All in a Teacup, Event Teaches Students Depth of Chinese Tea Culture

In order to spread knowledge about Chinese tea among the young, an interactive tea culture activity was organized by the University Town Community Government on October 17th at the Home for International Friends on the Peking University Shenzhen Graduate School (PKUSZ) campus. Students from PKUSZ and the other universities of University Town Shenzhen all joined in together to learn and enjoy the tea.

In China, tea is considered an important everyday drink. Different varieties of tea leaves are grown in different areas of China. Varieties of tea each have a distinct taste and also serve different health functions. The process of serving tea also contains many detailed rules and historical influences. It carries so much cultural significance that tea is often given to foreign leaders as a gift to strengthen relationship between two countries.

To open the event, Han Yinyan, a senior tea master, vividly introduced six types of tea leaves to students. According to her, tea leaves are grouped according to color and degree of fermentation.

Green tea: no fermentation, green color, popular in Jiangsu and Zhejiang like Biluochun(碧螺春).

White tea: partially fermented, light tea, maintains the most primitive state, with a significant anti-inflammatory effect.

Yellow tea: partially fermented, rare to see on the market due to troublesome workmanship, popular in Anhui and Shaoyang, Hunan.

Oolong tea: famous types are Tieguanyin(铁观音)and Da Hong Pao(大红袍), the latter is a tea sent abroad often for gifts.

Black tea: full fermentation, red in color and strong in flavor, popular in Yunnan, Guangdong and Fujian.

Dark tea: popular in Hunan, Hubei, Guangxi, and Anhui, very mild.

Next, Han Yinyan showed students the whole process of steeping black tea in a dark-red enameled pottery(紫砂壶). Meanwhile, she introduced various tools while serving tea, like the fair cup (used to distribute tea), Pinming cup (the cup to enjoy tea), the clip to pick up cups and the funnel to filter tea leaves. In Chinese tradition, we should serve the first cup of tea to ancestors. The way of holding a teacup is quite unique as well: you should use three fingers to hold the edge of the teacup. This is known as “Three Dragons Protect the Base(三龙护底)” in Chinese.

Last but not least, all students were invited to try to serve tea to each other with several senior tea masters’ guidance.

Marco Li (PKU): 

“It’s a great cultural activity and I was moved a lot by the event’s atmosphere. Many exquisite tea sets were already prepared for us to use. Everyone tried and made their tea and had fun. I also exchanged many ideas with mentors and learned a lot. The mentors also said tea culture still lacks even if tea drinking is quite general in European countries. Tea is a culture instead of just a kind of industry products.”

Two students from HITSZ:

“We had a wonderful time experiencing traditional culture and built a deeper understanding of the art of tea. We liked tea before and now love it more.

Han Yinyan, the senior tea master:

“I’m very happy with the outcome of this activity. It’s crucial to make more people, especially university students, enjoy drinking tea. Nowadays the young are crazy about soft drinks while tea is much healthier and rooted in Chinese culture.”

The event was part of the 2020 Taoyuan Sub-District Min Sheng Wei Shi Shi Project and Nanshan District New Era Cultural Practice Series.

Written by Lyu Haipei