Exploring Chinese Teas and Tea Wares

For centuries tea has been held in high esteem in Chinese culture. In ancient times, tea was first used as medicine. It became a popular beverage during the Tang dynasty (618–907) when Lu Yu wrote the first known book on tea, The Classic of Tea. Over time, through the practices of generations of scholars and Buddhist monks, the culture surrounding tea evolved into a complex art form. This video features Hollie Wong, the owner of Ching Ching CHA Tea House in Washington, DC. In the video, she first introduces Gongfu (which literally means “skill” or “effort”) tea, an elaborate ceremony that involves delicate skills and a wide variety of tea wares to prepare a cup of good tea. She then discusses how to select tea wares for different types of tea to bring out the best of its flavor. At the end of the video, she touches on how you can easily create your own pot of tea in an innovative way at home. This video was created by Freer and Sackler, the Smithsonian's National Museum of Asian Art, as part of the project Teaching China with the Smithsonian.

Questions for Discussion

  • Look at this painting depicting the tea-sipping scene in ancient China. Try out the zoom feature and notice as many details as you can in the portable shelves filled with tea wares. How do the tea wares in the painting compare to the tea wares you saw in the video?
  • Dozens of tea wares in different forms are used in the Gongfu tea ceremony. Research these tea wares and look up additional examples of the Gongfu tea ceremony online. How are the wares designed to be functional to make a good cup of tea?
  • If you are going to create your own pot of tea (or tisane, a fruit or herbal infusion) at home, what are the ingredients you will use? Why? Are there any health benefits to the ingredients you pick?