Contrary to what you may believe, tea etiquette is more than just an empty promise; it’s an invitation to great fortune. Yes, sir. And there may not be a better time to reap the most from observing these centuries-old protocols than on the Lunar New Year.
So, as the Year of the Dragon 2024 opens, don’t just put those red couplets and “Fu” characters on your gates and doorways; do more: Bring your gaiwans and your choice of tea (green, black, oolong) to the table.
No worries. In this post, we’ll show you the secrets of how to invite good fortune on Lunar New Year using tea etiquette straight from where it’s been practiced for hundreds of years: China. It’s the land where Chun Yun (epic family reunions), the biggest mass migration on the planet happens every year. Read on.
Stirring the Universe in a Cuppa
With all the health benefits true teas bring about (heart health, weight loss, and anti-cancer to name a few), the perfect cup of tea has become a global obsession. It’s no accident the Orient has placed the drink right, front and center of living well.
- The lid is the universe;
- The saucer is the planet Earth;
- And the bowl is the human being.
Somehow, that explains the great attention to detail Chinese Tea Ceremonies entail. And why observing tea etiquette for the Lunar New Year is the way to go to invite great fortune.
Step-by-step Tea Etiquette Guide for the Lunar New Year
Here’s how to invite prosperity for the whole family as you celebrate the Lunar New Year of the Dragon 2024. And in the years to come.
1. Timing is everything
To reap good fortune the most, observe the tea ritual on the first day of the Lunar New Year. So, for the year 2024, you will have to do it on the 10th day of February.
NOTE: Lunar New Year and Chinese New Year are the same. They are based on the 12 full cycles of the moon or roughly 354 days. In contrast, the Western calendar denotes a solar year: the days our planet orbits the sun. Or about 365 days.
2. Not just any tea
Prepare a sweet tea. And not just any tea.
3. Seniority rules
Before the tea protocols start for the Lunar New Year, the eldest generation should be seated in proper order in the most dominant chairs in the living room where everyone gathers.
4. Everybody has a role
Everyone in the family should be involved. For starters, every person who participates must put on new clothes during the ceremony.
The next generation’s role is to offer sweet tea to the older generation. However, if younger generations already exist, they should also do the same routine to all the generations above them: parents, grandparents, and/or great-grandparents.
This way everyone in the family will benefit from the good fortune that awaits the whole year through.
5. Positioning matters
As you may know by now, positioning is at the heart of feng shui, the ancient art of creating harmony and balance. And the tea etiquette for the Lunar New Year is no exception.
In this regard, here’s how to get things right:
- In giving the tea, the offerer must face the receiver.
- Offerers must be respectful in the whole process. For one, they should appropriately address the receiver and also bow their heads slightly as they stand.
6. New Year's wishes
Now, after the sweet tea is received comes the most important part of the Lunar New Year tea etiquette ritual. It’s when auspicious well-wishing happens. Here goes:
As the receiver sips the tea, the offerer recites New Year's well wishes for everyone to hear. Again, he does this with respect, folding his hands lightly in front.
IMPORTANT: For more than one offerer, the second one won’t have to offer a new batch of tea in another cup. Instead, he replenishes the receiver’s cup with fresh tea. Make sure the receiver’s cup is rested while pouring the tea. If there are many offerers, a little amount should be enough.
7. Moneyed packets
For the offerer, the best part is yet to come.
After well-wishing and the given tea is sipped, the receiver returns the favor and gives the receiver a red packet. Note, the color red is symbolic and is used to boost luck and ward off evil spirits.
Are these red packets empty? Certainly not.
Although originally, red packets contained a red paper with well-wishes meant for the receiver, today it holds money. It can also come with other nice things such as candies and chocolates.
But these red packets shouldn’t be empty when given. Or that could invite disaster.
8. Handling matters
Last but not least, you should observe proper handling when giving the tea. And that depends on what vessel you’re using to hold the liquid.
- Using a cup: The cup’s handle should face the right side of the receiver and the left side of the offerer who holds the cup by its saucer using both hands. The receiver must not receive via the saucer, however. He must use one hand to grab the cup’s handle while the other hand secures the saucer.
- Using a gaiwan: In giving the tea, the offerer should be holding the saucer with the gaiwan on it using both hands. When receiving, the receiver uses both hands: one holding the saucer while the other grabs the lid ring.
- Using small tea cups without handles: As this is a bit more challenging, you should use a tray when offering tea using small tea cups that lack handles. Never hand the tea by holding the cup as it’s not proper.
For best tea results, maintain a lower tea-to-water ratio. A good proportion is 1 to 2 grams for every 300 ml. Use strong teas and steep for longer if there are many offerers. In this case, black tea or green tea is good.