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Chinese tea sets are one of the iconic wares that put China on the global map. They come in different shades, designs and for different purposes. In China, every set of ware has a distinctive purpose. Depending on the aging and origin, the sets can either be categorized into modern, traditional, vintage and classical. There are sets to use during the birth, aging, wedding and the popular tea ceremony. 

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The History of Tea in China

In China, tea is not just an energy powerhouse. It forms a cornerstone of the overall Chinese cultural heritage. The roles of tea in China is usually brought to the limelight by Cha Dao, a type of ceremony done purposefully to celebrate tea. 

The history of tea in China dates back to ancient times. Almost 5000 years ago Chinese had incorporated tea into their general lives. It is rumoured that, in 2737 B.C., a wild tea leaf blew into emperor Sheng Nung’s pot of boiling water, leading to the great discovery.

According to the legends, Emperor Shennong was such a great leader who was bestowed with an outstanding level of wisdom. He was one of the renowned scientists of his time. According to the narrative, the Emperor was on a journey accompanied by his servants to one of the courts. Along the journey, they grew tired and decided to take some rest.  Just as was the routine, the servants were to boil some water for refreshments. During the process, a wild leaf fallen into the boiling water, hence leading to a brown infusion. 

To their surprise, the Emperor demanded to take a sip of the brown infusion. Later, he found out that the infused drink was more refreshing than the boiled water. Additionally, it had a unique fragrance and taste. In the end, the Emperor went ahead to sensitize people on the use of the infusion, mainly for medicinal purposes. 

However, no one knows whether the story is true or not. Otherwise, the use of tea in China had a rapid growth between the 4th and 8th century. Tea plantations became common and the infusion regained some additional use other than the medicinal ones. Many people inculcated steepened tea in their daily routine for refreshments and pleasure. Tea plantations became a value for wealth while tea leaves were perceived as treasures that demanded careful handling to avoid contamination. 

Until the 17th century, the Chinese consumed green tea. However, courtesy of the foreign trade, they later devised a method of fermenting the leaves to form a black tea. The tea could now be stored, packed and transported to foreign countries without burying its flavour and aroma. 

 

Chinese tea culture 

Tea has remained an integral part of Chinese culture. Worldwide, China falls in the bracket of a top tea producer, developer and promoter. Its unique custom of tea drinking is unmatched to even the European tea culture. 

Due to factors such as civilization, many changes have been integrated into the Chinese tea culture down the line. These range from the method of preparation, storage, consumption and even the scope of tea's functionalities. Courtesy of technological advances, the Chinese market is now flooded with hundreds of brands of tea that are very different from the traditional best ten leaves.

According to the Chinese tea culture, tea is prepared under circumstances such as:

1. Asking for forgiveness

Tea is linked to servanthood, submissiveness or meekness. It is a special drink with special purposes as far as the Chinese moral values are concerned. One of the best ways to apologize formally is through serving the person you offended a cup of tea. This is so common among the children, wives and even men.

2. To show respect

The Chinese values, norms and traditions are strong. Even with modern civilization, their culture has remained unshakable for years. One of the norms that are so evident in respect to elders. It is the moral obligation of the younger person to serve any older person a cup of tea. During the traditional holidays, the younger citizens would invite their elders to various restaurants for cups of tea. 

3. As a form of gratitude

To a Chinese, a cup of tea means  love and gratitude for whatever good done. Traditionally, the groom and the bride could kneel and serve both the families cups of tea as appreciation. Finally, both the two families would sit down and share a cup of tea to signify peace, love, prosperity and unity between the new family and the other two families. 

4. In business meetings

In China, any business meeting commences with a cup of tea. It is believed to be a bigger milestone in achieving business goals and objectives. As a result, the brewing vessels are found almost everywhere since the venues of these meetings alternate from restaurants, temples, to as odd as under a tree. For large scale brewing, there are various tee houses with adequate boardrooms space to accommodate large board members. 

