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Tea Wares and Water

Tea drinking is such a serious activity for the Chinese that they have developed a broad spectrum of equipment to prepare and enjoy tea. The choice of both tea wares and water may affect the taste of the tea brewed. In Lu Yu’s Classic of Tea, as many as twenty-six pieces of tea wares are detailed, which consist a whole set of them, catering to the need of every procedure in tea-making and drinking. Some of the tea wares mentioned by Lu Yu are for heating up the water by charcoal fire, some for processing the tea leaves, brewing the tea and enjoying it, and some for doing the clean-up after tea drinking.

While Lu Yu detailed a much too complex set of tea ware, it is not necessary for an ordinary tea drinker of today to have them all ready at hand. Major necessary components of a set of tea wares include:
    A teapot, where tea leaves are steeped in hot water;
    Teacups, often in sets of four, from which hot tea is served and drunk;
    A tea strainer, for extracting tea leaves from the tea solution;
    A tea tray or tea platform, also known as draining tray, placed at the bottom of all the other tea utensils, keeping the tea or hot water from spilling onto the table;
    A tea caddy, where dry leaves are stored.

a simplified set of tea ware, tea wares, Chinese tea culturetea pot, tea wares, Chinese tea culture
A simplified set of tea wares. A tea pot with four tea cups.Tea pot
tea cup, tea wares, Chinese tea cultureTea tray/tea platform, tea wares, Chinese tea culture
Tea cupTea tray/tea platform
Tea caddies, tea wares, Chinese tea culturetea strainer, tea wares, Chinese tea culture
 Tea caddies made of bambooTea strainer

Tea wares may be made of pottery, porcelain, glass, metal, bamboo, etc. Traditionally, the Chinese used pottery, porcelain and bamboo tea wares with exquisite workmanship and elegant shapes or patterns. Yixing clay tea pots are the most sought-after tea ware. Their unglazed surfaces absorb traces of the delicate flavours of the tea steeped, creating a more complex flavour. A much-used Yixing clay tea pot may give off the aroma of tea even if only hot water is poured in without tea leaves. Porcelain tea wares (e.g. those made in Jingdezhen) are the most common type, available in almost every Chinese household. Tea wares made of glass is a modern development, and is good for appreciating the unfolding movements and of the tea leaves as well as the color of the tea solution. Metal (e.g., tin, silver, copper) tea wares used to be an upper-class or aristocratic item, unaffordable to the average household. And bamboo tea wares are popular in vast rural areas, especially south China where bamboo is widely grown.

The quality of water used also has a bearing on the taste of tea. In the Classic of Tea, Lu Yu compared waters of different sources, and held that, generally speaking, water from the mountain (springs) is the best, superior to river water and well water. And a few springs are listed by the Chinese as the best springs for tea. Water for tea should be as pure and natural as possible. Some ancient Chinese tea aficionados would collect raindrops or snow for brewing tea, as is documented in the classic novel, Dream of Red Mansions.


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