Saturday, November 20, 2010

Tea Culture in Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, if someone invite you to 'yum cha' 飲茶 (tea drinking), it does not mean drinking of tea only, but to have dim sum together with tea. However when we name this activity as 'yum cha', it indicates how important tea is in the food culture of Chinese.

Tea in a Cantonese dim sum restaurant is charged per head. Depending on the restaurant and the time you go, it may vary from HK$6 to 20 per person. There are many choices of tea. As for myself, I always ask for Pu Er. This is dark in color, very fragrant and strong in taste. It is very good to go along with food, as it will help digestion and melt off some of the fat in the food.

My Favourite Pu Er Tea 普洱
Some people like Xiang Pian as it is very fragrant,
however less strong than Pu Er.
Xiang Pian Tea 香片
When we go 'yum cha' in a big crowd, we may order many pots of tea. The restaurant usually lable the tea pots so that we can easily identify our own favourite tea. Need to re-fill? Easy. Lift the lid as a signal and the waiter will come.

Lift the lid - Waiter will come add water for you
Chiu Chau Tea Culture
If you happen to go to a Chiu Chau restaurant, they may serve 'Kung Fu Tea' 功夫茶 without extra charge. However if you go during the economic hours like early morning or afternoon, they may not give you this little bonus. 'Kung Fu Tea' is just a nick name and it is actually Shui Xian 水仙 or Tie Guan Yin 鐵觀音 by tea type.

Chiu Chau restaurants usually serve it before and after meal in addition to the tea you order. They are finely prepared and Chiu Chau people usually treat their important guests with it.
'Kung Fu Tea' - Shui Xian 水仙
Strange Tea Culture in Hong Kong
Almost all dim sum restaurants, including some medium to high end restaurants will serve you a big bowl and an extra pot of hot water for you to clean the utensils.

Isn't it funny or strange? But it happens as a custom. Restaurants won't treat this as a shame. I don't think I need to clean the cups and chopsticks myself, but as I'm being served that way, I just follow the rule of game. When did this custom start? I can't recall. Guests demanding for extra hygiene or restaurants offering extra service? Probably it's a matter of whether a hen or an egg exist first. Anyway, don't be shocked in a Hong Kong Chinese restaurant seeing guests doing their own cleaning work.

Doing our own cleaning work

PS: I notice this 'cleaning' custom also happen in other areas of China, especially in restaurants serving visitors from Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Food Blog - Tea Culture in Hong Kong


Celina Huang said...

Very interesting about the "cleaning your own utensil ritual".

Actually it´s like the ritual in Taiwanese Gong (kung) Fu Cha. I don´t know how similar is it with Hongkong´s, because details do varies with which chinese group.

The "cleaning your own utensil" for meal, is that before or after the meal?
Your topic is really very interesting.

Anna said...

Hi Cecilia

I don't know Taiwan also has this 'cleaning' ritual. In Hong Kong, it is before the meal. Probably people thought that the cups and chopsticks are not well cleaned and that they feel more comfortable cleaning them before using. I notice some people do clean them very SERIOUSLY.

Saul Karl said...

I have seen certain restaurants in mainland China outsource the utensil cleaning to another company, and the cleaned utensils are wrapped a in transparent plastic film as if they are brand new. Therefore it gives customers a sense of cleanliness so that customers don't need to waste any more water to clean the utensils themselves. This helps to be more environmental friendly.

EFT for Cancer said...

The ritual sure is interesting.

Meaghan said...

I have a friend who works at a yumcha restaurant in Jordan he actually recommends you wash it yourself because their washing machine is not so good and due to the fact they push so many dishes through so quickly, they might miss some germs.