China is the birthplace of tea. Naturally, this sophisticated beverage is a crowd pleaser in Hong Kong too. Whether with a breakfast of steamed snacks, at a business meeting or an elaborate dinner, tea accompanies most occasions. Teahouses are the quintessential places where a broad range of tea types, ceremonies and people come together.
Many inhabitants of Hong Kong start their day at the neighbourhood eatery with a newspaper and a bowl with two pieces: a cup of tea with two pieces of dim sum. Older people will chat a bit with other local residents and possibly even bring their birdcages from home. British influence on the tea culture is especially visible at lunchtime – while the rest of China swears by the subtle flavours of pure tea, Hong Kong residents like to add a dash of condensed milk.
According to legend, it was Emperor Shennong who first discovered tea during a search for medicinal plants in Southwest China some 4,700 years ago. The leaves were initially chewed rather than used for a drink but this gradually changed over the centuries. A fascinating tea etiquette arose in China specifying, for example, that tea drinkers had to be in harmony with their surroundings. This is why teahouses are established in gardens with beautiful ornaments, water and rocks.
Numerous poems, stories and paintings refer to the art of tea drinking and today there appear to be countless types of tea. All Chinese tea can be divided into 6 kinds, however, including green, black, white and oolong. You can learn all about this at the Museum of Tea Ware which contains the world's oldest tea set and many other fascinating things to see. The museum also shows several interesting documentaries. After visiting the exhibition, go to the teahouse under the museum to try out the many different teas to your heart’s content.