May 2018

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If you are not slurping your tea, you are doing it wrong. The UWI St. Augustine’s Confucius Institute hosted a series of workshops in February as part of their Chinese New Year and Spring Festival celebrations.

One was a Tea Appreciation workshop where Instructor Han Lipeng taught a packed room the history of tea or chá, as it is known in mandarin, and the art of drinking tea at home. Here’s what you need to know:

Step 1: Sterilize and warm your tea cup by dipping it in a bowl of water with a wooden stick.

Step 2: Add loose tea or cháyè into your fairness cup or gong dao bei (A clay teapot or pitcher meant to be shared with everyone fairly).

Step 3: Pour hot soft water (definitely not tap water) over the loose tea in the fairness cup and then pour the water out – this is to let the tea leaves open up to give it a full-bodied aroma.

Step 4: Pour the hot water into your fairness cup again and let it brew. The length of time will depend on the type of tea. Green tea for example, requires a very short brewing time of 30 seconds or else it gets bitter.

Step 5: Pour the tea for your guests in a small fragrance cup also known as a tea sniffer. Place the small teacup over the tea sniffer and flip it over.

Step 6: Sniffing is not just for wine; tea has a fragrance too! Take the tea sniffer out of the teacup and pass it around to your guests. Let them enjoy the fragrant, complex tea aroma. Trust me, you do not want to skip this multi-sensory experience.

Step 7: Pour sieved tea into tea cups for your guests. Remember not to fill to the brim to avoid scalding and other tea-related injuries. Now it’s time for pǐn chá or tea tasting – again like wine, you want the tea to cover all of your tongue to taste every aspect of it so make sure to slurp. No, it’s not rude at all. Slurp. Slurp. Slurp and savour!

(Jeanette G. Awai)