David and his host father drinking tea as a pastime.

Posted On May 28, 2014 By In Chinese (Mandarin) With 2945 Views

Tea Time in China: Drinking in Culture and Language

Having now stayed with their host families for more than a month, NSLI-Y participants at Beijing No. 80 High School have grown more accustomed to the daily routines that accompany living with a Chinese family. Many of the participants have found that drinking tea is a great way to practice the target language and deepen their understanding of Chinese culture, as the calming pastime serves as a platform for lively conversation between tea drinkers.

David, a NSLI-Y student originally from Virginia, has used this ubiquitous Chinese pastime as a way to bond and connect with his host family. He has learned that tea is a celebrated beverage deeply rooted in Chinese hospitality and concepts of leisure, and in turn, has discovered that sipping black and then green tea is one of his favorite new ways to relax. At tea time, David’s host father, Su Zhiqiang, served as the family’s “Tea Master,” which meant that he was always in motion, pouring, dowsing, and steeping tea in small teapots. As he poured, he also took the time to explain the specific technique required for each tea and outlined the basic components of good tea: the tea’s quality, the water’s quality, the quality of the tools, and the skill of the tea-maker. Having learned these terms previously from his host father, David recited these four terms: cha 茶 shui 水 chaju 茶具 jiqiao 技巧.

These opportunities to sit and talk with his host family over tea have been greatly appreciated by David. If it’s talking about tea or Chinese culture or even recent events at Bejing No. 80, sitting down in the family’s tea room is always a relaxing and fun way to practice Chinese.

My host family has been fantastic. From them teaching me about Chinese tea culture and etiquette to taking me to one of Beijing’s best Roast Duck restaurants, I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of care they give me. They’ve taught me so much about Chinese language and culture in the short time I’ve been here, and I can’t wait to see just how much I learn from them by the time I return home.

-David, NSLI-Y China, Academic Year 2013-2014

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