Posted in Kafevend Blog

New Year festivities may seem like a dim and distant memory already, but the Chinese New Year doesn't even begin until tomorrow. February 19th marks the start of the year of the goat, or perhaps the year of the sheep; it depends on who you ask. Perhaps you've noticed that the Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year and wondered why. This is because the Chinese calendar is  lunisolar. Chinese lunar months always begin on the darkest day, i.e. the new moon, and the new year always falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice. Celebrations culminate with the Lantern Festival which occurs with the full moon on March 5th.

Here at the Kafevend blog we decided that it might be an auspicious moment to create a round up of some interesting facts about Chinese tea:

  • We don't often hear people talk about drinking a cup of char these days, but this old expression for tea derives from the Chinese for tea – tcha or chá.
  • Legend has it that tea was first discovered by a Chinese Emperor called Shennong almost five thousand years ago. As he sat boiling some water to drink, the leaf of a tea plant blew in. The emperor liked both the taste and the restorative effect and thus was born tea.
  • Pu'erh tea is a fermented tea from Yunnan province. The fermentation takes place over a period of at least a few months and sometimes the flavour is left to develop for several years, rather like a fine wine. It's often compressed into tea bricks for ease of storage. Tea bricks were initially used as a method of preserving tea for long export journeys.
  • From the province of Zhejiang comes what we refer to as gunpowder tea, though it's called zhu cha there, meaning pearl tea.
  • The highest quality white tea of all is cultivated in the mountainous region of Fujian province. Known in the West as silver needle tea, the buds alone are carefully harvested by hand and these are covered in downy white hairs, which is where the silver needle name comes from.
  • A popular tea drink in Hong Kong is Yuanyang, a milk tea blended with coffee which is served both hot and cold.
  • The delicate art of porcelain making originated in China, hence the tendency to refer to it as china, or fine china. Chinese craftsmen started making blue and white oriental themed porcelain, such as willow pattern, for the export market during the fifteenth century, a practice that continued through to the eighteenth century when British companies such as Wedgwood began mass producing pottery of their own.
  • The scene depicted on willow pattern china concerns a tragic love story which revolves around a mandarin, his daughter, his secretary and a noble warrior duke. No prizes for guessing that the mandarin intends his daughter to marry the noble warrior duke, but instead she falls for his secretary. The tale has many twists and turns but ultimately ends in the deaths of the two young lovers, who are immortalised by the gods as the two doves at the top of the design.
  • Tea is used in traditional Chinese medicine, particularly green teas and pu-erhs. In fact, it was used medicinally before it became a staple of everyday life.
  • As you might expect, tea has a part to play in the New Year celebrations. It's offered to the older generation by the younger one, as a mark of respect. There's usually some candied fruit at the bottom of the cup as a symbol of luck and prosperity. So may we encourage you to get yourself a cup of tea now you've finished reading and we wish you good luck and good fortune in the year ahead!

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