Sometimes, we get questions from our customers about tea table manners. Many tea drinkers want to learn more tea-related manners so that they wouldn’t misbehave or offend some cultural taboos during a tea event.
To be honest, in Chinese tea, there aren’t really any specific tea-related manners that you have to follow. Just like Chinese food culture, Chinese tea is quite casual. You don’t need to learn anything new beside normal dinner table manners.
For tea lovers who have been to a Japanese tea ceremony, many of them are overwhelmed by its formality. For example, there are many non tea-related things you need to learn: how to sit, how to hold the bowl, etc. In this ceremony, “how to drink” is more important than “what to drink.”
Fortunately, Chinese tea-drinking does not have strict formality. After all, “tea-drinking” should be about “tea”, not “how to drink”. In fact, there isn’t a “Chinese tea ceremony” at all. If you visit our hometown Fujian province, this is how people drink tea on a daily basis. Even local stores and corner bank locations serve tea with a full set of teaware and a large tea table.
Therefore, instead of inventing a set of self-dramatizing rules of tea-drinking, we’d like share some interesting little etiquettes that might make your tea experience more enjoyable.
1. Don’t worry about the noise you make
When we teach our kids dinner table manners, one important rule is NOT to make loud sound when eating. But in tea drinking, many experienced tea drinks would make a loud sipping noise on purpose, and this is not considered as impolite.
Of course, making a sipping noise is also not “required”. Some tea lovers mistakenly think that this is somehow similar to the noise you should make when eating Japanese ramen noodles (in Japan, making loud “sucking” noise means you like the noodle).
As a matter of fact, “sipping” serves a very practical purpose. The “noise” is actually the result of “sipping”.
The intention of sipping is straightforward - to enhance and elevate a tea’s aromas.
Let’s take a Rou Gui for example. If we simply drink a cup of Rou Gui tea, we can’t fully experience how different aromas and tastes transform delicately in our mouths. By quickly sipping the tea soup into the back of the mouth, we can detect more layers of floral, fruity, and cinnamonic aromas.
Therefore, the loud sipping noise, as a byproduct, is quite normal in the tea room.
2. Finger Tapping Etiquette
Many tea lovers are familiar with the finger tapping etiquette. It means “thank you” without saying the words. It’s not exclusive to tea-drinking. In China, finger tapping is common in a variety of occasions.
In tea-drinking, finger tapping is usually used when someone pours tea for you. However, how we do finger tapping is up to who we’re drinking tea with.
When someone who’s senior pouring the tea, we should make a fist (palm down) and tap all five fingers softly three times. Between friends and family, simply use your index finger and middle finger and tap three times.
3. Taking a sip or a shot?
Tea is a beverage, and you can drink it whichever way you want.
No doubt, Chinese tea cups are smaller. Some people might even think it’s a sauce dish when they see one. If you want to take a shot of tea, you can do it.
But of course, taking shots of tea seems not too cultured. In a slightly more formal occasion, taking 2-3 sips to finish a cup of tea is considered more socially acceptable.
Taking shots of tea reduces the existence of tea to a thirst relief. You might find it not so welcomed among serious tea drinkers.
4. Are tea table manners important?
We all need a sense of formality and celebration in our lives. We take our significant others to a fancy restaurant on an important anniversary. We hold big parties for our children’s graduation.
Tea drinking is slightly different. Knowing basic tea table manners is necessary in our social life. A full tea experience is expressed and completed in a calm and grateful manner.
But to truly appreciate a tea, we don’t need to hold an overelaborated “ceremony” —— it won’t make your tea taste better.
- One more thing
Some tea lovers might argue that there’s a “Chinese tea ceremony”. Some even attended “tea ceremony” classes.
There is, in fact, a “tea performance” class. It elevates what people usually do to a more aesthetic level. The practical use of this “performance” is limited, and many procedures of the performance, such as “high infusion” (see Blog 34 and Blog 35 for mroe), are actually detrimental to tea.
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