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Tea Rituals & Customs: The Forgotten Part of Chinese Business Etiquette

September 17, 2019 9 comments

When visiting China for business purposes, it's always recommended to deepen your understanding of Chinese culture. While it's easy to find articles online about doing business in China or a list with common Chinese words and phrases, there's no article that covers Chinese tea etiquette. Yet, tea virtually plays a part in every business meeting. In fact, drinking tea is seen as a bonding experience that's essential to closing a successful business deal!

Even though tea is the most common beverage in the world, tea rituals in China are very different compare to afternoon high tea etiquette that you might be familiar with. Don't be worried though, as you'll learn it's a much warmer way of doing business. This post aims to be an eye-opener, allowing you to be fully prepared and actually enjoy those rituals!

Chinese Tea Customs Are Different From Afternoon High Tea Etiquette

When you start building your company and visit suppliers in China, you'll find that business is done quite differently than back in your country. This is especially true, if you're not from Asian countries with similar cultures such as Japan and South Korea.

The Tea Table

One business custom will stand out: no matter which factory or supplier you visit, you will soon find yourself sitting around a huge table and drink tea with sales person or factory owner. Instead of talking about the business deal, the owner starts rinsing the cups and talking about the background of the tea that he's going to serve. If you sit back and just observe the ritual, you'll find that it's quite warm and familial. It kind of acts like an ice breaker.

After rinsing the teaware, leaves will be added in the small teapot or 'gaiwan'. The latter looks like a tea cup with a lid, but it's actually used to steep tea. You'll find that the first brew of tea will be discarded. While this might be strange, it's a common tea ceremony etiquette. The rinse can remove some impurity if there's any, but the main reason is to prepare the leaves for the first real brew. The second and third brew usually tastes better.

Once you are served tea, usually in a very small cup, wait for a few seconds, to avoid burning your tongue. The reason that tea cups are small, is to allow the tea to cool faster. Wait for about 5-10 seconds, then test the temperature by taking a small sip. If the temperature is right you can finish the cup at once.

Chinese Tea Ritual Tip: Relax, Don't Drink Too Fast

Once you finish, you will find that you'll be served a new cup directly. Don't feel the hurry to drink it right away again. That it easy and follow a relaxed pace and try to really taste the tea. Do you like the taste? How's the aroma? A bit of chit chat about the tea is great, before you move on to talk serious business. Ask about what tea type is being served and where the tea is from. Appreciating a cup of tea together during a tea ceremony is seen as a bonding experience. No wonder that tea ceremonies are also an important of a Chinese wedding day.

We hope the info above about Chinese tea drinking customs was informative! What do you think of it? Do you think it could be a nice idea to apply tea rituals as a business bonding.

Feel free to ask questions about Chinese tea rituals in the comment section below if there's still anything unclear.

Posted in: Tea Culture
Linda Knight January 1, 2016 at 12:46 PM
We Americans are always in such a hurry. We can learn how to take time, enjoy people and their traditions and make them a part of our own life.
Judy Thomas January 6, 2016 at 9:32 AM
I love these traditions, they make you stop and think about life and not just rush through it .Thank you
Debbie Welchert January 6, 2016 at 9:50 AM
I found the information really interesting. I think it is a great way to relax and try a different type of tea. I think Americans should do same thing and learn just how to relax a little be more, instead of rushing into doing business right away.
Sandra Benedick January 7, 2016 at 7:06 AM
Thank you for this blog. I usually drink my tea as fast as I can because I've got twin girlz who jump on my lap. To hot for them. I'll try to drink it slower and enjoy.
Linda Szymoniak January 7, 2016 at 6:40 PM
I'm mostly familiar with the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. It's interesting to see the differences between cultures.
Rebecca-Jane Collins January 12, 2016 at 7:01 AM
I love that these traditions have survived in today's world, when so many others have been lost.
Foo Lip Sze January 18, 2016 at 1:00 PM
An interesting read. I didn't know about such etiquette while I was in Guangzhou last year!
Teasenz January 18, 2016 at 8:04 PM
We're glad you like it. I hope this will be useful for your next trip ;)
Sanghamitra Mishra January 22, 2016 at 8:19 PM
Interesting!
We in India enjoy tea, or Chai, a lot. Be it for breakfast, with afternoon snacks or at any random time to ward off the cold on a chilly day.
It's great to know how our neighbors enjoy the beverage!