1. Why are dim sums inextricably associated with tea?
In China, home of the first three millennia of tea history, tea was first used as a medicine; then, as an upper-class indulgence being the favourite beverage in the imperial courts. Today, it is a household staple. Teas are paired with sweet or savoury, steamed or fried dim sums, congee (rice stew), Jasmine tea eggs and in case of modern Yum Chas (tea houses) especially in Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong, the elaborate Roasted-Steamed Duck takes centre stage. Dim sums are intrinsic to tea pairings compared to the above options as they are convenient finger food, can be filled in with ingredients like chicken, treated pork, shrimp and greens, be it in steamed buns or steamed/fried options. I prefer it since it doesn’t overwhelm the tea flavours sampled during a tea ceremony that includes at least five teas.
2. What are the special teas that are paired with dim sums; is there a scientific reason or a traditional philosophy about this practice?
The Far East philosophy is rooted within China and Japan, where tea is a ritual created via their traditional tea ceremonies. The tea ceremony takes place within a structured environment, full of simplicity and harmony, grace and tranquility. You could call this the Art of Tea or The Tea of Hospitality, which believes that three elements i.e. the sky that provides sun and rain to grow teas, the earth that provides the soil to nourish teas and the human being who uses his/her skills to produce an artful appeal to tea. Thus, every home in China offers tea on arrival, treating it as a sign of hospitality.
3. Is there a particular manner in which these teas must be brewed? How can this be done at home?
Teas are best brewed neat, as the Chinese do it. No wonder, they are a perfect example of porcelain complexion and healthy bodies. At home, especially in India, tea has been brewed over time like a concoction on a gas stove, with water, milk, loads of sugar and finally, tea leaves — all dunked at one go over copious amount of boiling! Ironically, this holds well with processed teas. To benefit from the goodness of tea one should: Pick a great whole leaf, measure up to 2gms/a tsp or a small pinch with fingers into their favourite cup. The water has to be freshly drawn, not bottled or hard water. The water has to be kept at boiling point, so it is at the correct temperature when it is poured over the tea leaves. The better the quality of tea leaves, the lower the water temperature. Cover the cup with a lid. Let it steep for three minutes in case of green/white or three to five minutes for black/red teas and eight minutes for flower/fruit infusions.
Care should be taken to not simply dunk and serve but instead spend a few minutes enjoying the leaves unfurl.
THE CHINESE TEA PHILOSOPHY
> To not use milk or sugar
> To serve the teas at the beginning or the end of a meal
> The teas served are green, oolong (a tea variant between green and black) and black/red tea
> They like their flower/blooming teas like buds and artisan teas
> Includes brick tea called Pu-erh