A small group of tea lovers gathered at NEOTTE – a newly opened tea bar in downtown Palo Alto to listen to Mathew Hui, the founder of NEOTTE, to describe the origin of different teas, methods of tea-making, and the art of Chinese tea tasting culture, which virtually non-exists in the United States.
According to Hui, the custom of drinking tea can be traced back to thousands of years ago in China. In Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.), a man named Lu Yu (??) first documented the knowledge on tea into a book – the Tea Classic (??). His work helped to popularize the art of tea drinking all across China, and even to spread to neighboring countries.
Many people in this country have never seen loose-leaf tea. In its effort to spread the Chinese tea culture, NEOTTE serves only highest quality loose-leaf tea made from the young and tender leaves of the tea tree. Depending on the origins and processing methods, Chinese teas are divided into six categories: White Tea, Green Tea, Oolong Tea, Red Tea, Black Tea, and Herbal Tea, with each of them having distinctive health merits.
Growing up in “tea country” – Hangzhou, my favorite tea is Green Tea. Studies have shown that Green Tea has many health benefits including rich anti-oxidants, cancer-prevention and anti-aging properties. The herbal tea “Eight Babes” is another favorite. It consists of rose petal, Chinese matrimony-vines, dried longans, lotus seeds, chrysanthemums, red jujubes, green raisins and rock sugar. It has a soothing taste and can help to improve the eyesight and prevent colds. For ladies, it has additional beauty effects.
In addition to all the health benefits of tea, another important aspect is the art of tea tasting, which is very similar to wine tasting in this country. It takes into consideration the shape of the tea, the color, the aroma and taste. The full aroma and sweetness of the tea can be brought out with correct water temperature, the amount of tea leaves used, and the type of teapot.
Chinese consider tea drinking a way of life. The tea culture is encompassed in the art, literature, philosophy and customs throughout the history of China. It’s an experience of a cultivated art with a rich history. From now on, drinking tea will never be quite the same to me: a sip of tea reflects a warm relationship between humankind and nature.
Acknowledgement: thanks to CAEA that graciously organized this tea tasting event. CAEA is an organization dedicated to explore the differences in manners and customs between Chinese and American cultures in today’s technological enviroment.
Photo source: http://www.chinesecultureonline.com/