Hong Kong tea culture

Hong Kong tea culture

The tea-drinking habits of Hong Kong residents derive from Chinese tea culture. After more than 150 years of British rule, however, they have changed somewhat to become unique in the world. This uniqueness is not only in terms of the tea itself, but also in terms of the underlying social and cultural values.

The History of Teahouses in Hong Kong

The first teahouse in Hong Kong was established at the end of the 19th century. At that time people bought tea leaves from tea houses so that they could serve tea to visiting guests. Tea would be brewed at the beginning of the day and would be served as guests arrived during the day. At night, the remaining tea would be poured away. They did this whether or not visitors actually arrived. This gave rise to the idiom "Tea is for pouring away."

In contemporary society, Hong Kong people buy tea at teahouses not only for serving their guests, but also for themselves.

In a study, it is estimated that China supplies more tea to Hong Kong with 22%, while India comprises the 13% and for Taiwan having 7% of total supplies of tea in Hong Kong. While Hong Kong domestically produces 20% of the total supplies of tea.

The Packaging of Tea Leaves in Hong Kong

Some while ago, when buying tea leaves at tea houses, the staff would take the tea leaves out of a large, foil container, weigh it and then pack it with papers and a plastic bag. This kind of packaging wasn't considered very attractive and it would negatively affect the quality of the tea leaves as they would oxidise quickly, thereby losing their aroma.

The packaging of tea leaves has greatly improved since then. Now tea leaves are vacuum-packed in high density plastic packs with fancy packaging. Not only is the quality raised, but the market value of the tea is also increased.

The "Tea Pocket" Trend

Fast and convenient without losing the original taste, the tea pocket is changing the domestic habit of tea drinking in Hong Kong.

"Tea pockets", also known as tea bags, have in recent years been used in Chinese tea. Initially they could be found in the supermarket, but were not popular as they were not well-publicised and not very attractively packaged. As earlier with tea leaves, there has been an increase of well-packaged tea bags with any number of varieties of tea leave contained within. Most modern packages can be resealed so as to keep the tea dry. One of the brands has even made an inspiring design of the tea pocket that it gives the tea pocket a tetrahedral (pyramid-like) shape which allows more volume for larger sized tea leaves to expand and impart their flavor.

Special Habit of Tea Drinking in Hong Kong - "Morning Tea and Newspaper"

Hong Kong is a place with plenty of night life. In contrast, streets are almost empty from seven to eight in the morning. Most shops open at or after nine o'clock in the morning, where Cantonese restaurants open at about six or even earlier (restaurants in the Western District open at about 4:00am). The working class of Hong Kong usually have breakfast in these Cantonese restaurants in the early morning. They enjoy 一盅兩件 (Lit. "One bowl with two pieces", meaning a cup of tea with two Dim Sums) and they read newspapers in the morning before they go to work. Many elderly people bring their caged birds to the restaurants and chat with others. They can spend a whole morning by doing this.The domestic Tea consumption survey has found the consumption of 2.42 cups in a day per person. The annual per capita consumption is 350 grams of Tea.

Special Hong Kong style Tea - Milk Tea

"See Hong Kong-styled Milk Tea"

Places for Enjoying Tea

In the past, people often enjoyed tea in old restaurants with a long history, also known as "neighbouring restaurants" (茶寮). This kind of restaurant was built with simple and cheap decoration. However, it was the place for the neighbors to meet as a morning routine. Especially for the elderly, their main entertainment was going to chat with their neighbors in the "old place". They read newspapers, discuss current issues, their family life, their good old days... to name but a few. As time passed by, a strong bond would form between the patrons and the restaurants. From now, we can still find this kind of restaurants in some old estates in Hong Kong. But if you want to experience this unique feature of Hong Kong, don't stay up late! Most of the restaurants in old estates close before the noon. Those popular and favourite dim sum would probably be sold-out before noon as well.

These traditional restaurants have phased out. This is because the elderly population has decreased in number, and the young generations hold a view that the old restaurants are unhygienic and noisy. They prefer to go to the big and new restaurants in the large plazas, despite the fact that the prices are more expensive. However in New Territories area, young and old still go to these traditional restaurants, sometimes the elderly people will take their grandchildren to eat breakfast before going to school, these scenes are common in Yuen Long.

Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware

The Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware is a branch museum of Hong Kong Museum of Art, located centrally in Hong Kong Park. It is a place for collecting, studying and displaying tea ware and holding regular presentation or demonstration lectures to promote Chinese tea drinking culture. Many famous Yixing teapots are exhibited in the museum.

ee also

*Caffeine culture in Hong Kong
*Taiwanese tea culture

External links

* [http://www.lcsd.gov.hk/CE/Museum/Arts/english/tea/intro/eintro.html Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware]
* [http://www.globalgourmet.com/destinations/hongkong/hktea.html Hong Kong: Tea and Tea Houses]

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