All things Chinese tea, food and culture.

Recent Tea Posts

Green Tea Chicken Recipe

Green Tea Chicken Recipe

Tea-scented chicken (茶香鸡) is a traditional dish from Hangzhou cuisine. Tender chicken is cooked with assorted spices, yet the flavour is not too strong, but rather refreshing and well-balanced because of the unique ingredient: Hangzhou’s very own Dragon Well green tea (Longjing). It’s a dish that […]

Pu Erh Tea Blends: 8 Ways to Spice up your Pu erh Tea

Pu Erh Tea Blends: 8 Ways to Spice up your Pu erh Tea

Although pu erh tea has a history of more than one thousand years, it is by no means too old to adapt. When you drink Pu erh, we can in fact add different ingredients to spice it up. Here is a list of 8 great pairings for you […]

The Qingming Festival: History, Origin & Customs Explained

The Qingming Festival: History, Origin & Customs Explained

Qingming Festival (清明节) is one of the most important traditional Chinese festivals, also known as the Tomb-Sweeping Day. “Qingming” literally means “clear and bright” in Chinese, which is a very suitable name, given its history and meaning.

History & Origin

This holiday has a history of more than 2,500 years and is celebrated ever since the Zhou Dynasty (510-314 BC).

The ancients believed that fifteen days after the spring equinox, a “Qingming” breeze comes from the southwest. It clears out the cold winter air allowing temperatures to rise and rainfall to increase. Everything will start to grow from plants and flowers to cultivated crops including tea.

Qingming Festival Date

The Qingming festival takes place at the 5th solar term (out of the 24 solar terms). On the Western calendar, the festival takes place on April the 4th, 5th or 6th.

Customs Tomb Sweeping, Sacrifices & Lucky Money

To the Chinese people, the Qingming Festival has a far greater significance than just a solar term. Influenced by the Han culture, 24 ethnic groups in China such as the Manchu, Zhuang, Dong, Tujia, Miao, Yao, and Li also celebrate Qingming Festival.

tomb sweeping aerialAlthough local customs are not exactly the same, tomb-sweeping, offering sacrifices to ancestors, and outings are the basic themes.

In Zhejiang Province area, people place new offerings such as snails, sweet green cakes, rice cakes and other dishes in front of ancestors tombs. Other offerings may include flowers.

At the end of the ceremony, the children who are watching the ceremony will receive “lucky money”.

In Hainan, After sweeping ancestors’ tombs, people will place dishes of pork, fish and geese, as well as various pastries in front of the graves. Then there are rituals like burning incense and paper money, hoping the ancestors rest in peace and bless the offspring.

qingming festival qingtuan

Qingming Festival is not just about tomb-sweeping and sadness. With the pleasantly warm weather, people get out of the door for Spring outings too. In addition to enjoy the Spring scenery, people carry out various recreational activities such as kite flying and tug of war. There are also special dishes that Chinese people love to make during this holiday. This includes green glutinous rice dumplings (qingtuan) and fried rice with veggies (芥菜饭).

qingming festival activities

Mingqian Tea

Many southern regions still retain the customs of Qingming tea-offering for ancestors. During the tomb-sweeping ceremony, tea is poured into tea cups and sprinkled in front of the graves of the deceased relatives to show respect and remembrance.

early spring tea buds qingming

The term “Qingming tea” refers to early spring tea. Spring tea is generally not harmed by the pests. The tea buds are tender and soft and pesticides-free.

There is another term called “Mingqian tea”, which refers tea picked before the Qingming Festival. It’s the very first batch tea picked in the whole year. Since the temperature is generally low the rainfall is deficient before Qingming Festival, the growth of the tea tree is limited. Therefore, the tea buds that meet the picking standards are scarce.

Mingqian tea is rare and expensive but many people love to try because of its fresh aroma. There is a saying that goes: “Mingqian tea is as expensive as gold.”

