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 tea-drinking session more enjoyable.
Here are 9 basic Chinese tea wares that are frequently used:
Tea Scoop (chá zé, 茶则)
Tea scoop is called “chá zé” in chinese, zé means “to mesure”. The function of the tea scoop is to take certain amount of dry tea leaves out of the tea caddy.
It is commonly made of bamboo: split a bamboo pole in half, and then polish the front end into a shape that easily scoops the tea. There are also wood and metal tea scoops with different styles.
Teaspoon(chá chí, 茶匙)
The teaspoon used in tea ceremony is shaped like a stick more than a spoon, with its one end slightly curved. It is mainly used to move dry tea leaves from the tea holder or tea scoop into the teapot, and to dig out brewed tea leaves from the teapot.
After the tea is brewed, the leaves are soaked and expanded and often filled tightly in the teapot. It is neither convenient nor hygienic to dig out the tea leaves with fingers. Therefore, using a teaspoon to help. It is recommended to choose a teaspoon with a shorter length than the tea tray.
Tea Tongs (chá jiá, 茶夹)
Tea tongs, also known as tea chopsticks, are small tools used for warming tea cups. Using the tea tong, the tea artist picks up the tea cups to discard the first serving of tea.
They can also be used to pick out the brewed tea leaves from the teapot.
Traditionally, the cups are placed in hot water for sterilization and warming up before serving tea. After this step, tea tongs come in handy for gripping the hot cups and placing them on the tea tray, which keeps the cups sanitary and the hands from burning.
Tea Tray (chá pán, 茶盘)
Tea tray is used to accommodate tea set and tea accessories and to keep the table from getting messy and wet.
There are single-layer tea trays as well as tea draining trays. A tea draining tray is also called Gongfu tea tray. It consists of a grate on top and a pan underneath to collect waste liquids, sometimes it comes with a hose connected to the pan to drain the waste liquids to a bucket. It’s perfect for Gongfu tea method which has repeatedly rinsing process.
The key of choosing a good tea tray is to make sure that it is flat and stable. As for materials, bamboo and wood tea trays are never out of style because of their simple and natural elegance. Due to the nature of these materials, it is important to keep the tea tray dry after using.
Teapot (chá hú, 茶壶)
Do you know that there are nearly 200 basic styles of the teapot family? It’s because of all the combinations of the different handles, lids, spouts, bodies and bases. When you choose a teapot, it is necessary to check whether the lid fits the body of the teapot precisely. Otherwise the heat can easily run out when the tea is brewing, affecting the overall flavour of the tea.
Among all the shapes of the teapots body, a round body teapot is highly recommended. The round body helps the tea leaves to spread out and show the perfect taste of the tea.
Common materials of teapots include porcelain, purple clay (zisha), glass, or even stone. Purple clay teapots are one of the most popular kinds. With great air permeability and low thermal conductivity, purple clay teapots are ideal for brewing tea.
Gaiwan (gài wǎn,盖碗)
A gaiwan is made up with a lid, a bowl, and a saucer. It is used to steep tea and then pour the infusion into a tea cup or a fairness cup to share.
You can drink tea directly from the bowl when you are by yourself, or when you don’t have a cup at hand, simply push the tea leaves aside using the lid while sipping the tea.
Gaiwans are usually made of ceramic, zisha and glass, and they are small in size. The volume of a gaiwan is generally 100-150 ml.
Fairness Cup (gōng dào bēi, 公道杯）
If you pour the tea into the tea cups directly from the teapot, there may be a case where one cup of tea is weaker and another is stronger. A serving cup, which is called “fairness cup”will solve this problem.
Pour the brewed tea in a fairness cup from the teapot or the gaiwan first. That way the flavour and the colour of the tea are evened out, then pour the tea from the fairness cup into tea cups, everyone can taste the same tea, how fair!
The volume of a fairness cup should be at least able to hold a pot of tea. The opening should be big, so it is more convenient to pour tea into it.
Teacup (chá bēi, 茶杯)
A tea tasting cup, also called “tea tasting cup” (pǐn míng bēi, 品茗杯), usually has no handle and it is small in size. How small is it? The volume is just right for one gulp of tea or a few sips. There is a rule about the amount of tea that is poured into the cup for the guests: it should be no more than 80% full. Because it’s hard to lift the cup full of hot tea without burning the hands or spilling the tea.
Different shapes and styles of teacups make tea-drinking a more pleasant experience. There are quite a few fascinating shapes of the teacups, such as the wide opening one that shapes like a bamboo hat, and the “press-hand cup” which has the rim curved outward that is easy for the hand to hold.
Tea tasting cups are mainly made from ceramic, purple clay and glass. If you want to observe the colour of the infusion, a white ceramic tea cup is the best choice.
Tea caddy (chá guàn, 茶罐)
A tea caddy is a jar, a canister or a box used to store tea. Tea caddies are usually made from ceramic, bamboo, wood, glass and metal. No matter which material it is made from, a good tea caddy should be air tight and odorless in order to keep the tea leaves dry and preserve their original flavour.