The Jakarta Post
Students perform a tea-making ceremony to welcome guests in Chaozou, China. (JP/Irawaty Wardany)
It was a cloudy Tuesday morning in Chaozhou, a region within Guangdong province in southern China.
Journalists from more than 20 news outlets in Southeast Asia and Africa were invited to experience the local culture through a tea ceremony in the country that has performed such rituals for centuries.
Unlike those who are more accustomed to modern teabags, many Chinese people still preserve the old tradition of tea ceremonies. Such ceremonies are usually performed as a sign of respect, to apologize, or at family gatherings, including weddings.
After formalities to welcome the journalists to a promotional event at the entrance of the Guangji Bridge across the ancient city wall, the group was taken to the middle to the bridge where a line of people wearing white, each standing behind a long table, had prepared tea wares, ready to welcome their guests.
The tea servers, who were mostly students from nearby Hanshan Shifan University, started to boil water while asking guests to smell the tealeaves that they had prepared.
(Read also: Story behind a bowl of frothy green tea)
When the water was ready, they first rinsed the glassware with it. Then they placed tealeaves into pots before pouring hot water over them. Instead of pouring the ready-to-be-served tea directly into cups, they poured the tea into another pot before evenly distributing it to the guests.
The ritual was accompanied by music from a traditional Chinese zither played by a local artist.
According to one of the tea servers, Malika of Kazakhstan, she and two other Kazakh students participated in the event at the request of the university.
“I just learned how to preserve tea just now,” she said, adding that she never expected tea serving would be so complex.
“Chinese people are really strict when it comes to tea serving,” she said, while talking to her friends in Kazakh when one of the teachers told her that she had made a mistake in the process.
(Read also: Achieving happiness through a cup of tea)
Journalists Zaidah binti Ahmad Rosli of Malaysia said it was her first time experiencing a Chinese tea ceremony.
“I had no idea it would be that beautiful and delicate process,” said the journalist, who has lived in Beijing for almost two years.
“All I know about tea is that it is best served when we hang out while chatting with friends,” she said. (dmr)
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