Tea, as China’s national drink, is an indispensable part of the life of a Chinese. Chinese people believe that tea has many magical functions. Wherever Chinese go, the custom of drinking tea follows.
Tea was originally produced in China about 4,000 years ago. Liu Zhenliang, a tea master of the late Tang Dynasty, once put forward the theory of “ten virtues” of tea: tea is tasty; tea can maintain health; tea can drive away stinking odors; tea can prevent the attack of diseases; tea can cultivate energy in the human body; tea can relieve depression; tea can improve manners; tea can convey respect; tea can soothe the mind; and tea can uphold justice. This was not only the personal view of Liu Zhenliang, but also ideas shared by a majority of the Chinese people.
To tea drinkers, the first and foremost pleasure derived from drinking tea is “cleansing”. Tea prefers to grow in clean places. The cleaner a place is, the better quality of the tea it nurtures. Fine teas usually grow on high mountains, enveloped in clouds and mists and in a clear atmosphere. In such an environment, transparent new tea leaves grow and are picked with the dew still clinging to them, hence the tea leaves carry the refreshing air of nature. A cup of fine tea is crystal clear and refreshingly fragrant so that it can help the body become cleansed and balanced.
The second important facet is that of “seeking pleasure”. Chinese people are fond of tea because it can not only naturally relieve a person of thirst, but also help satisfy their spiritual needs. The bustling world, full of confusion and argument, weariness and exhaustion, damages the mind and body of human beings. A cup of refreshing tea can parry the sound and fury of the secular world at arm’s length. In the process of sipping tea, the mind may become as calm as a lake on a windless deep night when the moon shines brightly illuminating the world. A cup of tea may open up a new and boundless world.
The third important feature is that of “paying respect”. The Chinese people have long fostered the custom of expressing respect by presenting a cup of tea. They treat guests with tea as a sign of respect, regardless of whether they are thirsty or not. In some places in China, there is the custom of presenting tea three times to the guests, as a sign of welcome, then of hospitality, and finally for good wishes.
Fourthly, Chinese believe that frequent tea drinkers enjoy an increased life span. Tea was originally used by the ancient Chinese for medical purposes. At that time, tea leaves were eaten, and later it was developed into the popular drink we now know as tea. According to traditional Chinese medicine, drinking tea can cure a variety of diseases, because the slightly bitter and astringent tea contains elements salutary for the body, such as vitamins and rich mineral substance. This has been proven by modern medicine.