By Xinyi Li, EDITOR
Dating back to the Tang Dynasty, Chinese afternoon tea has a long history. It now becomes the best way for friends to get together, have a chat and take relax. During tea parties, it is common to see that some friends take pictures of delicate pastries, post them on your social network, and chat with each other. What is it like to drink afternoon tea at tea houses in Chongqing? It might be simple, but a unique experience.
Most people think afternoon tea comes from a country in the western world, and some may specifically name it as “England”. Actually, Chinese people in as early as the Tang Dynasty began their tea parties in the mid-afternoon.
At that time, literati would make a cup of tea, prepare some dainty pastries and invite friends to write poetry and have a nice chat. This is what the afternoon tea looks like at first.
However, Englishmen are the one who makes afternoon tea famous worldwide. It is believed that credit for the custom goes to the nobility, who had a ‘sinking feeling’ by late afternoon. Around that time, the English high society had hearty breakfast but simple lunch, while eating a late dinner (around 8 p.m.) was fashionable.
Additionally, tea leaves were expensive and rare in that merchants had to risk their lives to bring them from the eastern world to England. Hence, afternoon tea became a manifestation of the nobility’s status and wealth, more than a way to stave off the hunger.
Most Chongqing people prefer to have their tea parties at a tea house with some good friends, rather than enjoy an exquisite English-style one.
Tea houses in this city are simple and accessible for almost all socioeconomic groups. An old-fashioned kitchen range, an awning, some wood tables, and benches—once you have these, you can build a tea house. And this exactly is where Chongqing people like to have their afternoon tea.
The traditions in tea-drinking of the old generations are interesting but not well inherited by the youth nowadays, it’s something about deliberately set argot for different displays of the teacup and the cover.
Customers can only use this way to call the waiter for water twice. If they want water for the third time, they have to wait till waiters pour water for all customers.
When drinking in traditional tea houses, customers need to pay first. Therefore, if they want to leave for a while, they can put something, such as a match, a stone or a leaf, on the cover.
If someone from a strange society needs help from a local one, he/she would put the cover like that. Waiter, when seeing the signal, would find the appropriate people and introduce them to each other.
If customers do not have enough money but have friends around, they can use this way to let the owner know that they have to pay him/her later. And the owner will do them the favor to get rid of embarrassment.
If customers display their covers like that, the owner will know that they have left.
Changting Tea House, established in the 1920s, is one of the most time-honored tea houses in Chongqing. As a favorite place of elegant people, it welcomed several celebrities like Lao She and Cao Yu.
The Tea House is still immersed in a cultural environment and surrounded by many beautiful garden buildings.
Address: People’s Park, Xinhua Road, People’s Liberation Monument, Yuzhong District
Hanlin Tea House is located in Ciqikou Ancient Town, creating a tranquil land in the bustling area.
Address: Ciqikou Ancient Town, Shapingba District
“Lingshang Yihao Tea House” is an attractive name, tempting people into visiting the elegant place.
It sets on the highest place of the TESTBED 2 in Eling, allowing people to appreciate the beautiful view of the Jialing River. Visitors can not only drink tea in tea rooms built according to the slope but also find inspirations and inner peace in the Chinese Ancient Civilization School.
Address: The TESTBED 2 in Eling, Eling Street, Yuzhong District