Interesting Chinese New Year Tea Traditions

In our previous post, we discussed the longstanding history tea has had in Chinese culture. Because of its significance, it’s only natural that tea is not just a part of everyday life, but also a part of important events such as Chinese New Year. In today’s post, we uncover some interesting tea traditions associated with the Lunar New Year!

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Jiangsu: Serving you Golden Tea

In the Jiangsu, people serve their friends and families a special type of tea called 元宝茶 (yuan bao cha), or in English “gold ingot tea”. This is a tea with two green olives or kumquats inside and is used to wish guests a prosperous year ahead. If you’re wondering about the additions to the tea, the olives and kumquat are added because they resemble gold ingots.

Incidentally, this isn’t the only new year tradition associated with gold in Jiangsu. In Suzhou, people will hide chestnuts in their rice on new year’s eve and dig them out, which mimics them digging up gold.

Fujian: Where Tea is as Important as Rice

As the land of tea, it is unsurprising that Fujian places a high value on tea. In fact, there’s a saying that it’s better to go a hundred days without meat than to go one day without tea. The drink of choice for guests is often 茶米水 (cha mi shui), or hot tea. If you’re wondering why tea is called 茶米 or tea rice, it’s because tea is as Fujian people consider tea to be as important as rice (and if you’re Chinese, rice is pretty much the most important thing ever).

Fun fact: Fujian’s importance to the world of tea can be seen in the English language! In local dialect, tea is pronounced “teh”, which is what the Dutch picked up when they traded with the Chinese at Fujian and Taiwan. This was transliterated into English as “tey”, “tay”, “thea”, and “tee”, eventually becoming “tea”.

Zhenjiang: Three Cups of Tea

Not to be confused with the book, Zhenjiang has their own new year’s tradition involving three cups of tea. Late on new years eve, the family will gather together to drink three cups of tea.

The first is 圆子茶 (yuan zi cha), and it’s technically not a tea, but rather tang yuan (a dessert made from glutinous rice). This ‘tea’ is drunk to wish everyone family togetherness and to have a full life.

The second is 枣子茶 (zao zi cha), or red date tea in English. You are not supposed to finish this tea, because you want the coming year to be overflowing with good things. So make sure you leave a few red dates behind!

The third and last cup of tea is 八宝茶 (ba bao cha), which translates to eight treasure tea. This is a green tea with chrysanthemums, raisins, and other good luck ingredients.

When all three cups of tea have been drunk, you’re ready to open the doors and welcome in the new year!

Taiwan: Fireside Tea Party

If you’re Singaporean, then your ancestors probably came from Southern China, which has the practice of eating hot pot on new year’s eve. In Taiwan, the hot pot tradition is still going strong, with everyone gathering around for a cosy dinner. The flames cannot be put out, for to douse the flames would be to risk dousing the fortunes for the year ahead. And with such a cosy environment, what else can you do but wash down all the food with copious amounts of tea?


While many of us still practice family traditions during this time of year, such as eating “nian gao” (a chewy pellet made from glutinous rice); or gifting mandarin oranges as a symbol of good fortune; and of course – our favourite – giving and receiving red packets, it is interesting to note that there are a multitude of other customs that we have not been exposed to, like the above. Which is your favourite? Do you know of any more? Share it with us, we’d love to hear from you. 


References

[1] 春节习俗 https://baike.baidu.com/item/%E6%98%A5%E8%8A%82%E4%B9%A0%E4%BF%97/10669940

[2] 什么是元宝茶? http://ask.kedo.gov.cn/c/2015-11-30/823921.shtml

[3] 春节茶习俗 你知道多少?http://gz.sina.com.cn/news/qj/2018-01-17/detail-ifyqqieu7044582.shtml

[4]千古茶事之春节喝茶的习俗 https://zhuanlan.zhihu.com/p/37722427

[5] Tea (Online Etymology Dictionary) https://www.etymonline.com/word/tea

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