We all love dim sums but here’s a fun fact about dim sum which not many are aware of. In Cantonese the word dim sum means to “drink tea“. If you read about the history of this traditional culinary specialty from China, you’ll smell the tea brewing!
The term dim sum literally means ‘yum cha’ or ‘tea tasting’. By analogy, yum cha is also referred to as morning or afternoon tea. Having tea with dim sum is a unique culinary tradition which began thousands of years ago in China. The advent of the ancient silk road connected China with traders from Europe and India. In response to the increasing number of diverse travellers passing through, local teahouses sprang up along side the silk road to serve travellers with a place to rest and enjoy a fresh cup of tea. The earliest tea houses originated in Guangzhou.
It was around the same time, when tea was discovered to aid in digestion for it’s herbal properties. So, teahouse owners began offering bite-sized snacks as an accompaniment, and thus a unique culinary art form was born – dim sum. And since then these small bites have been a main stay of everyday life throughout China.
Today, the dim sum enjoyed thousands of years ago has changed to reflect other cultures. Each country around the world enjoys this specialty treat in it’s own way. Dim sum has evolved from a relaxing roadside snack to a meal that can be enjoyed at any time of the day or night. But the ethos behind yum cha and dim sum has remained unchanged over the years.
This long withstanding tradition of serving dim sum and tea has become a ritual, which acts to promote a sense of togetherness, encouraging ideas and conversation over a simple cup of tea. And that’s precisely what the point of tea is.