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Chinese tea drinking is art form focused on taste


November 12, 1999
Web posted at: 10:46 a.m. EST (1546 GMT)

From CNN International Correspondent May Lee

HONG KONG (CNN) -- From the lighter taste of non-fermented green tea to the bolder fully fermented black tea, the varieties of one of the world's oldest and most popular beverages number in the hundreds.

China alone produces more than 500 types of tea. The Fook Ming Tong Tea Shop in Hong Kong boasts several varieties of Chinese tea as well as handmade tea pots and cups to satisfy even the fussiest of connoisseurs.

When Fook Ming Tong opened its first shop 12 years ago, it set out to take Chinese teas to a new level of sophistication and appreciation.

"I want to improve tea as a beverage, as an international beverage. Tea is very traditional drink in China and in a lot of countries in Europe and the Western world as well. But yet no one has upgraded the Chinese tea to a really international standard," said shop owner Thomas Lee.

To the Chinese, tea making and drinking is an art form focused on taste.

Tea master Wong Sun Chun has been studying the art of tea making and drinking for more than 30 years. He says the Chinese tea ceremony is very different from the Japanese style.

  • Food for thought: Tea
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    "In Japan, it is not an art form, but more like a culture," he says. "It is more important for them to focus on how to drink tea. All the steps you have to follow are very rigid. But Chinese tea is more like an art form. It's the taste that is more important to use so it's a lot more basic and less complicated."

    VideoCNN's May Lee looks at the art of making tea
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    Chinese tea making may not be as complicated as the Japanese tea ceremony, but there are still some important steps to remember when brewing Chinese tea.

    Making the perfect cup of Chinese tea begins with cleansing the tea pot and the small cups which only hold about two swallows. The pot is usually made of red sand clay.

    Tea leaves are then placed in the pot and hot spring water from a glass kettle is poured into the pot until the water overflows. The water is then quickly drained. This process helps to enhance the flavor of the tea.

    More water is poured into the pot and the tea steeps for less than a minute before it is poured evenly into each cup. Then it is ready to drink.

    "There are three common mistakes people tend to make," said Wong Sun Chun. "One is the among of tea used, it's either too much or too little. Second is the temperature of the water, different leaves may require different temperatures -- so sometimes it can be really hot or just warm. And third, would be the time the tea steeps. Sometimes it is too much and will be bitter and if it's not enough, then you can't get the real aroma or flavor of the tea."

    Keeping these simple steps in mind will enhance your Chinese "tea art" experience.

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    Chinese Tea Ceremony
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