The Idea of Authenticitea

Drinking for an Oolong Time
Drinking for an Oolong Time

Get it? Puns aside, I was inspired by the recent interview Shunan Teng of Tea Drunk had with Big Coffee Newsroom. She makes really good points about how tea is viewed in America and how these perceptions, alongside an over-emphasis on Chinese cultural traditions can isolate or detract people from tea if they don’t know or understand them <see reference 1>. The first thing that came to my mind when I read this is that ‘otherness’ comes in when contextualising tea within cultures beyond America, such as Chinese, British and so forth. This is not bad per se since obviously, these cultures can intersect and so often do but sometimes, notions of what is the ‘proper way’ to make and enjoy tea can creep its head within tea circles through such comparisons. Again, while this can be harmless in concept, it doesn’t help much with tea education as it emphasises rigid ideas of tradition and authenticity. I suspect one of the main reasons behind this may come down to the differing stances on the way Chinese tea should be brewed. To break this down, I will focus an enduring topic on two of the most dominant brewing styles for Chinese tea, “Gongfu Brewing vs. Western Brewing”, by taking a step (albeit brief) into Chinese tea within the context of both historical and contemporary China alongside tea in a global context.

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