While in western culture tea is not of major importance to many people, tea plays an important role in Chinese culture. Accounts of tea consumption go as far back as 5,000 years in the history of China. The Brock Mandarin Club, in conjunction with the Confucius Institute, partnered with MING Tea to shed light on the intricacies of Chinese tea culture through a tea gathering.
The gathering, held on November 1 in the International Centre, was facilitated by Edward Qu, founder of MING Tea and certified Chinese Tea Sommelier, and Jennifer Linton, a MING Tea Sommelier.
It might seem deceptively arbitrary to focus on tea out of all aspects of the culture but tea is a big part of almost every aspect of the Chinese way of life.
“Tea as a thing in Chinese history is bigger than anything, I would say. It’s like the foundation of all the culture,” said Qu.
In China to this day many important decisions and meetings are held over the serving of tea. Both Qu and Linton highlighted that tea gatherings are done in a very ceremonial way because the serving and sharing of tea carries such significance and meaning. The serving of tea is a means by which respect, friendship and unity are shared between all guests and a connection is established between human beings and nature.
Chinese tea can be classified in many ways based on numerous criteria, most notably by their processing methods (such as steaming before drying or fermenting). All teas come from the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant but with the variety of techniques and ways to harvest and prepare the leaves for consumption, there are hundreds of different teas available. Qu and Linton spent the evening brewing, sharing and appreciating three types of tea: green tea, black tea (called red tea in Chinese culture) and pu’er (fermented) tea. Each of the teas, while coming from the same plant, had virtually nothing in common and all provided a vastly different aroma, experience and atmosphere with each individual noticing something slightly different about each tea. For many attendees to the gathering, appreciating each tea was a novel experience, different from the usual atmosphere when having tea in a typical Canadian setting.
Any student interested in Chinese culture can experience a part of it by simply participating in a true Chinese tea ceremony.
“You can spend years just researching and trying the different varieties of tea. It is a more fun and interesting world than you would think,” said Linton. “Understanding Chinese tea is a fundamental part of understanding Chinese culture on a whole”
The Brock Mandarin Club alongside the Confucius Institute has a number of upcoming Chinese cultural initiatives for the month of November. Students are encouraged to come out and participate in the activities while learning more about Chinese culture as many of the workshops are free of charge.
Interested students who missed last week’s tea gathering are invited to take part in a second tea gathering that will occur on November 12 from 6:00 p.m. — 7:30 p.m. in room 207 of the International Centre.