The fashion of traditional Chinese tea drinking

Here’s a glimpse of the finer things that I enjoy on some days – Chinese tea making in an authentic Chinese teahouse. I love drinking tea and it’s nice to engage in this highly therapeutic activity once in awhile. Don’t be fooled by the pictures here though; I’m no expert in tea making. My husband is better at this, having taken a tea making appreciation course, and he was guiding me in the process.

Drinking Chinese tea is an art. There’s a whole ritual in making and serving the beverage. You don’t just boil water, brew the tea and pour it into your cup. There’s a whole process of cleansing and warming up the teapots and cups, ensuring that the flavor of the tea penetrates the tea cups and pouring pitcher. In fact, the first brew is never for drinking. And even when the tea is ready to drink, you have to pour it into a pitcher first before serving the tea into the sniffing cups.

Yes, you read it right. Sniffing cups. They’re really cups for you to sniff your tea. And its purpose is specifically that and so you’re not supposed to drink from the sniffing cup. You have to drink the tea from the tea cup, after you’re done sniffing the tea and pouring the tea from the sniffing cup to your tea cup. Sounds complicated? Well, not really. It’s part of the ritual but you can skip it if you wish. It’s not religious but more of a sensory exploration. Usually, we’ll just sniff once and then continue drinking as per normal.

I love the intricate accessories that come with the whole tea making ceremony. My favorite is the tiny tea cups. Because they’re so tiny, you’re not supposed to gulp the tea but rather, sip on the tea delicately. And if you can do that well, you would have scored one point for being refined. Heh.

You can find a good selection of Chinese tea leaves at these teahouses. If you’re not sure of what to brew, you can always get recommendations from the tea experts. In fact, they would also be happy to go through the entire tea making ceremony with you if you don’t know how. And here’s me sniffing my Jasmine Pearl. It has a sweet aroma and has a slightly sweet aftertaste too. Goes very well with dim sum!

Our favorite tea making houses in Singapore are Tea Chapter and Yixing Xuan Teahouse.  They’re both located in Tanjong Pagar. You can also signed up to join their tea workshops if you’re keen.

Oh yeah, this isn’t really a fashion post but hey, art is fashion and traditional Chinese tea making is an art!


  1. Ms Glitzy says:

    I tried Chinese tea appreciation before! It was a very interesting cultural experience. Yoshack consider trying the Japanese Chado too.. It’s quite different from the Chinese.. A bit more spiritual.

  2. Ms Glitzy says:

    Gosh! Typo!! *You should , not yoshack

  3. Sparklewolfie says:

    Ooh I love tea time! My family used to have tea time every single day, though we did not always use the sniffing cups, we always did everything else (warming cups, pouring into a different teapot before pouring into cups). We have a super cute set of “sniff cup and drinking cup” that are all decorated as animals, so when you are done with the cup you can turn it upside down and the bottom is a cute animal looking up at you!

  4. pf1123 says:

    I love tea. But don’t have the patience or tea set to DIY at home. A little tip to note (for ppl who don’t realise/know): Diff types of tea requires diff water temp. The chinese green tea (e.g. Jasmine, 龙井, etc) is to be enjoyed at a lower water temp, not boiling hot water.

  5. sesame says:

    Oh I would love to try the Japanese Chado…I wonder if it’s available in Singapore.

  6. sesame says:

    The cups sound so cute…the ones I’ve come across are all oriental looking. Never come across cute ones with animal prints.

  7. sesame says:

    That’s a good tip. Now that you said it, I remember the teahouse experts telling us that the water should be about 80% hot for some of the tea leaves but never knew that different tea leaves require different temperature.

  8. Gaelle Lehrer Kennedy says:

    A month ago I switched from drinking black tea (with milk, in the British way) to organic Sencha tea and organic Dragon Well tea. Both were gifts that had sat unopened in my kitchen. I tried them on a whim, and cannot look back. Now, I relish tea time in a whole new way, and your post inspires me to go deeper into the experience. Thanks.

  9. pf1123 says:

    Yes, if I remember correctly, the difference in tea are the different fermenting process. Black tea (e.g. Oolong, Pu Er, Tie Guan Yin) are fermented. But green tea are either not fermented or less fermented (can’t remember).

    If you try to brew the green tea with boiling water, it will turn out more bitter.

  10. Natalja says:

    Wow, that’s very interesting. Us, Americans are more into coffee (to stay awake) vs. tea. I guess we just can’t find time for long-ish rituals. Very unfortunately.
    But aside from the subject. Sesame, has anyone told you before that you have perfectly shaped lips??

  11. sesame says:

    The Sencha tea is a lovely drink. Not sure about the Dragon Well cos I haven’t tried that brand.

  12. sesame says:

    Oh that’s interesting! No wonder the same flavor of tea can taste so different sometimes! Thanks for enlightening me. ?

  13. sesame says:

    It’s really more for relaxation when you have more time. Good for socializing.

    No, no one ever told me about my lips but I’m so pleased to learn of it for the first time from you. Thank you! ?

  14. chenyze says:

    hmm where did your husband learn from? the price difference between tea chapter and yixing xuan is HUGE! d=

    i’ll probably just go for yixing xuan with the dim sum heh. but it seems really cool!

  15. Natalja says:

    You are welcome. It’s just true.

  16. sesame says:

    From Vincent at Yixing Xuan. He brought his Amercian boss there for the course and took the opportunity to learn too.

    I would say the ambience at Tea Chapter is nicer for tea making and drinking but we like Yixing Xuan cos we feel more comfortable there.

  17. Happy Feet says:

    I love tea!!! Sadly, I can’t drink them because I have GERD (Acid reflux). Apparently for sufferers of Gerd, we ‘ve got to avoid black and green tea. Sad….

  18. sesame says:

    Oh I see…that’s a shame.

  19. Sylvia says:

    I adore tea and experienced a tea ceremony in Shanghai. Wasn’t aware that they also existed here in Singapore. As I’m still searching for the perfect green tea I will definitely check out these teahouses.

  20. sesame says:

    I am a bit confused with your reference to green tea…I’m not sure if they have Chinese green tea though.

  21. Sylvia says:

    Not totally sure either but I often have jasmine tea, which is also sometimes referred to as green tea or chinese tea. That’s why I need to go; to get the facts straight ?

  22. sesame says:

    I always associate green tea with the Japanese version but it seems, there’s a Chinese version. I didn’t know that Jasmine tea is referred to as green tea. I’m pretty confused myself…there’s white tea, green tea, black tea…oh boy!

  23. Susan Imhoff says:

    I really love jasmine tea!!! Trying to decide whether to get a cast iron teapot or not. The original water heating pot that you used at the beginning….is that cast iron, ceramic or ? What brand is it?

  24. sesame says:

    It’s ceramic…no brand. Got it from a local market.

  25. Hannah says:

    Hi this is a great post – there is so much that goes in to preparing tea that people don’t realise. Lovely pictures too.
    Hannah last post is: Tea Cultivars

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