World Heritage in China

Traditional tea processing techniques and associated social practices in China

Updated: Jul 2, 2024 Print
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White tea during the process of withering in Fujian province [Photo provided to]

Tea, recognized as a culinary icon of China for millennia, encapsulates the cultural treasure of mankind through knowledge, skills and practices concerning the management of tea plantations, the picking of tea leaves, and the processing, serving and drinking of tea.

On Nov 29, 2022, the traditional tea processing techniques and their associated social practices in China were added to UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Spanning over 2,000 tea products in six main categories according to their degrees of fementation: green, white, yellow, oolong, black and dark teas, each offers distinct aromas, flavors and shapes.

Core skills include shaqing (enzyme inactivation), menhuang (yellowing), wodui (piling), weidiao (withering), zuoqing (leaves shaking and cooling), fajiao (oxidation or fermentation) and yinzhi (scenting). The techniques are primarily found in the provinces and autonomous regions of Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Hunan, Anhui, Hubei, Henan, Shaanxi, Yunnan, Guizhou, Sichuan, Fujian, Guangdong and Guangxi. However, associated social practices are spread throughout the country and shared by multiple ethnic groups.

Through the ancient Silk Road and trade routes, tea-related customs influenced the world beyond China. Tea plays an important role in socialization and ceremonies. The practice of greeting guests and building relationships within families and among neighbors through tea-related activities is common to multiple ethnic groups, providing a sense of shared identity and continuity for communities.

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