Dim Sum – A Culinary Art Inspired by Tea

yum cha tea

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 borndim 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.

Chinese New Year – Celebrations & TEA Traditions

chinese new Year

“Gung Hay Fat Choy.” Translation: “Best wishes and Congratulations. Have a prosperous and good year.”

The Chinese New Year, Lunar New Year or the Chinese Spring Festival commences from today. It brings forth the year of the majestic goat, promising prosperity and hope. It is the beautiful time of the year, when traditional customs are followed and lots of Tea related ceremonies are practised. Homes are purified and decorated with charms to invite fortune, gifts are exchanged, Tea ceremonies are carried out and evenings are welcomed with fireworks and lots of delicacies. It is a common practise to pay respect at the temples or shrines, which also sometimes hold festivals and dance performances.

Tea has been a great inspiration and my motivation for learning and appreciating the Chinese heritage, where it is respected as an elixir for spiritual consciousness. In China, the diversity of practises and rituals in context to Tea, performed during the new year festivities, varies from regions based on their own heritage and custom. A popular practise is of brewing the traditional Pu-erh (one of my favorite tea), Ti Kuan Yin Oolong or Black Tea, which is served to the eldest member of the family and on to the youngest. Choosing a fine variety of Tea is essential to the ritual. Prayers and blessings are passed down from the elders of the family to the youngest, with every cup of tea served. The Tray of Togetherness, also called the box of prosperity is served with Tea. This is a wonderful treat of assorted sweets and is customarily shared with family and friends present at the ceremony, to bring the sweetness in one`s life.

If one travels to Southern China, the ritual is conducted by offering three cups of tea. Each cup of tea holds a meaning in this ceremony. The first cup is a ‘Sweet Tea’, for sweetness in life during the year, brewed with crust glutinous rice and sugar.  The second cup is a ‘Smoked Bean Tea’, which brings harmony. It is a blend of tea leaves, smoked green beans, shredded carrot, orange peels, perilla seeds and sesame seeds. The last cup of Green Tea is offered after a meal and this concludes the Tea ceremony. The ceremonies are not simply customary traditions but also provide a sense of togetherness and veneration, of the rich heritage of the Chinese.

The Lantern festival draws the fifteen days of this grand Lunar new year festivities to an end, with sea of vibrant colorful lanterns, with messages or prayers of love, fortune and happiness for the heavens above. It is truly said, when a cup of tea is revered, brewed and shared with people, with lots of love, a huge ounce of hope and with a dollop of promises, it brings a sense of happiness and prosperity. I conclude my blog with wishing you all a very Happy Lunar New Year and may every cup of Tea bring you bliss and fortune.