Ancient tea embraces new flavor

An aerial photo taken on March 14 shows farmers picking tea leaves with the help of an unmanned aerial vehicle at the Dingxin tea garden in Chongqing. XIA SHOU’AN/JU ZHIQIN/FOR CHINA DAILY

China is a nation of tea. The country’s history of tea is almost as long as the history of China itself.

References to tea in Chinese literature go back approximately 5,000 years. Originally, tea was valued for its medicinal qualities. It has long been known that tea aids in digestion, which is why many Chinese prefer to consume it during or after their meal.

But tea is more than just an addition to a meal. It has become a part of the country’s daily routine and of special occasions — and is truly embedded as an overall part of Chinese culture.

Among all the types of tea, green tea produced before Tomb Sweeping Day in early April is especially popular in China. This is believed to be the best time for green tea, because insects have not yet emerged from the soil. Green tea is not fermented during processing and thus retains the original color of the tea leaves.

Green tea also has a close connection with Tomb Sweeping Day. Many southern regions still retain the customs of tea-offering for ancestors. During the tomb sweeping ceremony, tea is poured into tea cups and sprinkled in front of the graves of the deceased relatives to show respect and remembrance.

Now as the nation embraces Tomb Sweeping Day, tea gardens in China are also open for visitors to experience tea-related traditions and culture — like the Dingxin tea garden in Southwest China’s Chongqing.