Tea During The Tang Dynasty

In the early days, tea used to be consumed as a medicinal beverage. Tribes in the North Western regions of China boiled the tea until all the all flavour and nutritions were extracted. The resulting tea was bitter, and definitely not for pleasure. Instead, tea was seen as a practical drink that prevents one from different ailments and keeps one warm.

But tea became more than just that during the Tang Dynasty. Cultivation, production and trade flourished. As a result, tea-drinking surged in popularity. You couldn’t go anywhere in the capital of Chang’an without seeing tea: at the imperial court, in the monasteries, on the street… Everyone drinks tea: monks, poets and even the common people.

Why Tea Became Popular During The Tang?

There are several factors that allowed tea to go mass market. First of all the Tang dynasty was a relatively peaceful period. Emperors such as Taizong and Gaozong not only practiced the ‘Art of War’ but had plenty of time to practice the ‘Art of Tea’.

But it wasn’t only the emperors who loved tea. With the backing of the Monks and famous poets such as Lu Yu, it was just a matter of time for common people to start appreciating tea.

Tea and Chan Buddhism (Zen Buddhism)

Chan Buddhism flourished in Tang Dynasty. It requires days of meditation practice. The monks found tea very refreshing and useful. It helped them stay awake and get rid of distracting thoughts. Tea became their favourite drink. Most of the Chan Buddhist temples located in the mountains. These mountains had the right soil and temperature for growing tea. The monks started to grow and produce their own tea. They planted more and more tea trees around temples. They were among the earliest big scale tea growers in China. The monks set the tea-drinking trend. They also discovered new growing and roasting method that improved the taste of tea.

Lu Yu and The Classic of Tea

During the heyday of Tang Dynasty, Lu Yu grew up in a temple with a tea-loving adopter. He learned to cook and wrote the famous book on tea-The Classic of Tea (Cha Jing).

The book showed the whole tea-drinking procedure and methods. It also listed 28 tea utensils and 8 growing regions of tea at its time. It marked the birth of Chinese tea ceremony and set a model for the development of tea culture in later ages. With his contribution, Lu Yu deserved the name “Tea Saint”.

Also read the Full History of Tea in this article: History of Tea in China & How It Spread Across the World.

Tea Trade During The Tang Dynasty

Early in Tang Dynasty, Princess Wencheng got married to Tibetan King Songtsän Gampo and introduced tea to Tibet.

princess wen cheng tibet tang

The Tibetan people had a diet based on meat and dairy, tea was the best drink for the vitamins they lacked. Soon tea was high in demand. But high altitude and tough climate there made it hard for tea to grow. However, there were plenty of good Tibetan horses that inland market needed for the expanding army.

tea horse road map

With the surging tea production and the market for horses, inland tea merchants started to transport tea through some tough routes to Tibet, and exchanged it for Tibetan ponies back. This was called “tea-for-horse” trade, a big part of the Tea Horse Road history.

The Word ‘Tea’ During The Tang

Before Tang tea was called “tu” (荼). It means tea as well as bitter vegetable and one kind of weeds. As tea gained more and more popularity, people found the need to give tea a specific name. They took out one stroke of the character “tu”, and called it “cha”(茶). This character meant “tea” only. Lu Yu used “cha” in his The Classic of Tea (Cha Jing). Famous tea enthusiast and poet Lu Tong also used “cha” in many of his poems. Since then, “cha” was tea, and it lasted until today.

Teaware During Tang Dynasty

Teaware became a big part of tea culture during Tang. The ceramics industry’s rapid development resulting in teaware to become more affordable. Common families were now able to drink tea from ceramic tea cups and store tea in ceramic jars.

At that time, the two most famous styles of teaware were Xing ware from Hebei and Yue ware from Yuezhou. The first, was known for its clean white appearance, while latter was appreciated for its polished jade look.

This Massive Pu Erh Tea Needs a Sawing Machine To Slice

In the past transporting tea from Yunnan to neighbouring regions was a difficult task. Pu erh tea used to be compressed tightly in massive sizes for easy transportation. We discovered this cylinder shaped pu erh during a tea expo, and the merchant was selling them while demonstrating how he gets a slice of it with a sawing machine!

The History Of The Word ‘Tea’

The way we call tea in different regions of the world is influenced by the different pronunciations of the word ‘tea’ in Chinese as well as the power balance of different regions throughout history.

