Sep 5, 2017
In this article, I would like to write about my learning experience with Chinese tea. In Japan, green tea is the most popular type of tea to drink. The prefecture that produces the largest amount of green tea in Japan is Shizuoka, which is well known by all Japanese people for its high quality produce. Matcha, which is another type of green tea, is very well known all around the world. I see many matcha dessert cafes opening in Suzhou at the moment.
One of my childhood memories is paying a visit to my family’s tea fields with my grandfather, who owned and looked after them. He used to pick up the leaves and bring them to the factory in the early summer. Unfortunately, I don’t remember drinking the green tea my grandfather grew, but since I was a child, this type of tea has been familiar to me.
Moving to China gave me a great opportunity to learn about Chinese tea. I have visited a few traditional Chinese tea houses (茶馆/cha guan) in Suzhou to enjoy the taste of great tea, which makes me relaxed. I love the atmosphere in Chinese teahouses, especially people casually chatting over the table and eating some snacks, such as various types of seeds, nuts, dried fruits and so on. It is a very social place to be. I didn’t know much about Chinese tea before I studied it, so there were limited teas that I could recognize and order in the teahouse. It made me wish that I could learn more.
Fortunately, one of my Japanese friends found a Chinese tea teacher who can teach in Japanese. She asked me if I wanted to attend lessons with her. As I had an interest in this subject, I decided to attend. The teacher demonstrated how to brew and pour the tea on the first day. The performance was very beautiful and relaxing, and I would have been happy to watch it for hours and hours. That first lesson made me even more interested in tea.
Every lesson, we try many types of tea, to taste and know the difference between them. I have now learned that there are seven main types of tea, which are green tea, oolong tea, black tea, red tea, yellow tea, white tea and flower tea. The teacher told us about the difference in the way they make the leaves into teas for each type, as well as how to brew and pour. Additionally, I learned that there are many areas in China that grow tea trees. Depending on the climate, environment and the elevation of land above sea level, each area has a specialty of tea with different flavors. For example, the Jiangnan (江南) area, where Suzhou is located, is famous for producing green tea, such as Biluochun (碧螺春) and Longjing (龙井).
Learning about Chinese tea has been a wonderful opportunity for me to experience traditional Chinese culture first hand. If this sounds like it is of interest to you then I would recommend visiting some of Suzhou’s teahouses to learn more. There are a number of teahouses on Pingjiang Lu (平江路) in the old town that are definitely worth a visit.
About the Column
Kaori is from Fukuoka, Japan and she moved to Suzhou with her British husband in 2010. She gave birth to a baby girl in Shanghai in 2014 and is currently a full-time mother, but previously studied Chinese at Suzhou University. Kaori enjoys going for walks, going out for meals, shopping on Taobao and visiting new places in China. Places she has particularly enjoyed visiting include Harbin, Beijing, Qingdao, Hangzhou, Moganshan, Guilin and Yangshuo. She also loves to explore different areas of Suzhou, both old and new.