A rich variety of dim sum dishes with Chinese tea for yum cha, a Cantonese-style brunch or breakfast. [File photo]
Yum cha, or "going out for dim sum", is a term in Cantonese which literally means "drinking tea". It refers to the custom of eating small servings of differing foods while sipping Chinese tea for brunch or breakfast. Hundreds of dim sum dishes can be on offer, including fried, steamed, roasted and baked delicacies, in addition to dumplings, buns and baked tarts.
It is a lifestyle characteristic of Guangzhou folk, and as a gourmet's paradise, an integral part of the culinary culture of Guangzhou city.
For locals, yum cha is actually a social activity for friends to gather in a teahouse to chat, eat dim sum and drink tea. Teahouses are also places where business deals are struck and people enjoy their leisure time. For this reason, local people also call yum cha, tan cha, which means "enjoying tea" in Cantonese. The overwhelming popularity of this ritual has given rise to a flourishing century-old teahouse industry. A large portion of Guangzhou's time-honored catering establishments are actually teahouses.
Although there are not strict rules of etiquette governing the proper conduct of yum cha, guests usually tap the table with the forefinger and middle finger of the same hand when the host is refilling his cup. It is a gesture of gratitude to the host.
Teahouses in Guangzhou offer morning, noon and evening teas. Morning tea is typically on offer from 4 am to 11 am, and evening tea from 5 pm until 1 am or 2 am the next morning. Some teahouses are open all night. Teahouses are often packed in the mornings. On holidays, teahouses are so busy that customers usually have to wait for seats. In summer, teahouses are the favorite place for local people to enjoy some cooling refreshment.