3 Ways Of Pronouncing Tea

China has many ethnic groups and thus they have their own pronunciations of the word tea.

  • North China: ‘Cha’
  • South China: ‘Tey’ or ‘Ti’
  • Southwest China: ‘La’

6th Century: The Beginning Of Tea Exchange

Starting from the 6th Century, China started exporting tea during the Sui Dynasty. The North was the most influential region with many export activities focused on shipping tea to Japan, Turkey, Russia, Iran, Portugal and other Arabic countries. Therefore, these countries way of pronouncing tea is very similar to ‘cha’. Try to translate the word tea from English to any language from the mentioned countries, and you will find that they use ‘cha’ or variations such as ‘chai’ or ‘char’. For example:

  • Russia: char
  • Japanese: cha
  • Turkish: çay

mapping the word tea

16th & 17th Century: Tea Export To Europe

During this period, economic activity shifted from the North to the Southern part of China where tea was at that time pronounced as ‘Tey’. Main export destinations in Europe with the most demand coming from Britain, France, Holland, Germany, Italy, and Spain. These countries therefore use pronunciations close to ‘tey’ or ‘ti’.

  • France: thé
  • Holland: thee
  • Germany: tee
  • Italy: tè
  • Spain: té
  • Britain: tea

tea word map

tea word 2

What’s particularly interesting is that even though Portugal and Spain are neighboring countries with a very closely related language, they pronounce tea differently (Portugal: chá, Spain:té). This proofs the importance of dominance of tea producing regions in China over different periods of time through history.


Some European countries such as Poland are an exception. In Polish the word for tea isn’t related to either of the pronunciations mentioned above, but comes from the word ‘herb’: herbata.

Export to Countries Neighboring China

At the same time the Dai, Miao, and Yi minorities Southwestern part of China also started exporting tea to neighboring countries, such as Laos, Burma, Cambodia. As these ethnic minorities pronounce tea as ‘la’ the importing countries are using the same term in their languages.

3 Ways To Brew Loose Leaf Green Tea in a Glass

Steeping a cup of green tea can be done in many different ways. Sometimes you want to take out your full tea ceremony set and perform a ritual, while there are also moments that you just want to steep casually using a straight glass.

Traditionally, loose leaf green tea is often prepared in a glass as they benefit from lower water temperatures. The delicate leaves are also hard to over-steep and can be kept in the glass while you sip. Isolation of heat is also a less important factor compared to preparing oolong or pu erh tea. Those types of tea would be better of in an Yixing teapot.

Don’t underestimate the potential of simple straight glass though. With some simple tips and tricks you can achieve almost the same quality as traditional teaware. In the video below we show you 3 ways of brewing green tea in a glass, followed by more detailed notes to tweak the brewing process based on characteristics of the green tea leaves and environmental temperature.

Rinsing the glass

Rinsing the glass with hot water before brewing can be beneficial to steep better tea. This will warm the glass, and thus keep the water temperature more consistent when performing your first brew. If you want to keep it casual, for example because you’re in office, then you could decide to skip this step.

Also read: Why tea breaks are good for you

Glass Brewing Method 1

The first way of brewing loose green tea in a glass is by first adding hot water before the leaves. This method is the most suitable for smaller tea leaves because they easily absorb water and release flavor, even when they’re added after the water.

Due to the smaller size of the leaves, they’re often more delicate, and thus benefit from the water temperature to cool slightly. When you add hot water at 85 C / 185 F it will decrease a few degrees by the time you add the leaves in.

green tea brewing 2

Glass Brewing Method 2

In the second method for brewing loose leaf green tea, you first fill up the glass until it’s 1/3 full, followed by adding the leaves. This is great for mid-sized leaves.

green tea brewing 3.jpgGlass Brewing Method 3

In this last method, we first add the leaves followed by filling the glass with hot water. This method suits larger leaves the best, because they tend to absorb water slower then fine leaves. The brewing time would take too long when you apply the first method to brew larger leaves.

green tea brewing 4.jpg

Temperature, Duration & Amount of Leaves

For each method, you should apply a steeping duration of 3 minutes with hot water at  85 C / 185 F.

For green tea, applying a leaf-to-water ratio of 1:50 is a good starting point. This means that 4 grams of leaf is good for a 200 ml (6-7 oz) glass of tea that can be steeped for 3 times.

Subsequent Steeps

Once you’ve consumed 2/3 of the glass or whenever you feel that the taste is becoming to strong, simply refill it with hot water. A good quality green tea should get you at least 3 brews.

