As a tea drinker I have to say I am a fan of tea blends. You know, those crazy teas that mix like, 2 different kinds of mint, with chai and black tea and some sort of flower petal and maybe some chocolate flakes. I like those, and I thought I would really be able to get some crazy variety here in China. But Chinese people seem to be tea purists and like their tea green, black, white or flowered. There are a couple of strange blends (with names like “8 treasures”) but mostly it is just normal tea.
Where China excels in variety is in the tea sets. You can drink tea from dozens of different cups, glasses and vials, not to mention the many tea pot shapes and sizes. While we generally live a minimal lifestyle, with two plates, 2 chopsticks and no forks, we do have a huge amount if tea sets. It’s not much of a secret that we like tea, so when a birthday rolls around we often get a couple different sets or cups.
Here are some of the ones we own.
How awesome is a Hello Kitty tea set? (It’s a rhetorical question, but the only correct answer is “hella awesome!!”) I actually use this one all the time cause it’s a perfect size for one person who likes to drink tea over a long period of time. The cups are small so you can drink one quickly, and the tea stays warm in the tea pot for a longer time. And I’m not like some strange Hello Kitty freak, but this sitting next to me on the desk as I write?! Totally awesome.
I got Hello KitTea (my new name for it) for my birthday from some of my students. The only problem is that they didn’t write their name on the package so I have no idea who it is from, so I can’t thank them.
This looks more like a play set than a tea set, but it is for veryÂ sophisticated tea tastings. Inside the Â longer tube thing is a piece of mesh. So you put the tea leaves inside, add water, and let it steep. Then you can pout it into the little glasses and the mesh holds the tea leaves back. The tiny cups means it’s not for a warm-you-up-in-winter drink, but you are suppose to just taste the tea. There is even a special way to drink from these tiny glasses. You are supposed to hold it in your fingertips and girls and boys have different ways of holding their fingers. For boys, the hands are suppose to represent a dragon (which represents theÂ emperor) while girls do something different which represents a phoenix (which represents the empress). I was taught the handÂ gesturesÂ but I forget them now, sorry.
As you can see, this set is very delicate and the cups are very thin. That’s why you hold it with your fingertips and drink it quickly so you don’t get burned.
These beautiful cups were given to me by the boy I tutor. He’s 16, and well, a pretty typical boy obsessed with things like basketball, so I don’t think he actually picked these out for me (I think he had help from his mom). But they are really beautiful, and look quite nice. I’m not sure what material they are made out of, but there is a booklet that came with the book that explains the process of making these cups and it is quite a fancy thing. In fact, these cups are so beautiful that I’m almost afraid to use them because I don’t want to break them they are so nice!
We originally bought this set for a friend’s wedding. Some students helped Ryan buy it at a local tea shop, and as he bought it he kept talking about how nice it was and how we should buy one for ourselves. But we just didn’t get around to it. So at Ryan’s surprise birthday party when two of the students walked in carrying a big box, I knew exactly what it was. (They were the same two students who helped him buy it for the wedding.)
This tea set is amazing. The round dish sits on top of a shallow bowl. You add tea leaves and hot water to the tea pot and let it sit for a short time. They you pour the whole thing out into the shallow bowl. The first brew is too bitter and shouldn’t be drunk (depending on the tea of course, mostly with green tea) so you refill the pot with hot water and then drink from that.
The cups are also special cups. They sort ofÂ bulgeÂ out around the middle, which makes a really nice grip for your hand. (It fits snugly in your palm.) The best part is it is also insulated. The inside of the cup is about half the size of the outside. That’s because it is two layers. There is a pocket of air between the inner and outer cup which keeps your hand from scalding. Some thin tea cups with no handles are impossible too hold with hot tea in it because the cup gets so hot. But in this set the outer cup Â stays nice and cool, so it’s no problem to hold.
This tea set comes in a huge box and I worry how we are going to bring it home one day, but until then I’ll just enjoy it.
What about you? Do you have a favorite tea set or unusual one (or do you just drink from some stained, ratty, coffee mug)? Tell me about it in the comments?