THE CHINESE TEA COMPANY INTERVIEW WITH NATIONAL TEA DAY
With such an emerging interest in trying teas from different cultures it is important to understand how you can incorporate a Chinese Tea offering into your establishments tea menu. The great thing is with Chinese teas often being of such a beautiful quality they can be incorporated into your menu and pair seamlessly with so many dishes.
We spoke with Juyan Webster at the London based Chinese Tea Company to understand more about Chinese tea taking culture, its synergies with UK tea culture and how you can incorporate aspects of it into your offering.
- What are the differences with Chinese tea and that of other nations?
Chinese tea is much more complicated. Chinese tea refers to the teas grown in China and every category (there 6 categories of tea – green, white, yellow, oolong, black and dark tea) of tea first originated from China. There is a huge variety of tea growing regions and processing methods in China. As for other nations – for example in the UK, in general English drink black tea. As for Japanese, they mainly produce and drink Green Tea.
If you are speaking about the brewing methods of Chinese tea, there are many varieties across the different regions in China. In the north, most people drink tea in large cups, in the south specially Fujian and Guangdong, they drink tea in Gong Fu Tea style which tea is brewed in small teapots with high leaf to water ratios and short infusions and sip from very small cups. In Sichuan province, people prefer to drink tea in a Gaiwan which is a bowl with a lid and sauce.
As you know English people mainly brew tea in a teapot or mug and take it with milk and sugar – so there is a clear difference.
2. What elements of Chinese tea taking ceremony have we incorporated into the British afternoon tea tradition?
I suppose the key thing is the social aspect of the Chinese tea ceremony. People gather together, drink tea and have a chat.
3. Tea can be so celebratory; can you explain the tradition of tea in Chinese wedding culture and its significance?
The tea ceremony is one of the most significant events at the Chinese wedding. It is called Jing Cha in Chinese means ‘to respectfully offer tea”. In Chinese culture, tea symbolizes people’s wishes for loyal love and a happy marriage, and tea also means respect. The ceremony is a very formal introduction of the bride and groom, and expresses respect to their families.
Traditionally, the bride and groom would have served tea privately to the bride’s family first before she left her parent’s house and the marriage, a way to say thanks to bride’s family for raising her. The tea ceremony for the groom’s side will usually be in the afternoon, it should be conducted after the couple were married and it’s a formal way to introduce the bride to the family.
After the couple serves tea to their parents, the parents respond by presenting the new couple with red envelopes containing money and sometimes even gold jewellery, and expressing their love and best wishes
4. If people want to take tea the Chinese way, what do you recommend they do and what teas should they start with?
The traditional way of making tea in China is Gong Fu Cha, but we also make tea in a mug or teapot just like people do in the UK.
No matter which way you do it, my advice is to stop taking milk and sugar with your tea and get rid of the flavoured tea and tea bags. I am not saying that it’s wrong to do that, it is just because teas from East Asia are designed to be drunk straight, and a good quality, single origin tea is supposed to show the character of the terrain it is from and skill of processing.
You can start with any teas that you would like to drink. If you like a light flavour, go for a green or white tea, if you like something is strong or robust, then try some oolong tea or Puer tea.
5. What is your favourite savoury tea pairing and why?
Normally, I like to drink Puer tea or Wu Yi Rock Oolong Tea while I am having Dim Sum. The strong and distinctive earthiness of Puer tea and the fragrant sweetness of Wu Yi Rock Tea can overcome the taste of the food, but also, they are the perfect antidote for the oil found in fried dim sum dishes.
6. How can the Chinese Tea Company work with hotels to create an unrivaled tea taking experience for their guests?
We provide high quality, authentic and unique teas that will inspire their staff and delight their customers. We travel to China every year and source every single one of our teas directly from artisan farms and tea gardens in 10 regions across China.
The teas we choose are slow grown, hand-picked and processed in the traditional way. We also provide full training to hotel/restaurant staff with and provide them with essential tea knowledge and the proper way of brewing and serving.