Western teacupI grew up in the American Midwest, and in doing so had limited exposure to tea as I know it now.  But it seems in switching between styles of tea, you can get a bit of a culture shock without even leaving your home.  It’s amazing the differences that the Western, Japanese, and Chinese tea cultures have in their preparation and serving of tea, and it can make switching between styles somewhat daunting at first.

In the West, we brew our tea on the weaker side; it’s viewed more as a casual beverage, which can be enjoyed on the go, or even in a formal High Tea fashion.  A standard cup size in the West can range anywhere from 6-20 ounces and at first, I saw no problem with 16- or even 20-ounce cups of tea.  But that was before I became interested in Chinese tea.

Chinese teacupsI basically went from one extreme to the other in the tea world.  Since getting used to the Chinese fashion of drinking tea, I consider a 3-ounce cup to be on the large size, and most of my tea drinking is done out of half- to one-ounce cups.  Surely a lot different than the 20-ounce monsters!  But as evidence of the culture shock, I was skeptical when people first told me that they brew in a 100ml pot, or a 100ml gaiwan.  I tended toward the larger sizes until I realized that when I brew tea as strong as the Chinese do, it tastes amazing – like a tea syrup.

Japanese teacupsOnce I was used to the formal style of drinking traditional Chinese tea, I felt the need to shock my system again, so I started drinking Japanese tea.  When you look at the standard sizes for their Yunomis they are typically 4-8 ounces.  Japanese tea is brewed a bit stronger than the Western style, but not quite as strong as the Chinese style (except perhaps for Gyokuro).  What amazes me is it’s still not unheard of to have a teacup in Japan that can hold roughly 10 ounces.  Surely though most people do not fill those 10-ounce cups to the top.

I can only wonder what further culture shocks I will experience in my tea-drinking future without ever leaving my home.