A tea leaf may weigh next to nothing, but dedicated tea drinkers say it can bring pleasure and peace, in a respite from a busy day. With a little meditation, tea offers more than aroma, taste and a bit of caffeine.
Tea can be enjoyed both formally and in a relaxed way.
The tea ceremony, or cha dao (茶道), is a ritualized way of making tea that combines art with brewing, and every step from preparation to serving is part of a performance. Etiquette and the proper tea pot, cups and utensils also play important roles in the performance.
Cha dao is a way of socializing, or it can be useful for meditation and reflection. To perform a proper tea ceremony, it's not necessary to have a large, elaborate space; a quiet corner at home is fine, as long as it's a place where people feel relaxed, such as a living room or study, says Jiang Yi, who has been studying cha dao since 2005. With just a small, palm-sized pot and a cup, some hot water and a favorite tea, anyone can lower their stress and enjoy the beverage.
Tea ceremony as a lifestyle can be enjoyed by everyone, though not many young people favor this way of unwinding and prefer beverages with a more straightforward taste.
"Young people have less life experience, while tea is just like life," says Shi Jue, founder of the China Intangible Cultural Heritage Protection Fund. "Tea has a rich texture, not just the subjective experience of the presentation."
Still, some young people are taking up tea culture.
Jiang, who's in her 30s, runs a factory and says she becomes happier as she learns more about tea. "The culture is so rich that you can never finish learning about it," she says.