Seasonal Tweaks

While above we refer each way of steeping as a ‘method’ you could rather see them as variations in the way of brewing with a glass. Choosing a method to prepare loose leaf green tea based on the delicacy of the leaves is a great starting point. However, sometimes you need to consider the surrounding environment as well.

Let’s say you’re brewing a cup of tea outside during a hot summer day. Then the first method of adding hot water could already be great for tea leaves that you would normally steep with method 2. That’s because hot water tend to cool down more slowly in such condition. In contrast, you want to use method 3 (adding leaves before pouring hot water) more often when you’re in a low temperature environment. Questions? Please ask.

Tea Pics: Picking & Processing Chinese Tea

Some nice images were shared by the China Daily newspaper recently to show how Chinese tea is made. We can write a lot about the complicated process about it, but that would be boring to read. Check the impressive pics below to get an idea of journey from the leaf that ends up in your cup. These tea pics are definitely worth a thousand words.

Picking tea

picking tea leaves 2.jpg

picking tea leaves.jpg

Here’s a close up, smile!tea leaves close up

Air drying tea

air drying tea leaves.jpg

Rolling rolling green tea leaves.jpg

Pan Firing

stirring chinese green tea in pan.jpg

Removing impuritiesb083fe955b6c1872ab0a33.jpg

removing impurities.jpg

Finished dry leaves


And Finally,…the green tea leaves end in a cup



Coffee People Versus Tea People

Yes this is a generalization, but I’ve noticed some differences between the people who regularly drink coffee and those who drink tea. Have you?

They say a person is defined by their actions. Some people prefer cats over dogs, other’s love a glas of beer over wine. If you’re into either tea or coffee, then you might have noticed some differences between ‘tea people’ and ‘coffee people’!

A study published in the Journal ‘Molecular Psychiatry’ in 2015 even shows that there are certain genes that predict/affect the amount of coffee consumption.

1. Coffee people are more driven

I would generalize and say that ‘coffee people’ are typically driven folk looking for coffee’s stimulation properties while ‘tea people’ are typically reflective folk looking for tea’s relaxation properties.

There’s also proof in the UK that coffee drinkers make more money and get more pay raise. Read this article in the Daily Mail: Coffee lovers are higher paid than tea fans

Related to this I found a few quotes online:

  • Tea drinkers meditate; coffee drinkers medicate.
  • Tea drinkers keep thoughts; coffee drinkers keep notebooks.
  • Tea drinkers read; coffee drinkers write.
  • Tea drinkers take a break; coffee drinkers need a break.


2. Tea people are more health conscious

Furthermore, given coffee’s greater addictive properties and tea’s well known health benefits, ‘tea people’ perhaps have more discipline and control over their lives and are more health conscious than ‘coffee people’. A related quote:

  • Tea drinkers comfort you when you’re sick; coffee drinkers comfort you when you’re tired.

3. Tea people love wine, Coffee people love whiskey

Cheap coffee is like cheap whiskey.  If you need a jolt of caffeine to wake up or a shot of liquor to let loose, both will get the job done. That being said, high grade coffee is like good whiskey.  Both also get the job down but on a more enjoyable level.

Tea is different than coffee- it is similar to wine.  Although there are cheap teas and cheap wines, the variety and possibilities of flavor, type, color, aroma, mouthfeel, etc of Camellia sinensis are vast.  And like wine, depending on the region, climate, and multiple other factors the qualities of tea can be far more complex.

With that being said, if you look at the reason behind why coffee people drink coffee, and tea people drink tea, you might get a better understanding of the differences between the two.

4. Tea people have better breath.

This is simply drinking tea improves one’s breath, while coffee consumption contributes to bad breath.

5. Tea people care about the journey, coffee people care about the result

I think ‘tea people’ generally enjoy finer things in life, are more laid back and content and don’t necessarily feel the need to be a part of the mad rush. At the high end, the rituals are more elaborate with tea than with coffee – high end coffee drinkers have a ritual that is more technical and less “dance like”.  When I think of the Chinese tea ceremony, I don’t think there is an equivalent in the coffee world, at least that I know of.  High end coffee is all about the results, rather than the ceremony (what green beans, what roaster, particular computerized roast profile, what grinder, what grind setting, purity of the water, temperature of the water, what brewing method) – if does not matter how much grace is involved, just the technical details and the end result.  In the tea ceremony, even what you wear matters.