9 Basic Chinese Teaware Tools & Accessories You Should Know About

9 Basic Chinese Teaware Tools & Accessories You Should Know About

Drinking tea is a part of the daily life in China. It is the etiquette for the host to serve tea for the visitors. Whether you are receiving guests or just relaxing at home, it is important to use the right tea wares. Not only is it polite, but also making the […]

The History of Tea: Video by TED

The History of Tea: Video by TED

This is a really fun video that explains the history of tea in a nutshell. It covers the full history starting from how Shen Nong discovered tea, how Japanese monks brought the tea to Japan, and how Robert Fortune smuggled tea seeds to India for […]

The Significance of Horses in Chinese Culture – Hors

The Significance of Horses in Chinese Culture – Hors

Horses have a very high status in traditional Chinese culture. The traditional Chinese character of the word horse (馬, mǎ) looks exactly like a standing horse.

In ancient China, there were six main kinds of domestic animals: horse, cattle, sheep, chicken, dog and pig. The horse was the most important one. It represents the image of  courage, integrity, diligence and power. In addition to its contribution to transportation, horse was also an important part of the military force.

In this article we’ll discuss the meaning of horses in Chinese mythology, history, literature and art.

Mythology

In ancient Chinese mythology and legend, Dragon Horse (龙马, lóng mǎ) is a horse that has the head and the claws of a dragon, the body shaped like a horse and covered with dragon scales. As an auspicious symbol, Dragon Horse is considered the spirit of the Yellow River. It represents vigorous spirits and Chinese people’s ethos.

An interesting fact is that horses over 8 feet tall were once called ‘dragons’ in China in military. Those between 6 -8 feet are classified as ‘lai’ (mare), while horses below 6 are regarded as common horses.

History

The Ancient Tea Horse Road

The Ancient Tea Horse Road refers to the routes that horse caravans used for transporting tea and various goods in the past. As the international corridors, these routes promoted the economic and cultural exchange of southwest frontier of China.

Tea Horse Exchange

Tea Horse Exchange originated in the Tang and Song dynasties. For a long period of time. Tea for horse was the main form of commercial trade between China’s central plains and its western areas.

To learn more about the ancient tea route, you can watch this video documentary.

White Horse Temple: Carrying Sutras

White Horse Temple in Luoyang
White Horse Temple in Luoyang

In the Han dynasty, when Buddhism was first introduced to China, the sutras were carried by a white horse. The first Buddhist temple in China, Bai Ma Temple (White Horse Temple) was built in memory of this diligent white horse. Since its establishment  in 68 AD in Luoyang, the temple increased in significance as Buddhism spread within China and to the neighbouring countries.

Year of the Horse

The Chinese zodiac is a 12-year cycle originated in the Hang Dynasty. Each year in the cycle represents one animal sign. Like how the western zodiac works, it is believed that each year represented by the animal affects the characters of people who were born that year. The latest year of the horse was 2014, which means the next year of the horse will be in 2026.

Idioms & Sayings in Chinese Literature

There are countless literature works and idioms about horses in China. Many of the idioms are used frequently in the daily life of the Chinese. Here are some of them:

Mǎ dào chéng gōng (马到成功)

Success when the horse arrives, means to achieve immediate success / victory. People often use it as a blessing at the start of a new task.

Tiān mǎ xíng kōng (天马行空)

The horse gallops so rapidly as if it is flying in the air. It is used to describe a powerful and unconstrained style as well as someone who is not down-to-earth.

Zhǐ lù wéi mǎ (指鹿为马)

Point at a deer and call it a horse. It means deliberately distorting the facts.

Yī mǎ dāng xiān (一马当先)

Take a lead with a horse when fight in the war. It means being ahead of people, also means take a lead in doing things with people.

Yī yán jì chū, sì mǎ nán zhuī (一言既出, 驷马难追)

Once a word has come out of the mouth, it’s hard to get it back even with a carriage of four horses. It means one should keep one’s promises, as what has been said cannot be changed.

Artworks

Galloping Horse Treading on a Flying Swallow (马踏飞燕)

Galloping Horse Treading on a Flying Swallow
Galloping Horse Treading on a Flying Swallow

As a national treasure, this bronze sculpture has been regarded as a symbol of China’s superb casting skills of nearly 2000 years ago. When you look at this piece, you can feel the strength as well as the moving rhythms. The sign of China tourism was designed based on this piece.

Besides artworks, horse symbols also appear in teaware such as teapots, cups, jars, and this Yixing tea tumbler.

8 Horses Chinese Painting: Meaning

Picture of Eight Horses - Xu Beihong
Picture of Eight Horses – Xu Beihong

The picture is of the eight royal horses that belonged to King Mu of zhou, a legendary emperor. It was written in the Biography of King Mu of zhou that he took a ride with his eight precious horses and travelled thousands of miles to the Kunlun Mountains. According to modern scholars, his western tour should be somewhere between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea, which is the earliest historical record of communication between China and the western region.

