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Drinking tea in Guangzhou

morning teaYum Cha, literally “drinking tea”, is an ancient tradition in Guangzhou.

The morning tea ranks their first choice and has become one of the important parts of their daily lives. When they meet in the morning, they usually greet each other with "Have you drunk tea?" Drinking tea has become a habit of Guangzhou residents. By drinking tea, Guangzhou residents mean to drink tea in the teahouse. They drink morning tea, afternoon tea and night tea, and also eat pastries with breakfast, while spreading news, enhancing friendships and talking about business.

"Yum Cha" is a kind of social activity, and a distinct characteristic of Lingnan culture. And nowadays, you could have morning tea not only in teahouse but in restaurant or inside hotel.

The tea drinking tradition can be traced back a hundred years to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). In those days, the Cantonese used to go to a nearby teahouse, like the popular "Two-Cent Teahouse," where they needed to pay only two cents for a pot of tea and some simple snacks. The customers were mostly temporary laborers who couldn't afford anything more expensive.

By the later Qing period, teahouses in the true sense had emerged in Guangzhou. These were more expensive places offering much better tea with a variety of delicacies. The teahouse had become a retreat for professionals and businessmen as well as the ordinary people.

With passage of time, morning tea become a custom that provides Guangdong's diverse population, rich and poor, young and old, and men and women with a common cultural identity: Cantonese. And in the morning tea, in addition to having tea, they also have all kinds of dishes and dim sum, including shrimp dumplings, rice noodle rolls, lobag gow, maatai gow, phoenix talons, steamed meatballs, spare ribs, lotus leaf rice, congee, chien chang go, char siu sou, taro dumpling, egg tart and so on. Drinking tea is a mode of social exchange, which is an important and key factor for the long history of prosperous teahouses in Guangzhou through the centuries.

Every morning, the Cantonese come to morning tea for different reasons. The real tea-drinkers, for instance, prefer to kill time with one pot of fragrant hot tea and two plates of snacks. Businessmen came here in the old days to exchange information as well as to enjoy life a little bit over a cup of tea with some snacks. But thousands of ordinary urbanites would rush to the teahouse in the early morning for a moment of relaxation before starting their daily routine work.

With time passing by, morning tea has prospered ever since it appeared in Guangzhou. Nowadays, it has become an inseparable part of the local life, and life here starts with morning tea for many Guangzhou urbanites.

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