Morning Tea in The Popular Teahouses in Guangzhou

Tea holds a special place in the hearts of people across China, with each city boasting its unique tea customs and traditions. In this article, we delve into the morning tea traditions of Guangzhou, the vibrant capital city of Guangdong province in South China.

Morning tea, known as “Zao Cha” in Cantonese, is immensely popular among the residents of Guangzhou. However, it’s not just about drinking tea but also savoring a delightful array of dim sum dishes as breakfast.

A Way of Life in Guangzhou

In Guangzhou, locals greet each other with the phrase “Yǐn zuǒ chá wèi,” which means “Have you drunk your morning tea?” This practical greeting has become more common than a simple “Hi” or “Good morning” in the city. Regardless of their socioeconomic status, age, or gender, people in Guangzhou gather at teahouses to indulge in morning tea. It has become a deeply rooted habit and an essential form of social interaction in their daily lives.

Whether it’s for a friendly get-together or a business negotiation, locals flock to teahouses. They order pots of tea and various baskets of delectable dim sum, engaging in lively conversations while relishing the food. In Cantonese, the act of drinking morning tea is called “Tancha,” which translates to “enjoying tea.” The popular tea choices during morning tea sessions are tie guan yin oolong tea and pu’er tea.

So, why do the people of Guangzhou have an affinity for enjoying morning tea at teahouses? Apart from the elegant ambiance and vibrant atmosphere, the primary reason lies in the delicious and delicate dim sum offerings that tantalize the taste buds.

Exploring Dim Sum Delights in Guangzhou’s Teahouses

When it comes to dim sum, there is a saying that perfectly captures the essence of Guangzhou’s morning tea culture: “One cup of tea and two baskets” (Chinese: 一盅两件). This means ordering a pot of tea accompanied by two varieties of dim sum, which is the preferred combination for morning tea in Guangzhou. In this vibrant city, dim sum comes in two main categories: solid and liquid.

The solid dim sum options are a delight to behold and include Chinese dumplings, steamed buns, and various types of glutinous foods. On the other hand, the liquid dim sum offerings consist of delectable porridge, guiling jelly, and beancurd jelly, among others. In Guangdong, dim sum is known for its small and delicate nature, with each portion typically comprising 3 or 4 pieces served in a small steamer basket or plate that fits snugly in the palm of an adult’s hand.

In Guangzhou’s teahouses, these enticing dim sum delicacies are served alongside a pot of tea, creating a harmonious and satisfying morning tea experience. Whether you indulge in the savory goodness of solid dim sum or relish the comforting flavors of liquid dim sum, the combination of tea and these delectable treats is a cherished tradition that captures the essence of Guangzhou’s culinary heritage.

Evolution of Tea Houses in Guangzhou: A Journey of Prosperity

The tea house culture in Guangzhou has undergone significant development in recent years, paralleling the city’s economic prosperity.

During the reign of Emperor Tongzhi in the Qing dynasty, tea houses began to flourish in Guangzhou. At that time, they were known as “Er Li Guan.” These establishments were typically located at the entrances of alleys and equipped with wooden tables, chairs, and a stove for boiling tea. Customers could enjoy their tea by simply paying “er li,” a unit of currency equivalent to 720 li. Hence, the name “Er Li Guan” emerged.

Over time, tea houses evolved. People started referring to them as “Chaju,” which were larger, more comfortable, and relatively more expensive than the humble “Er Li Guan.” Construction workers and laborers would gather at Chaju every day, arriving as early as 4-5 am. They would occupy their usual seats, engage in conversations, and savor their tea. If someone was absent, their absence would be noticed, prompting discussions and speculations about their whereabouts.

During the reign of Emperor Guangxu in the Qing dynasty, Guangzhou’s economy flourished, leading to the formal construction of tea houses. These grand four-story buildings boasted magnificent and elegant decor. It was during this time that they became widely known as “tea houses.” Some early Chaju establishments experienced remarkable success and expanded their operations, eventually transforming into fully-fledged tea houses. For instance, “Tao Tao Ju” was established in 1880 and has thrived for over a century, continuing to serve customers in modern-day Guangzhou.

The evolution of tea houses in Guangzhou reflects the city’s journey of prosperity, from humble “Er Li Guan” to the grand and cherished tea houses that stand today.

Tea House Customs and Traditions: A Delightful Experience

Upon entering a tea house, a waiter will provide you with a record card that lists the various dishes and dim sums available. They will also inquire about your tea preference.

No need to worry about serving yourself. Attentive waiters push carts filled with a variety of dishes around the dining hall. As the cart approaches your table, you can select the items you desire. The waiter will then record your choices on your card or provide a stamp in the snack catalog. When you have finished enjoying your morning tea, simply take your card and proceed to the checkout counter.

