Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tea Liquor - Cocktail

The tea liquor is the perfect combination of tea and liquor. The drinker only needs to prepare several simple materials and make the tea liquor himself according to his own taste and needs. Here is the way how to make the “Oriental tea liquor”.

 green tea (such as the Yellow Mountain Fuzz Tip, Longjing tea and Xinyang Maojian tea)
pineapple pieces

  •  select and use moderate amount of materials according to the number of drinkers and their drinking habits
  •  wash clean the raisins and put them into the wine glass together with the pineapple pieces and the brandy 
  •   then pour in the prepared tea
  • when the temperature of the water drops to around 30℃
  • stir the honey into the cup until well-combined
  •  It is all up to you whether to add in the fennel and ice blocks according to your own tastes and habits of drinking.
With low alcohol contents, the tea liquor is rich in tea polyphenol, theine and vitamin C, which are able to invigorate the spleen, refresh one and quench one's thirst.

By Explore Cultural China

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tea sets in China

Chinese tea culture has a long history and rich contents. And tea sets are considered as one of the inseparable parts of the tea culture.
In terms of the material, tea sets can be divided into such types as metal, porcelain, purple sand, lacquer, wood and bamboo etc. The gilded tea set possessed by Emperor Xizong of the Tang Dynasty unearthed from the Famen Temple in Shaanxi Province is a rare treasure of metal tea sets. 
Purple sand sets are believed to be most suitable for tea brewing. The purple sand tea sets produced in Yixing have proved the favorite among tea drinkers. The Yixing tea sets are characterized by their diverse styles, different forms and high cultural taste. These features made the tea sets stand out among all others in the world in ancient times. 
Later generations summarized the top three features of the tea sets as “retaining flavor in brewing, keeping color in storing and maintaining taste in hot summer”.
A good tea set makes good collector’s item, because it embodies the beauty of ancient Chinese sculptures, paintings and colors. 
At the same time, it’s an ideal carrier of culture. 
Tea drinking is a leisurely lifestyle and mindset. It’s great fun to get together, drinking tea and appreciating tea sets. The special interest ancient people had in tea sets reflected their pursuit of casual and quality life.

By Explore Cultural China

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Tea sets and the Rituals of the Qing Dynasty

China is the hometown of tea. As a result, Chinese tea sets have been renowned for exquisite craft and beautiful design throughout history. However, the most famous and delicate tea sets were produced in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), especially during Emperor Kangxi and Emperor Qianlong’s reigns (1661-1796).

Artistic Tea Sets
Tea sets, which have existed almost as long as tea has, include everything necessary to make tea, not simply the teapot and teacup. This means a teapot, teacup, tea tray, tea pitcher, tea bowl, and other utensils.
Generally speaking, Qing Dynasty tea sets were made of porcelain or pottery and produced in a place called Jingdezhen. Artists and workmen preferred blue-and-white patterns painted with landscapes, figures, plants as well as traditional pines and cranes.
Since the Qing Dynasty, Fujian bodiless-lacquer tea sets, Sichuan bamboo tea sets, and Hainan shell tea sets also emerged and became popular.
In the period of Emperor Kangxi (1661-1772), Chen Mingyuan, a famous pottery workman, created prune teapots and pumpkin teapots, which became famous for their creative combinations of shapes and functionality. Later, dark-red enameled teapots emerged and also became popular. In the palace of the Qing Dynasty, there were many dark-red enameled teapots, often painted with bamboos and flowers. The Qing imperial family apparently collected over 30 kinds of different tea annually. Except for tea given to ministers as an award, it was generally kept in special warehouses. Many tea sets were also preserved in some imperial living places.
There are also tea-drinking rituals. In some big and serious ceremonies, such as the sacrifices, weddings, funerals, birthday-celebrations, tea-making and drinking played a central role. Taking the birthday-celebration as an example, there are three procedures in the whole tea-drinking process. People not only washed hands and cleaned mouths before drinking the tea, but also composed poems after drinking based on the features of the tea to express their feelings.
By Explore Cultural China

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Grandma's Tea - Apo Cha

Grandma's Tea (Apo Tea) is a kind of folk custom handed down from the ancient time in the water country of Shangta Town in the west of the Dianshan Lake of Shanghai's suburb Qingpu. The farmers especially the old women in rural area like visiting each other and sitting around tables in the halls or sheds of the farmers, with salted amaranth, dried turnip, jiusu bean and other local and special products. They chew the rag while drinking the tea, they talk about strange stories and family affairs. Though they are busy in talking, they do not stop doing the needlework. This ethical vogue of receiving others with tea, which can promote the exchange of thoughts and affection and the harmonious friendship, has become a custom in Shangta town as the time passes.

