By: Liang May
A mummy blogger’s Step-by-Step Guide to Appreciating the Art of Tea with Little Ones
Published on 28 April 2018
As an advocate of cultural immersion, I’ve always been keen to expose my children to as much of the world as possible. Whenever we travel, I tend to slip in a local activity such as watching a Wayang Kulit performance (Indonesian puppet theatre) in Indonesia or taking part in Thailand’s Songkran festivities (the traditional Thai new year marked by spraying water at one another).
Now back in Singapore, I wanted my children to experience the lesser-known sides of our Lion City. As Singaporeans, we are fortunate to grow up in a multi-cultural environment – we needn’t travel far to enjoy different cultural experiences. We have it right here at our doorstep.
I had heard about East Inspirations, a Chinese antiques and tea shop where the friendly owners, Mr. and Mrs. Cheong, invite you to experience a traditional tea pouring session. Initially, I was hesitant to take two pre-schoolers to an activity where the cups were delicate, the tea was hot, and the process, long. I wasn’t certain if Ewan and Faye would be kept interested from start to end. Despite all that doubt, I decided to go ahead with the tea-venture.
From my superficial knowledge of tea, I had always thought that all teas contained caffeine and therefore never allowed my kids to drink the tea offered at Chinese restaurants. I was surprised when Mr. Cheong told me that floral teas such as rose and chrysanthemum were actually caffeine-free. My children were thrilled to hear that they would be partaking in an “adult” activity, and drinking tea for the first time!
To have your own East Inspirations experience, I’ve written a step-by-step guide on the entire tea-pouring session so that you can decide if this a place to take your tykes.
STEP ONE: CHOOSE YOUR TEA PET
A tea pet is a small clay figurine kept by tea drinkers as a prized possession. As some teas need “rinsing”, simply pouring the tea out to drain would be a waste of the precious leaves. Instead, the tea is poured onto a “tea pet” to make the drinking journey more meaningful as you watch the liquids subtly change colour from the tea absorption.
STEP THREE: SELECT YOUR TEA
Did you know certain tea leaves age well like fine wine? The older they are, the better they taste. For example, pu’erand liubao. While I got to appreciate a few rounds of 2006 pu’er, my children were given chrysanthemum, which was not aged but fresh, and most importantly, caffeine free.
STEP FOUR: WEIGH OUT YOUR TEA
You will need to weigh your tea leaves or flower buds to get the right mix of flavor. For Chinese teas, a general rule of thumb is 4 grams to 180 ml of water to give it the best brew. Although different tea drinkers have personal preferences, it is recommended to drink it less strong so it is not too acidic for the body.
STEP EIGHT: TRANSFER THE POT OF TEA TO AN EMPTY POT
You can enjoy a few small cups of chrysanthemum in one brew. If you do not transfer the brewed tea out to an empty pot, the tea will become even more concentrated. By transferring it out, you will be able to fully appreciate the first brew, which was steeped for just 10 seconds.
So what did the children enjoy most from the tea appreciation experience? They loved pouring water and tea over their tea pet rhinoceros. Instead of drinking, they requested to “bathe” their one-eyed rhinoceros instead.
Though the day was filled with a lot of my nervous warnings of “Be careful!” and “Get down from the table please! , the experience at East Inspirations was a beautiful one that adds another cultural accomplishment badge to their experiences. Though an older child might’ve been more able to grasp the essence of tea drinking, I felt that the activity was still suitable for the younger ones as it teaches them care and discipline.
East Inspirations is a family-owned antique shop at Chinatown. They are not a tea house and thus do not charge for tea appreciation sessions. The Cheongs are tea lovers who often get together over a good brew, and they host their tea-pouring sessions in a beautifully decorated Chinese room located in the inner corners of their shop.
While they do not charge for the tea sessions, the tea cups, pots, pets and tea leaves are all on sale to replicate the experience at home for yourself.
Find them here:
East Inspirations Antique Shop
33 Pagoda St, Singapore 059192
Opening Hours: 10.30am – 6.30pm daily
Telephone: +65 6224 2993
If you’re looking to book the same tea appreciation session, do call ahead to check on availability first!
Liang May is a proud stay-at-home mum of two who often blogs about her family’s adventures through her website