If you need a refill for your teapot, there’s no need to call or wave for a waiter’s attention. Just remove the teapot lid, and the waiters will promptly come to assist you. This efficient approach saves the waiters from making multiple trips and ensures their convenience.

If you’re visiting Guangzhou, don’t miss the opportunity to try Zao Cha in a tea house. It promises to be a remarkable experience. However, be mindful not to arrive too late for morning tea. Arriving late may require you to share a table with strangers. Sharing a table with strangers is a unique aspect of tea house culture and adds to the charm of the experience.

Immerse yourself in the customs and traditions of Guangzhou’s tea houses, and savor the delights they have to offer.

Famous Teahouses in Guangzhou

Tao Tao Ju Teahouse

Address: 20 Di Shi Fu Lu, Shang Xia Jiu, Liwan District

Average Price: 60 RMB

Tao Tao Ju Teahouse holds the distinction of being the oldest and most renowned morning tea establishment in Guangzhou. Its origins date back to 1880 during the Qing Dynasty, and its interior showcases the classic features of Guangzhou’s architecture. Visiting Tao Tao Ju is a must to truly experience the local way of life in Guangzhou and indulge in authentic Cantonese delicacies.

Lin Heung Teahouse

Address: 67 Di Shi Fu Lu, Liwan District

Average Price: 55 RMB

Lin Heung Teahouse is an iconic tea house in Guangzhou with a rich history. It is particularly famous for its exceptionally smooth lotus seed paste and is credited with introducing mooncakes for the Mid-Autumn Festival. Despite being popular among locals, it is definitely worth a visit to explore this celebrated brand and its authentic offerings.

Pan Xi Restaurant

Address: 151 Longjin West Road, Liwan District

Average Price: 60 RMB

Pan Xi Restaurant is a remarkable garden restaurant, boasting the title of the largest of its kind in China. Stepping inside, you’ll be greeted by the charm of southern garden aesthetics, with a simple yet elegant decor. Indulge in their culinary delights, such as the flavorful Boiled Chicken with Sauce, succulent Sesame Suckling Pig, delectable Water Chestnut Cake, aromatic Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf, as well as mouthwatering Roast Pork and Roasted Goose.

Bei Yuan Restaurant

Address: 200–202 Xiao Bei Road, Yuexiu District

Average Price: 112 RMB

Established in the 1920s, Bei Yuan Restaurant boasts a rich history spanning nearly a century. Situated near Yangcheng North and Baiyun Mountain, it offers a serene and comfortable ambiance. While not solely a teahouse, it is an excellent destination to experience the delights of Canton Morning Tea, among other culinary treasures.

Shuimu Lianqing Lingnan Teahouse

Address: Floor 1, 2 Fu Hua Dong Lu, Shi Qiao, Panyu District

Average Price: 71 RMB

At Shuimu Lianqing Lingnan Teahouse, different sets of opening hours cater to various preferences, but the period from 14:30 to 17:30 stands out as the favorite among locals seeking leisure. During this time, knowledgeable staff members are available to guide you through the delicate art of tea. From the brewing to the pouring and sipping, these trained experts are eager to showcase the intricate techniques.

Liuhua Teahouse

Address: Liuhua Lake Park (near the China Hotel), 1 Liuhua Lu, Yuexiu District

Average Price: 71 RMB

As the largest teahouse in Guangzhou, Liuhua Teahouse offers a picturesque setting next to Liuhua Lake. Inside and out, it is adorned with traditional Chinese aesthetics, creating an enchanting atmosphere. To further enhance the ambiance, evening performances of guzheng, a traditional musical instrument, add a delightful touch.

Tongqing Tang

Address: 901 Jiefang North Road, Yuexie Park

Average Price: 126 RMB

Nestled within the urban jungle, Tongqing Tang is a secluded paradise for antique enthusiasts. Its higher price range deters casual visitors, making it perfect for intimate gatherings or special occasions. Prepare to invest a few hundred RMB for a pot of tea, as Tongqing Tang caters to discerning tea connoisseurs. Additionally, there is a VIP room available for those seeking an exclusive experience.

Zi Zai Tang

Address: Xingang Dong Lu, 1 Panjiang Garden Street, near the exhibition center entrance

Average Price: 129 RMB

Step into Zi Zai Tang and immerse yourself in a tranquil oasis adorned with traditional Chinese furniture and decor. The ambiance exudes peace and harmony, creating a perfect retreat from the bustling city. As you explore the teahouse, you’ll notice that many of the captivating paintings displayed are available for purchase.

The menu at Zi Zai Tang boasts a delightful selection of organic and vegetarian dishes, catering to diverse dietary preferences. But it’s the impressive array of teas that truly steals the show. Each tea selection is prepared with utmost care and served at your table, following the appropriate traditional style. Indulge in the rich flavors and aromatic profiles as you embark on a journey of tea appreciation in this serene haven.

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