By Explore Cultural China

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony

At traditional Chinese weddings, Tea Ceremony is an equivalent of exchange of vows at a western wedding ceremony.  This official ritual is still widely practiced at modern Chinese weddings on the wedding day, either at home or at the reception.
When the bride leaves her home with the groom to his house, a "Good Luck Woman"  will hold a red umbrella over her head, meaning "raise the bark, spread the leaves." This "good luck woman" should be someone who is blessed with a good marriage, healthy children and husband and living parents.  Other relatives will scatter rice, red bean and green bean in front of her. The red umbrella protects the bride from evil spirit, and the rice and beans are to attract the attention of the gold chicken.

Traditional herbs and dried fruits with well meanings are selected for the sweet tea, which symbolizes a warm and sweet beginning of a new life.

Newlyweds kneel in front of parents presenting tea.  A Good Luck Woman making the tea says auspicious phrases to bless the family.

Newlyweds also present tea to each other, raising the tea cups high to show respect before presenting to each other.

Those who receive the tea usually give the bride gifts such as jewelry or Li Shi money wrapped in red envelope. 

Tea Ceremony is an official ritual to introduce the newlyweds to each other's family, and it's a way for newlyweds to show respect and appreciation to their parents.  The newlyweds kneel in front of their parents, serving tea to both side of parents, as well as elder close relatives.  Parents give their words of blessing and gifts to the newlyweds.  During  tea presentation, a "Good Luck Woman" would say auspicious phrases to bless the newlyweds and the parents.  These auspicious words of blessing are almost a lost art nowadays, that are designed to bless and amuse the family and make the occasion filled with fun and joy.
China Bridal offers a Tea Ceremony Service Package which includes culture consultation such as coordinating sequence of event, offering auspicious words of blessing during the tea presentation. The Tea Ceremony Service Package also includes but not limited to designer tea set, freshly made tea, lavish linen, traditional music, incense, etc. 

By Explore Cultural China

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Mingqian and Yuqian Tea Leaves

Mingqian tea and Yuqian tea are the names for spring tea leaves according to the picking time in solar terms in the tea planting areas in the south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River. “Mingqian tea” refers to the tea leaves picked before the Qingming Festival and “Yuqian tea” means the tea leaves picked before Grain Rain after Qingming. Mingqian tea is generally tender and of good quality and Yuqian tea is also good in quality, but those picked after Grain Rain and before Beginning of Summer are usually tough and the quality is not so good.

By Explore Cultural China

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Appreciating Longjing Cha

1. Find some good dried tea leaves. Some criteria to look out for:
a) Smell. A good Dragon Well tea should have a strong, nutty aroma. It should not smell burnt or weak.
b) Look and feel. The tea shoots should be complete and unbroken. A tea shoot should be brittle, so that when you rub it with your fingers it turns into powders. The tea shoots are pointed and sharp. They should be smooth and glossy, not dim.
c) Color. Depend on the varieties. High grade Lion Peak Longjing is yellowish green rather green. Mei Jia Wu Longjing tea is jade green.
2. Understand the brewing process. You should be looking for:
a) Smell. Strong and nutty.
b) Taste. Savory. Reminiscent of MSG, a food taste enhancer. Long and sweet aftertaste, not grassy or bitter.
c) Look. Tea liquor should be yellowish or pale green, not brownish or dim. Tea leaves should dance and stand on ends before settling down.
3. Know what to look for after brewing is complete:
Tea leaves should be complete, unbroken. A standard pick is one bud/one leaf or one bud/two leaves, but never single buds. The smaller the bud, the better. The bud should be longer or equal in length to the adjacent leaves. The tenderer the tea shoots, the higher the grade. Should look bright rather than dim.

