The Practice of Tea Ceremony

This is a draft section of my upcoming book “An introduction to the art and Science of Chinese Tea Ceremony”. Please help improve it with your comments, suggestions, and hate mail! 

How to practice tea ceremony is a difficult question, as it depends on what you consider to be the Chinese Tea Ceremony.  There are many different paths down this road, and readers here should note that I specifically promote the path of a scholar verses a spiritual or other path.

Edits: Thank you to Bethany and Courtney for your comments and edits – they have yielded a great improvement on the spelling, grammar and content of this draft!


Diligence in your practice of tea ceremony is the only path towards developing GongFu. No one is born with an innate skill at brewing tea – it must be learned.

As you start, your tea will be imbalanced, your cup may be dry and bitter, and your guests will be unamused. The teas that tasted great from someone else’s hand will turn astringent from your unskilled pours. You will burn yourself on the gaiwan, come close to dropping your tea pot, and unfairly distribute precious tea from the gongdaobei. This is the path everyone must walk as they begin their practice.

Your road forks here. While anyone can become proficient in the utilitarian practice of brewing tea, only with a guide can you build skill in your practice and raise above the mechanical machinations of pouring water on leaves – and only with a teacher can you raise your practice to the structural-functionalist approach.

This book aims to be your guide, but it cannot be your teacher. This book is written as an introduction to the art and science of Chinese tea ceremony, and includes the information you must know to guide your practice and build your skill.

This book is a reference but it is not the reference. This book is not tea, it is not teaware, and it is not a teacher. There is no replacement for direct experience with references. You will never be able to identify real wild MengKu pu’er without having tasted other wild pu’er and other MengKu pu’er. You will never be able to identify a Qing Dynasty DeHua cup without having held a similar reference in your hand. This book cannot do that for you.


What this book can do is guide your reading, imbue you with knowledge, and inform your practice. Your knowledge is only useful in so much as it helps you understand tea ceremony and the related arts like tea or teaware identification. I promote an empirical and experiential approach to tea ceremony – those who can cite LuYu but can’t brew tea are not the true practitioners.

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The 2017 Chinese Porcelain Exhibition of the Tea Institute at Penn State

Stéphane Erler has two great articles he recently published on the Tea Institute at Penn State. The first details all of the past Chinese tea exhibitions and shows how much they have grown and changed.

The second article is about the first day of this years exhibition on Chinese Porcelain. It was an amazing event, and the Institute is so thankful that Teaparker and Stéphane keep coming back to teach these esoteric topics.