A few related quotes:

  • Tea drinkers do it for the enjoyment; coffee drinkers do it with a purpose.
  • Tea drinkers sip on a moment; coffee drinkers gulp it down.
  • Tea drinkers savor the day; coffee drinkers live it.
  • Tea drinkers like fine china; coffee drinkers are fine with paper.

6. Tea people are geeks

The very fact that tea generally takes more time and attention to brew, has more subtleties and nuances, has a much longer tradition, and, has less caffeine – means that you’re going to get a slightly more “geeky” person who cares more about the journey than the result.

7. Coffee people are more addicted to coffee than tea people to tea

The fact that coffee truly “jolts” you with a caffeine dose and that it’s much more addictive, leads it to be a bit more intense and obvious experience – attracting people who are more into that approach. According to the Huffington Post:

49% of coffee drinkers would rather give up their cell phone for a month than go without coffee.

Some more related quotes:

  • Tea drinkers are strict; coffee drinkers are addicts.
  • Tea drinkers don’t need caffeine; coffee drinkers would inject it, if possible.

8. There are more tea people than coffee people

Tea is the second most consumed beverage right after water. Conclusion: there are more tea people. Checkout the below infographic:

coffee person infographic



2016 Year of the Monkey: 7 Things You Should Know

Today is the first day of the year of the Monkey. Our team would like to wish you happy and healthy Chinese New Year. Enjoy the info we’ve put together so you can learn all the interesting facts about the monkey sign/zodiac.

1. Who’s a Monkey?

You’re most likely a monkey if you’re born during the following monkey years: 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968, 1956 etc.

Do note that the western calendar years do not exactly overlap with the Chinese calendar. The Chinese New Year might start and end up to 2 months later.

2. Types of Monkey Signs

Depending on the year of birth, there are different types of monkey signs in Chinese astrology. In total there are 5 types based on a certain element, which are:

  • fire
  • water
  • wood
  • metal
  • earth

2016 is the year of the fire monkey.

3. Monkey character and personality

Now you know there are different types of monkey signs, we can now discuss each the characters of each type. Monkey’s are generally considered smart, which is why many Chinese couples like to make babies in the year of  the monkye. However, each monkey sign comes with individual personalities. See below:

  • Fire monkey characteristics (..,2016,..,1956,..): Ambitious and adventurous, but irritable
  • Wood monkey characteristics (..,2004,..,1994,..): Always ready to help others; compassionate, with strong self-esteem, but stubborn
  • Water Monkey characteristics (..,1992,..,1932,..): Quick-witted, fond of being in the limelight, but haughty
  • Gold Monkey characteristics (..,1980,..,1920,..): Quick-witted, and confident, but also irritable and stubborn
  • Earth Monkey characteristics (..1968,..,1908,..): Frank, optimistic, and fearless

4. How to write monkey in Chinese?

Here’s the Chinese character of the word ‘monkey’:

5. Compatibility with other signs: Who can be friends or partners with monkeys?

Chinese zodiacs are often used in Chinese astrology to predict how compatible one can be with others. Some people like to read the Chinese horoscope when considering someone to be there future partner.  Below a list showing how compatible the monkey is with other signs:

  • Rat: 90% compatibility
  • Monkey: 85% compatibility
  • Dragon: 82% compatibility
  • Ox: 81% compatibility
  • Tiger: 81% compatibility
  • Pig: 81% compatibility
  • Rabbit: 73% compatibility
  • Rooster: 72% compatibility
  • Dog: 67% compatibility
  • Sheep: 65% compatibility
  • Snake: 57% compatibility
  • Horse: 31% compatibility

6. Ten Famous Monkey People

  • Leonardo da Vinci
  • Julius Caesar
  • Halle Berry
  • Charles Dickens
  • Lord Byron
  • Diana Ross
  • Elizabeth Taylor
  • Michael Douglas
  • Will Smith
  • Tom Hanks

7. Lucky monkey signs

  • Lucky numbers: 1, 7, 8
  • Lucky colours: white, gold, blue
  • Lucky flowers: chrysanthemum, alliums
  • Lucky directions: north, northwest, west
  • Lucky numbers: 1, 7, and 8.
  • Lucky colors: white, gold, and blue.
  • Lucky flowers: Chrysanthemum and alliums.
  • Lucky directions: North, northwest, and west.
  • Lucky months: month 8 and 12 based on the lunar calendar.
  • Lucky days: 14th an 28th month of the Chinese lunar calendar.