By Explore Cultural China

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ming Dynasty Cloisonne Cup Stand

Cup Stand
Period: Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
Date: early 15th century 
Culture: China 
Medium: Cloisonné enamel on gilt copper Dimensions: H. 4 1/4 in. (10.8 cm); Diam. 5 3/4 in. (14.6 cm)
Classification: Cloisonné Credit Line: Gift of Edward G. Kennedy, 1929 
Accession Number: 29.110.37

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Monday, February 13, 2012

The legend of the Longjing Cha

The present-day flat shape of Dragon Well Tea is said to have something to do with Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty. Legend has it that on one of his inspection tours to Hangzhou, Emperor Qianlong disguised himself as an ordinary man and came to the Hugong Temple at the foot of Shifeng Mountain near Dragon Well Village. An old monk served him some Dragon Well Tea of the West Lake. After drinking it, Emperor Qianlong instantly felt refreshed and fell in love with the sweet-smelling tea. So much so, he personally picked some tea leaves and hurriedly placed inside his pocket to bring them back to the capital city.
After the long journey, the tender tea leaves were pressed flat but still greatly praised by the empress dowager. Emperor Qianlong therefore granted the tea tree in front of the Hugong temple "imperial tea" and ordered the annual tribute of baked flat tea leaves for the exclusive enjoyment of the empress dowager. This is just a legend. The flat shape of Dragon Well tea is generally believed to be influenced by Dafang tea of neighboring Anhui area in the late Ming and early Qing Dynasty.

By Explore Cultural China

Friday, February 10, 2012

Longjing Cha of the Westlake

Xihu Longjing Tea, a famous kind of green tea in China, grows in the mountains around the Xihu Lake (West Lake) of Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, including areas like Lion Mount, Longjing Mount, the Wuyun Mountain and Hupao. Depending on the differences of producing areas’ partial ecological environments and producing technologies, Xihu Longjing Tea can be classified into three kinds, “Lion Mount Longjing”, “Meiwu Longjing” and “Xihu Longjing”, among which, the first one produced in Lion Mount is best in quality.
Xihu Longjing Tea is flat and smooth in shape, with green and yellow color and luster. When making tea, pouring boiled water of about 80 degree celsius into the cup, and then tea buds  will slowly roll up, like lotuses floating from the water. The tea liquor is dark green and smells sweet and mellow. Xihu Longjing Tea is well-known around the world due to four wonders, namely, “green color, sweet smell, mellow taste and beautiful shape”.
It is very complex to produce Xihu Longjing Tea. Elaborate techniques are adopted during plucking and processing to ensure excellent quality. Longjing is not only the name of tea, but is also the name of a temple and a spring. Since the water of the Longjing Spring, which is located at the northwest foot of Wenjia Mountain west of the West Lake, is clear and sweet, the Longjing Temple was built, and monks planted tea trees there, and then Longjing Tea came into being. The history of Xihu Longjing Tea may earliest date from the Tang Dynasty, during which period, the famous sage of tea Lu Yu wrote the Tea Classics, first book on tea in the world, in which that tea is produced in Xihu Lake of Hangzhou was recorded.
By Explore Cultural China

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Reef Knotting A Teapot

The art of knotting dates back to pre-historic times. The oldest archaeological evidence of the art is traced back to 100,000 year old needles made of bone used for sewing and bodkins that are used to untie knots. The earliest Chinese records for knots were dated back to the Warring State era - 481-421 BCE. The evidence was preserved on bronze vessels, carvings and silk hangings.
 In Asia this art is called Chinese Knotting and else where it is called Decorative Knotting. These knots are decorative and can be simple while some are rather elaborate.
Knots generally have meanings. The can mean reunion, friendliness, warmth, marriage, luck, harmony or love. They represent the endless circle of a happy life. They are used to express beauty, happiness, good wishes for life, prosperity, absence of evil, love and adornment.
The art of knotting is divided into 2 categories:
1) Hanging Knots - usually attached to a pendant or landyard - suspended from a ceiling or wall hanging.
2) Ancillary Knots - these are used as decorative purposes as part of clothing adornments - buttons, tassels, jade pendants, buckles, teapot or lid ties.

The one major rule of knotting is all knots must be tied using only one thread. They will also have a double layered and symmetrical appearance on the front and back. Every basic knot is named after their inner meaning or outer form. There are 11 basic types of knot work. The more complex ones are usually a combination or repetition of basic knots. Basic material is usually silk threads or cords but more readily available and inexpensive nylon cords are common. Colors range from red, gold, yellow, green, blue. The colors are used to symbolize just as much as the shapes of the knots contain cultural meaning.

 The knot most commonly used present day is the Reef Knot or also known as a Flat Knot or Portuguese knot. This is the most common knot used to attach the lid of a teapot to the handle. It keeps the lid from wandering too far away from the teapot - hence potentially breaking it. It can also act as a color coder for teas to the teapot. The knot can also help insulate the finger from the hot teapot making it easier to pour while maintaining a secure lid. Of course the the important element of charm and decor that never eludes the eye.
Below is a step by step method to making a Flat knot. We start with a 28.5 inches cord - color to your preference.

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