older guests will use their index finger or middle finger only to tap the table, equivalent to a basic nod.
It's also important to praise after tasting tea, for example complimenting on the tea's quality or the host's hospitality. This is to express your appreciation to the host.
The etiquette of drinking tea not only reflects the respect between people, but also respects for the tea. Experience these tips during your next tea tasting and you will definitely make the best impression.
Founded in 2018 by Matthieu Ventelon, Hedonia is the first institution in China combining professional Wine and Etiquette expertise in the same training offer.
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