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A Po Cha | Updated: 2012-09-24 16:09

A Po Cha (grandmother's tea) of Zhouzhuang is fairly famous in the southern Yangtze River area. In Zhouzhuang, men and women would gather together, eating and chatting. This specific folk custom is known as taking A Po Cha.

A Po Cha

This custom has been practiced in Zhouzhuang since early times. During the Yuan Dynasty period, the ancestors of Chen Qubing moved to Zhouzhuang from Zhejang Province. They made a living by hammering smoking stoves and processing copper and tin teapots. To date, the town remains to host a few tea warehouses built by Anhui merchants in Ming and Qing dynasties. Among them, the warehouse of Wu Qingfeng was opened in early Qing Dynasty, and that of Cheng Yitai was set up during the reign of Emperor Qianlong of Qing Dynasty.

Old people of Zhouzhuang continue to keep the centuries-old and unique mode to drink tea – stewing tea. They would place a big water vat at home to store up Tian Luo Shui (water falling from sky). To prepare to drink tea, they would ladle such water into a pottery kettle, put the kettle upon a stove, and boil the water with tree branches. They will make tea with sealed covered bowels or purple clay teapots. They will put some tea, pour a little boiling water for Dian Cha Niang (make preparations), cover the bowel or teapot with a lid and, after a while, pour more hot water. Tea made in this mode exudes a delicate fragrance and tastes very refreshing.

Young people would also sit around a table in their spare time. When a young fellow decides to "eat A Po Cha" with others some day, he will invite them and make preparations a few days in advance. On the appointed day, he would wash the tea-things, and put in place the table and chairs. Guests will arrive from far and near in high spirits at the agreed time. The host and guests will greet each other, and take seats accordingly. The host family will receive the guests warmly, and start to make tea, and offer candies, candied fruits and fresh fruits. In making tea, the host will first Dian Cha Niang and then pour the cups with full water, showing hospitality. The guests will drink the tea for San Kai (add boiling water for three rounds) at least before they could leave. When the tea party ends, the people will part by cupping one hand in the other before the chest. At this moment, the next tea party will be settled concerning the host, time and place.

Wedding tea. Wedding tea is normally drunk in the morning of the day following the wedding ceremony. Before taking the tea, neighbors will first enter the room of the newly-weds to admire and congratulate them. The bride will receive the guests and ask them to take seats. In the course of drinking the tea, the host will extend each visitor a dish of food prepared by the bride's family, including red-skinned sugar cane, red Chinese dates, longan, walnut and candies. When all the guests have arrived, the bride will hold a kettle of boiling water and, under the guidance of her mother-in-law, pour water for each guest to show respect. Why not?

Baby's one-month birthday tea. This is a mode of drinking tea to celebrate the one-month birthday of a baby. The tea will be served in a similar manner as the wedding tea.

Spring Festival tea. This is a ceremony to drink tea for the Spring Festival. People will start to drink tea on the first day of the lunar New Year. They will move to one family a day, until each family in the neighborhood has served the tea. The host family for the Spring Festival tea will go to each family to invite the guests early in the morning, so the event is also called Inviting to Drink Tea.

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