The picture of eight horses has been a popular subject of artworks from the Six Dynasties. The best-known artwork of them all was a Chinese painting done by renowned painter Xu Beihong. This subject often showed in other art forms as well, such as wood carving and brick carving.

What Is Gushu Tea?

What Is Gushu Tea?

Gushu literally means “Ancient Tree” in Chinese. Nowadays, a tea tree over 100 years old is often considered gushu. In the stricter sense, gushu must be more than 300 years old and is growing in the unfrequented mountain forest. Now the question is, apart from […]

Cool Tea & Teashop Names Ideas

Cool Tea & Teashop Names Ideas

Starting a new tea business is always exciting, but how do you come up with a cool name that really represents you. And how do you name your teas with a creative touch? This read article and you’re ready to brainstorm for the best tea […]

Issaku Green Tea Review!

Issaku Green Tea Review!

I’ve lucky to have received samples of Issaku tea from Kei at JapaneseGlobalTeaIn.com. This is an award-winning Japanese tea that has won last years Global Tea Championship (Steamed tea category)!

The leaves appeared dark green, as expected from a Japanese green, and are finely broken.

Right after opening the sample bag, a lovely fresh grassy fragrance was released. I couldn’t wait longer until my cooked water was cooled down to around 80 ºC (175 ºF).

As instructed, I added two tea spoons of the tea into my gaiwan. Instead of following the instructions (60 to 120 seconds) I waited 30 seconds and strained out the tea. Straining wasn’t easy. The small tea leaves easily went through the opening of my gaiwan and congested my tea filter on the fairness pitcher.

If you’re planning to use a gaiwan for this tea, you should get a wider strainer to make sure it lets the liquid through. Also my advise would be to use 1 tea spoon (instead of 2 tea spoons instructed) as the leaves release flavour quite fast.

Since I don’t have a better filter to solve this straining problem, I decided to brew 2 tea spoons of Issaku tea grandpa style. I often do this with Chinese green teas, so let’s see how it works with a steamed Japanese tea.

I love the colour of the first steep. It’s much greener when compared to Chinese teas, which have a more yellowish colour. This is because Chinese greens are roasted, while this Japanese tea is steamed to preserve such colour.

tea colour review

Taste

The colour of the soup was green-yellowish and somewhat cloudy. The texture of the tea was smooth and pleasant. Its wonderful thickness is something you won’t find in a Chinese green tea.

This texture and cloudiness is probably because a part of the tea leaves are dissolved in the tea liquor itself, causing the thickness. The viscosity of the tea results in a lasting and lingering aroma in the mouth.

The taste was vegetal and seaweed-like. The aroma was fresh. The flavours are much more outspoken compared to a matcha green tea. When comparing it to Chinese green teas, it kind of reminds me of stronger green teas such as the bi luo chun, xinyang maojian or liu an gua pian. I would say, the pronounced seaweed aroma make the flavour match that of the bi luo chun from Jiangsu the most.

The flavours are released the most in the first steep, so I’m really happy that I didn’t rinse the tea leaves first. The flavour is still pretty strong for the 2nd and 3rd brew. The 4th brew and last is still decent. The colour of the tea becomes lighter and more yellow after the first steep.

wet leaves Issaku tea review

My Recommendations

Here are my recommendations when brewing this tea using a straight glass.

  • Brew in a glass
  • Add 2 tea spoons of tea for 4 brews; or 1 tea spoon of tea for 2 rounds.
  • Add 80ºC/175ºF water
  • Second brew: keep 1/3 of the first brew and refill with 85ºC water.
  • Third/fourth brew: keep 1/3 of the previous brew and refill with 90ºC water.

I don’t have recommendations for a traditional brewing session for now, but I’ll update this post when I do!

Cheese Tea?? Give It a Try If You Haven’t Already! (With Recipe)

Cheese Tea?? Give It a Try If You Haven’t Already! (With Recipe)

I’m not sure if everyone noticed it, but cheese tea has been a hit among the young generation over the past few years. Here in China, if there’s a long queue on the street or in a mall, it’s most likely in front of a […]