Lapsang Souchong

Lapsang Souchong

According to the Chinese Calendar, February 3rd of 2011 is the beginning of the new year (year 4708 or 4709, depending on whom you’re consulting). Each year also has an animal associated with it (there are 12 in all, with the list recycling every 12 years). This is the year of the Rabbit (in Chinese: Xin Mao). So let’s hop along and have a rousing Chinese New Year celebration — with tea, of course!

A full-blown Chinese New Year celebration lasts 15 days, as follows:

Day 1 – Abstain from meat to ensure long and happy lives
Day 2 – Pray to ancestors and the gods; be extra kind to and feed dogs
Day 3 – Sons-in-laws pay respect to their parents-in-law
Day 4 – Same as Day 3
Day 5 – Avoid visiting families and friends lest it bring bad luck
Day 6 – Visit relatives and friends, and pray in the temples for good fortune and health (goes on thru Day 10)
Day 7 – Farmers display their harvest and make a drink from 7 different vegetables; people eat noodles for longevity and raw fish for success
Day 8 – In the Fujian Province, people have a family reunion dinner, and at midnight pray to the God of Heaven (Tian Gong)
Day 9 – Offerings are made to the Jade Emperor
Day 10 – Friends and relatives are entertained and served dinner
Day 11 – Same as Day 10
Day 12 – Same as Day 10
Day 13 – Dine on simple rice congee and mustard greens (choi sum) to cleanse the system after all the rich food enjoyed during the previous days
Day 14 – Prepare for the Lantern Festival
Day 15 – Celebrate the Lantern Festival

Phew! Busy schedule!

You don’t have to get so elaborate. Just break out the appropriate teas and treats. Oranges and tangerines are part of that, since they are symbols for abundant happiness. Lotus seeds are a symbol of many male offspring. Ginkgo nuts represent silver ingots. Candies such as candied melon (growth and good health), lychee nuts (strong family relationships), coconut (togetherness), and peanuts (long life) are popular choices to enjoy at this time.

Red is a color that to the Chinese denotes good luck, good fortune, abundance, and happiness, so include a bit of red in your New Year’s Teatime. Teawares, table linens, or even foods dyed red will do the trick. Dragons are also important symbols (wisdom and beauty), so you might serve a tea named Nine Bend Black Dragon (very tasty).

Other tea choices that would be appropriate:

  • Golden Monkey — a black tea with a sweet taste
  • Keemun Panda — a black tea that steeps up a bright and reddish liquid with a wine-like fruitiness that goes well with milk
  • Lapsang Souchong — a smoky-flavored black tea good with strong tasting foods
  • Shui Xian — an Oolong said to aid digestion
  • Jasmine Dragon Tears — a smooth tea with delicate flavor and an enticing jasmine aroma
  • Dragonwell — also called Long Jing, one of the best known and tasting Chinese green teas
  • Dragon Pearls — another fine green tea, this one made from the top two leaves and the bud of new growth that are hand-rolled into small pearls
  • 100 Monkeys White Tea — a best-selling white tea with a delicate flavor.

If you prefer something caffeine-free, try a chrysanthemum tisane. The Chinese enjoy this both hot and cold.

Are you a rabbit? Yes, if you were born in 1903, 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, and of course this year. According to Chinese tradition, that means you are popular, compassionate, and sincere. You’re in good company, too. Sports legend Michael Jordan plus actress Drew Barrymore, part of the Barrymore dynasty, are rabbits. Scientist Albert Einstein and soccer (futbol) great David Beckham are in this group, too.

Happy hopping in the Year of the Rabbit with Chinese teas, candies, and lots of red for good luck!

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