Tea Pouring – A Sign of Respect

In contemporary China tea drinking is still an integral part of daily life. Tea is not only consumed on casual and formal occasions, it is also a large part of Chinese Traditional Medicine and Chinese cuisine as well. From quick get-togethers to weddings to business meetings, tea and its preparation often provides the structure for the occasion.

Tea pouring, as in the past, is a sign of respect. Children will pour for their parents while bosses will be served by their subordinates. On Sundays and holidays, restaurants and teahouses are quite busy as most adult children will take their elders out for tea. These events are particularly important family gatherings where grandchildren will learn about family values and the way in which tea is used to acknowledge honor and respect. Tea pouring is also considered to be a way of apologizing to another for a transgression – often young children will pour for their parents after a minor disagreement, as will friends and siblings.

Gratitude is also expressed by serving tea to parents and family members at weddings for providing the celebration and is an important element of the event. Through the wedding tea ceremony both families have the opportunity to officially meet, if they have not done so before. Accepting the tea is a means of accepting the union. Refusing the tea is a definite sign of disapproval!

Several unusual traditions remain including the folding of the napkin after tea to remove any negative energy, and the tapping of fingers on the table as a nonverbal “thank you” for pouring one’s tea. Since tea is regarded as one of the seven daily necessities in life (the others being firewood, rice, oil, salt, soy sauce, and vinegar) there are numerous opportunities to use tea preparation and service as a means of expressing one’s feelings and thoughts towards another in a quiet and dignified fashion.