5. The cha ceremony

The hallmark of the Chinese tea culture is brought to life through the cha ceremony today, the civilized traditional Chinese wedding ceremony. Other than respect and gratitude, the tea in the Cha ceremony signifies fertility, purity and stability. Purity here is a symbol of nobility. Stability symbolizes faithfulness. Finally, fertility means an abundance of children. 

During the Cha ceremony, there are etiquettes to be followed during the serving, receipt, drinking and the return of the tea plus the tea sets. It benefits both the parties a bunch to organize themselves in order, stand in their appropriate positions and adopt better ways of communication. Otherwise, only specified wedding tea sets and accessories are permitted for the ceremony. 

 

Common Tea Sets in China

Chinese tea sets are categorized based on their materiality, functionality and shade. Generally, seven common tea sets are popular in both China and the rest of the world. They consist of varying collections made with different types of materials. 

1. The pottery tea sets

This is the most popular category of tea sets among Chinese residents. The vessels are made exclusively from the clay soil that is naturally occurring in the southern part of Jiangsu Province. Also known as Yixing tea sets, these vessels are the most efficient when it comes to tea brewing. They offer ideal performance when it comes to absorbing and maintaining the fragrance of a specific tea. The Purple Clay sets are the most favoured when it comes to pottery tea sets. 

2. Glass tea sets

For adept brewers, glass tea sets are the best option ever. They feature several advantages when it comes to blooming, steepening and reheating your drink. One of the outstanding glass tea sets' quality is its transparency. With glass, you can see and regulate the process of brewing without shedding much sweat. Otherwise, glasses are relatively inexpensive, easy to wash, easy to shape and have good value for money under proper care and maintenance.  

3. Metallic tea sets

Metallic tea sets are not only durable but also offer cutting-edge performance when it comes to brewing and storage of the tea. Most of the Chinese metallic tea sets are made with cast iron or stainless steel. They feature different sizes, shapes and beautiful designs. 

However, metallic tea sets come with a wide range of downsides. One, they are better conductors of heat and poor insulators. Therefore, they are not the appropriate option for tea storage. Secondly, they release toxic metallic parts during the brewing process. The Fe2+ irons lead to cancerous cells when absorbed into the body. 

4. Bamboo Tea Sets

The bamboo tea ware was popular during the Qin dynasty. Contemporarily, they are still being used in various parts of China. These tea sets are not only expensive. They also have stupendous aesthetic appearance and designs. Since these wooden vessels are made exclusively with wooden bamboos, they are environmentally friendly, healthy and practical. Wooden bamboo tea sets are the best options when looking for better storage vessels while at the same time cutting the cash corners. They have only one downside—catching flames when placed on a stovetop. 

5. Enamel tea sets

Premium enamel is one of the best materials when it comes to designing tea sets. It combines different contemporary, traditional and vintage designs to come up with a perfect gift. Chinese are not left behind in this evolution. High-grade Chinese enamel tea sets are fine-sanded, ergonomically shaped with comfortable handles and peak level of durability. 

Unlike the pottery tea sets, these vessels are hard to stain, scratch and chemical resistant and features smooth surfaces that are easy to wash. They were first introduced in China during the Yuan Dynasty. 

6. Porcelain tea sets

Apart from pottery tea sets, China is also known for unrivalled production of porcelain wares. Porcelain has a long strand of the historical record in China. They are categorized based on the place of origin. Generally, Chinese porcelain tea sets come in five types; celadon, white, black, painted porcelain and rice-patterned sets. The integration of arts in their design is the main reason why porcelain wares rival the pottery sets closely. 

7. Lacquer tea sets

The last in the list is the lacquer tea sets. In China, lacquers were commonly used as finishers in different kitchen wares. However, as time passed by, the integration of technology made this product key material in designing the tea sets. Just like the glass tea sets, lacquers are resistant to high temperatures, acid and water corrosion. Different Chinese wares come with artistic, hand-painted designs that define the Chinese tea culture. 

 

Conclusion

The life of any Chinese revolves around tea sets. These wares are found in almost every place. To preserve the Chinese culture, the artistry in tea sets are passed from one generation to the other through formal training. Otherwise, you are free to order for your favourite design through online platforms such TopicTea.

Start your day right with a cup of tea