Probably most of you have heard that tea originates from China and you know that you can find it anywhere in China and that it is one of favorite drinks there. It is not just a drink  it is also medicine and very important cultural and traditional issue. But before that I will tell you what ancient legend which says about discovery of tea. More than 5000 years ago there was a legendary emperor known as Shen Nong. He is one of Three Sovereigns – legendary emperors that according to mythology lived much before first recorded Xia dynasty. Those 3 are Fuxi, Shen Nong and Yellow Emperor known also as Huang Di. So back to the Shen Nong. He was herbalist according to legend and was very much devoted to discovering various medicines.  As he was very careful about his health too he used to boil water before drinking it. Once emperor was on a trip with his army. One morning he boiled water on bonfire under a tree. Slow wind was blowing and from nearby bush of wild tea few leafs fell down in the cup of boiled water. Water got light golden color and pleasant smell. Emperor risked trying it. Emperor was amazed by its delicious taste and pronounced from a surprise just “cha”  and since that time Chinese people call tea “cha”. In many other countries cha or chay is used word for tea. Since that time tea became major drink in China and started to be harvested. Tea is usually grown on farms and is picked up in spring.

shennong-discovering-tea
Shennong discovers tea

Since ancient times tea houses existed where people gathered to drink tea from porcelain cups. Such tea houses still exist and are very romantic. They are decorated with red curtains and often with red or yellow lanterns. Nice paintings are hung on walls often and calligraphy too. Waitresses are often very beautiful young girls dressed up in red  silk shirts and skirts or shirts that are combined of white and blue color. Usually they are very friendly and smiling.  As in past today people also use tea drinking as a  way of socializing.  They gather around table which is made of cherry tree and sit on cherry tree chairs. One teapot per table is enough but its size  and number of cups depends on how many people gather. There is also etiquette in drinking tea.  You should  hold cup with bent, index and middle finger otherwise it is considered as non polite. Tea had a special place in Chinese society. Drinking tea together was a sign of respect. Being invited for a tea could symbolize respect, sincere admiration, thankfulness or apology. Tea was served on major family gatherings. Also during weddings in past but also today young couple uses to serve tea their parents and thank them for raising. Some habits for tea drinking. In southern China someone serves you the tea you have to tap the table with bent, index and middle finger as sign of thankfulness. In north it is considered as acceptable if word “ thank you” isn’t heard from noise. In China giving a tea as a gift means much more than caring for your health. It is real sign of admiration, respect and sincere friendship. I got a very good tea from Taishan from one of my best Chinese friends. He is from Taian, Shandong province. So when we met in Beijing he brought me tea in name of his all family and I knew that it means sincere gift and friendship forever.

sip-tea-in-teahouse-peoples-park-chengdu

In Beijing there are many tea houses that are in traditional style. You will find several in Qianmen street. Also there is one tea shop between Kun Lun Hotel and Capital Mansion( Northern from Sanlitun Bar Street) where you can buy cups, teapot, and teas. Also you can have tea there as well. There are nice tea houses in hutongs around Schichahai Lake and in Nanluoguxiang hutong street that leads towards Schichahai. I was in Dr.Tea teahouse chain. I was in one that is located near Olympic Stadium in one of few hutong streets that remained there. It was very good there stuff was very friendly and they offered us 4 types of tea to try- ordinary green tea, black  tea with pieces of fruits, black tea( in China known as red tea) and Pu Erh Tea. Chinese people usually don’t put sugar in tea. Usually they don’t put anything sweet if they put they put honey. I tried black tea with honey and I recommend it to everyone.

chinese_tea_house_beijing

Tea drinking was often associated with writers poets and philosophers. In summer evenings they used to sit in gardens in pavilions, sometimes next to small lakes and to drink tea, discuss under moonlight and stars until late night hours.

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Tea ceremony Chengdu, source: http://chinatravelgo.com/chinese-tea/
chinese-kung-fu-tea
Tea set, source:  http://chinatravelgo.com/chinese-tea/

Its medicinal purpose was widely used in treating illnesses and maintaining health since ancient times. I was used because Chinese people found out that it is good for fighting anxiety, beneficial for calmness,  beneficial for blood circulation, regulates blood pressure, beneficial for many internal organs and keeping you awake and keeping your energy. Usually tea was used for healing in Taoist or Buddhist temples and often were prescribed by traditional medicine doctor or Taoist herbalist.  Tea is considered as great thing for making balance in mind and body. Most often it is drunk in early morning for a good and productive day and in evening for relaxed and peaceful rest.  Chinese people believe that it is perfect both for winter and summer. In winter it protects your organism from coldness and warms you while in summer it refreshes you but doesn’t make shock on your body what can be caused by fast drinking of too cold drinks. Among most healthy teas is Zhen Shen( Ginseng) tea.  This tea was mostly used in healing purposes.

Today there are many types of teas that you can try in China. Mostly drunk tea is green tea. Often other things are added to green tea. Teas that you should try are ordinary green tea with addition of jasmine flower  into teapot and  it makes perfect taste and aroma of jasmine flower. Also  green tea with peach flower is amazing idea.  My favorite are green tea with jasmine flavor and Pu Erh tea. Pu Erh tea is dark tea which is aromatized with rice. Taste of dark tea  combined from several herbs and rice make it very specific. Pu Erh comes from south Chinese Yunnan province and it is believed that it is produced for more than 2000 years. Pu erh tea is often considered as black tea in China while “black tea known in Europe” is called red tea.  Except Yunnan for tea are famous Guizhou, Sichuan , Hubei, Zhejiang and Shandong Province. In Shandong province  area below sacred Tai mountain is famous for growing tea. I got boxes of high quality tea from Taishan as a present from one of my Chinese friends Xin.  Very famous and among most expensive is tea from city of Hangzhou( Zhejiang province).  Price of tea varies from quality.  Cheapest can be around only few RMB while those of higher quality can cost around 150-200RMB per box Those of highest quality can cost even more than 700RMB per box. You can find tea almost anywhere- in tea shops, supermarkets, street markets and pharmacies. There are large teashops which sell dozens or even hundreds different types of tea.

Enjoy China 😉

tea-picking
Tea picking in Guangxi Zhuang region, source: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/photo/2013-02/20/c_132180700.htm
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