Beginner in Chinese?

Sign up to get a free basic Chinese course complete with MP3 audio, 
plus learning tips and video lessons! 

Chinese Conversation Clips – Tea Drinking in China

English translation of video content:

Chris: What rituals are there for tea drinking? Does everybody make their own cups of tea and drink by themselves, or drink with a group of people? What are the rituals?

Becca: Speaking of which, tea culture originated in China a long time ago and has a history of maybe thousands of years. There may be thousands of years of history. Tea ceremony in many countries, including Japanese and British tea cultures nowadays, may originate from Chinese tea culture. We often say that the seven main things for people’s livelihoods are firewood, rice, oil, salt, sauce, vinegar and tea.

Chris: What does that mean?

Becca: They are the most important necessities in your life: firewood, rice, oil, salt, sauce, vinegar and tea. When you cook and eat meals, in your diet and every daily life, you need these seven elements. So you can see that tea is very important in Chinese people’s lives.

Chris: Do people drink tea every day? For example, when you were young, did you drink tea every day at home?

Becca: Children rarely drink tea.

Chris: How about your father and mother? Do they drink tea every day?

Becca: My parents drink tea every day and they make their own tea at home. The procedures will be simpler. But if you go to a tea house to experience a tea ceremony or kung fu tea (gongfu cha), then you will find that drinking tea has extensive and profound meanings. It is not as simple as drinking water or tasting a flavour. It is more about creating an atmosphere, a sentiment and a feeling.

Chris: What is kung fu tea? Is it a ceremony? Or a kind of tea?

Becca: Kung fu tea is not a kind of tea. It is a process or procedure of making tea. The whole process is very complex, so it is quite entertaining. If you watch a kung fu tea performance given by a specialised artist, you will find that the process from heating cups to brewing tea may takes a long time. In the middle, you are involved in a series of activities, including observing the colour of the tea, tasting the tea’s flavour, smelling the tea’s aroma, and watching the shape of the tea. So this process is very long. It takes a lot of effort (gongfu/kungfu in Chinese) and a very long time. So it is called kung fu tea.

Chris: So it has nothing to do with kung fu (martial arts)?

Becca: It has nothing to do with kung fu.

Chris: We all thought it was related to kung fu.

Becca: It’s not a performance while drinking tea.

Chris: But is the ceremony itself a kind of performance?

Becca: The ceremony itself is worth experiencing. You can see a lot of ways to drink tea that you didn’t know about before.

Sign up here to get access to the full transcripts with Chinese characters and Pinyin: