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Tea Drinking Tradition Continue to Be Important in Asian Cultures


The tradition of tea drinking was mentioned in Chinese literature as far back as five thousand years ago, and is still an important part of many Asian cultures. Although the patience needed to brew a perfect pot of tea may seem at odds with today's fast-paced lifestyle, it remains popular across the generations. VOA's Naomi Martig reports from Hong Kong.

At the Lam Kie Yuen Tea Company in Hong Kong, containers of loose tea leaves line the walls, and the scent of roasting tea in the backroom oven is overwhelmingly aromatic. Lam Kwan Yin has worked in the tea business for more than 50 years. He started the Lam Kie Yuen Tea Company in Hong Kong in 1955, and just recently opened a store in Vancouver, Canada.

Lam says the numbers of young people and adults who come to the shop are roughly equal. He says both age groups are interested in learning how to brew tea, but the types they prefer are quite different.

Lam says young people are more interested in lighter teas, such as Green or Oolong teas, which are often marketed as having health benefits. Adults who are long-time tea drinkers, however, prefer darker, redder teas, which are also considered healthful, but taste much more bitter.

Zhu Zhunghai with the China Tea Association in Beijing says there is a belief that young people today are not as interested in tea as their parents were. But he says this is not the case.

"Green tea [drinking] among the youth has actually increased, because the newer generation is more counseled about the health, and tea is seen as a health drink," he said.

Lam says loose-leaf tea is much more popular in his shop than tea bags, because his customers are more interested in learning the tradition of tea brewing.

Steeping the tea takes more than 10 minutes, and Lam says that most young people who come to his shops are eager to learn the process, which includes arranging the cups, rinsing them, and pouring steaming water onto the tea leaves.

Even sipping the final product is an art, a style he says is very similar to wine tasting.

Although soft drinks and fast food certainly have charmed younger Asians more than their parents' generation, it appears that some traditions are not going to simmer down any time soon. A perfect cup of tea, for Asians young and old, continues to be seen as an artistic accomplishment, and is still very much worth the wait.

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