Man Opens Fire on Tea House for ‘Overpriced Tea’ of 65 Cents

Yesterday the Turkish police were hunting a man who fired multiple bullets in a tea house in Turkey, after he was charged ‘double’ for a glass of traditional tea.

The man was asked to pay 2 Turkish Lira for a cup. In terms of USD it’s only 65 cents, but in other parts of Turkey it’s usually sold for about half the price.

What followed is a fight between the man and the owner. Though ushered by his friends, he returned later and fired 4 times at the tea house while inside his car, according to Sabah Daily. Luckily, there was no fatal accident. Only one elderly person sitting at the tea house at the time was injured in the ear. Police is still looking for the mad tea drinker.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATurkish Tea House Interior

See below more about tea drinking in Turkey

Tea Drinking in Turkey

In Turkey black tea, also known as çay, is often served in  tulip glasses, and its the post popular hot drink in the country. And this might surprise you: Turkey is among the top countries with the average consumption per person in the world with about 1,000 cups a year per inhabitant.

turkish tea kettle

It’s therefore not strange as the beverage is an important part of Turkish culture, which is also reflected in the fact that it is the drink to serve to visiting guests. Sometimes beet sugar is used to sweeten the tea. The brew is usually served very strong, as it’s prepared in a special Turkish kettle.

Tea is bowled in upper kettle with leaves, while the lower kettle is filled with only water. This results in a very strong brew. However, guests can use the remaining water from the lower kettle to control the taste.

Tea is served in a tulip shaped glass. Not only because one enjoys the shape, but this design also makes sure the edges stay cool to hold the glass.

Iced Green Tea Recipe

If you are looking for something that’s cold and refreshing, but not an unhealthy coke. You should try out this easy to make minty iced green tea recipe.

Ingredients for Iced Green Tea Recipe

How to make iced green tea?

  1. Crush the mint leaves gently in a serving glass
  2. Steep 1 table spoon of tea leaves separately and pour it in the glass with the crush mint leaves afterwards, leaving 1/3 of space for ice cubes.
  3. Let the steeped mint and loose tea leaves in glass cool down
  4. Add ice cubes on top and finish it of with fresh lemons
  5. If you prefer to have a sweet drink, don’t add sugar, but instead, go for honey. The sweetness of honey will match the green tea and mint taste perfectly

How to serve iced green tea?

Get your most beautiful transparent glass and serve the iced green tea with a uncrushed mint leaf on top.


Meet Me In Venice: Book About Chinese Immigration To Europe

When European traders in the 17th century were offered a cup of Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong black tea in China,…. they liked it. This was a breakthrough for Chinese tea, and it made it’s way to Europe via the Portuguese and Dutch ports. It was at that time that Chinese tea became a globalized beverage.

But globalization went much further later on with Chinese migrants who reversed the traders’ journey by moving to Europe. In the book Meet Me In Venice, the Author Suzanne Ma documents the life of a 17th year old girl that travels to Italy in hope for a better life.

If you’re into globalization and the Chinese culture, it’s a highly recommended book to read (of course, while enjoying a cup of authentic Chinese tea). Some reviews below:

Washington Independent Review of Books:

“Eye-opening, fascinating and beautifully written…[Meet Me in Venice] is a revealing and thought-provoking look at the true meaning of our globalized economy.”

Leslie T. Chang, author of Factory Girls and former China correspondent for the Wall Street Journal:

Meet Me In Venice tells of the courage, hardships, and dreams of a new generation of Chinese who are leaving their homeland to seek fortune and opportunity in faraway lands. Suzanne Ma brings beautiful writing, compassion, and humor to the story of seventeen-year-old Ye Pei, who journeys to Italy to pursue her dreams of success and independence—and along the way, to make a perfect cup of cappuccino. Ranging from the language schools of Qingtian to the mushroom farms and garment factories of Italy, Ma illuminates the contours of Chinese immigrant lives that are at once crucial to the global economy and invisible to the outside world.

Los Angeles Review of Books:

Meet Me in Venice “fits nicely with other path-breaking journalistic works on migration & modernization in China… beautifully crafted and poignant.”

While the Chinese tea culture is directly or indirectly part of almost every person in China, that might not be the case for the majority of the European immigrants. At Hello Tea Cup we hope that many of the next generation of Chinese migrants will rediscover the Chinese tea culture, and share it with pride.