Although I’ve been a tea drinker pretty much since I could walk to school on my own, I always find there’s more to learn about my favorite drink. So when my friend Rita asked if I wanted to go with her to a tea workshop last week, I was game.
The only catch: it was in Cantonese.
Since I’ve been volunteering with senior citizens in Chicago’s Chinatown for a year now, I’ve been able to understand more Cantonese than when I lived in Hong Kong twenty years ago. But I figured I would sit in the workshop and politely nod when the instructor looked at me. Ninety minutes wasn’t that long.
As it turned out, I could understand about 50%! It really made the difference between just sitting there and actually following what was going on.
We learned about the different types of tea, all named after a color. Every participant was given a name of a tea and asked to classify it under its color on the board. From left to right, the colors are green, white, yellow, light green, red, and black.
I hadn’t heard of all the tea names, but did know about half. I could also read the names of the colors. Our instructor, Ms. Leung, rearranged the tea names under their correct colors after we finished placing them on the board. Our class got about 2/3 of them correct.
Throughout the workshop, Ms. Leung’s assistants kept our teacups filled with light and refreshing tea. Although it was hot and humid outside, the classroom was cool with air-conditioning. Nonetheless, people in Hong Kong drink hot tea even during the hottest days of the summer, a/c or not.
After we learned about the different teas, the history of tea, and tea in other countries, it was time to learn to pour it ourselves. Ms. Leung demonstrated first. My take-away was that one small pot required many more tea leaves than I would normally use. Now I know better.
Then it was our turn. Each table designated a representative to prepare and pour the tea. Our representative was a lovely woman who told me she’d studied in Edinburgh some years ago.
The hour and a half flew. Although I drank about twenty small cups of tea, I didn’t leave feeling like I wanted to swim away. Nor did I have a caffeine headache. I learned a lot, too. It was so much fun and definitely a highlight of my trip. For more information about these tea workshops, check out www.oldtreetea.com.