4. December 2020

Tea Food


In a broad sense, the concept of tea food 茶食 [chá shí] is generally referred to as tea cakes and snacks, therefore, in the eyes of the Chinese people, tea food is often a general name. In tea academic circles, tea food often refers to tea dishes, tea rice porridge and other tea products mixed with tea and other edible materials. The formation and development of tea food and tea banquet 茗宴 [míng yàn] can be said to be the extension and expansion of ancient tea eating method, which has a long history and roughly experienced five stages, the original stage of the primitive period in the pre Qin period is characterized by using the original taste of tea leaves to cooking a thick tea soup as food.

Nan Tang Dynasty Eight Tea food dishes of meatballs, pasta and fruit…

The development stage of Han, Wei, Jin and southern and Northern Dynasties is the feature of drinking boiled tea mixed with seasoning together. In the mature stage of Sui, Tang and Song Dynasties, tea was used as condiment and various kinds of tea flavor food were made. At Song Dynasty time, Jingshan tea banquet, located in Jingshan temple, Yuhang, Zhejiang Province, was famous for its wild interest in mountain forest and high rhyme of Zen forest.

Song Dynasty Tea Banquet in the landscape garden

During the prosperous period of Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties, tea was used as condiment and various kinds of tea flavor food were made. Tea houses in Ming Dynasty supplied various kinds of tea refreshments and fruits, and there were many varieties tea food according to different seasons. The golden age of modern society is particular abou its scientific emphasis on the taste of tea food and tea banquet, the pursuit of rich and diverse artistic sentiment. Read More

“Fine Tea Food 细巧茶食” shop in Ming Dynasty

The function of tea food is to neutralize the bitter taste of tea, avoid the monotony of tea drinking process, increase sociality, and fill the slight hunger brought by tea. In addition, it can also avoid the “tea drunk” symptoms such as palpitation, dizziness, and upset caused by drinking tea on an empty stomach, and relieve the stomach injury caused by strong tea.

Tea snacks of one teahouse in Hangzhou

Tea dishes refer to the dishes with tea. Tea dish is different from the general cold dish and hot frying, its characteristics are: light, fresh, tasty, chewable, non fishy and not greasy, taste texture or crispy, or soft and tender, plain and elegant color, finished product without juice, taste through the muscle.

Deep-Fried Dough Sticks

Moreover, the material is exquisite, the production is fine, and the quantity is also small. Tea foodstuff includes all kinds of sugar food, preserved fruit and fried food, it is a snack with tea. Its general characteristics are sweet, sour, salty and fragrant, with distinct taste, small shape and small quantity. It is quite chewable, and it is a delicious and appetizing snack.

Tangyuan (stuffed glutinous rice ball)

Today’s teahouses, tea foodstuff has been also updated with more varieties, it could be roughly divided into four categories: nuts and fruits, melon seeds, peanuts, dates, chestnuts, plums, hawthorn, olives, chestnut and so on; Cakes, ice cream, crisp and so on; Candy, tribute sugar, peanut sugar, sesame sugar, soft candy and so on; Snacks, steamed buns, dumplings, Zongzi- traditional Chinese rice-pudding, dried tofu, dried meat and so on.

Fresh lotus seeds and sweet scented osmanthus cake of the autumn season

For those who are fastidious, the type, taste, shape and color of tea should be changed with the seasons, in order to pursue the corresponding with the seasons. For example, the color of tea food in spring is more colorful, the taste of tea food in summer is lighter, the taste of tea food in autumn is more elegant, and the taste of tea food in winter is stronger. The color, variety and quantity of tea should be less than enough, enough is as good as a feast, don’t destroy the taste of tea.

Handmade Tea Moon Cake

Kongfu tea is often consumed in Southern Fujian and Chaoshan areas of Guangdong Province, the tea food products there are mainly Nan suger, coconut cake and mung bean cake. It is not only delicious, but also elegant in appearance, it can not only satisfy the stomach, but also add fun to the pleasure of tea tasting. In Yangzhou, there are “Red Mansion tea snacks” specially made according to the description of the original work <Dream of the Red Mansion 红楼梦> which describes a lot of delicious food, not only the daily life of aristocratic families, but also elegant diet, including pine nuts and goose oil rolls, crab roe dumplings, Ruyi lock pieces, etc. for tea.
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When it comes to tea food, in fact, it’s easy to think of Japanese tea food, the beautiful tea snack is not too greasy and crooked only when it is paired with tea. The Japanese tea ceremony is usually made twice. The first cup is delicious and sweet, while the second cup is sweet and astringent. Therefore, we should have some tea snacks 和果子 between the first cup and the second cup, a part of Japanese tea ceremony. The tea is slightly bitter, so the Japanese tea food is very sweet. After drinking tea, people’s taste will be very sharp, and the tea snack is very good-looking, giving people a good sensory experience, while the taste of tea and the entrance form a great contrast.

When the envoys of the Tang Dynasty brought tea drinking habits to Japan, they also brought tea ceremony culture and tea food. At that time, Japanese nobility couldn’t put it down, so they gave the fruit many elegant names, such as “Morning Dew” and “Brocade Jade Soup” were named after the Japanese nobility from Wako. In Japan, tea food maker by every tea party has to change the style of tea food. Tea snack is paied more attention to its appearance and season, such as Japanese maple leaf steamed bread- Momiji manjū, we can feel the strong flavor of season just by looking at its name.


From the noble formal tea party to the famous English afternoon tea or , drinking tea is not the key. Tasting cakes, tea sandwiches, scones, fruit tarts and other snacks has become the most important part, for example, Three-Tier Petit Four Stand. The first layer (bottom layer) is filled with tea sandwiches of various flavors, the second layer (middle layer) is the traditional British scone, and the third layer (top layer) is the small cake and Fruit Tower. This three-tier snack should be eaten from bottom to top, from salty to sweet, from light to thick. In addition to this essential three-tier snack, some croissants, raisins, caviar and other food will also be placed to cater to the taste of guests.

Working class dining from 5 pm to 7 pm is called high tea in Britain. It is usually composed of hot dishes, pastries, bread, butter and jam. Sometimes there are cold meat dishes such as ham salad. The term “high tea” appeared around 1825, in which “high” means the time is later, and “high tea” means the time of tea in the evening is later than that of tea in the afternoon. It’s a popular term among British workers and in northern England and Scottish dialects.

Afternoon tea culture has been brought into Europe from Britain, in almost every western restaurant, afternoon tea is served in the afternoon.


In Germany, afternoon tea is called Kaffee, German tea food may be strange to people. Butter / sugar cake is a common traditional tea cake in Westfalen and Mecklenburg in the West and north of Germany. The surface of the cake is sprinkled with almonds or nuts, and sometimes with cream or fruit filling.

East Frisians in the coastal area of northern Germany like to eat another kind of cake with plums and fresh cream, Friesentorte, when they drink tea. There is also a crisp egg roll called Rullekes, it is also a traditional tea that East Frisians are keen on. Traditionally, they only eat this kind of egg roll in the new year. What you may not know is that East Frisia is not only the area with the largest per capita tea consumption in the world, but also the unique East Frisian tea ceremony, which was even regarded as an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2016.

What’s more unexpected is that there is a sausage called tea sausage in Germany. When people in Pomerania of northern Germany and Poland drink their afternoon tea, they like to squeeze tea sausage out and spread it on sandwiches. Tea sausage is smoked with beech, and the meat flavor seems to fit the strong smoked tea flavor. Read More


When people in Dutch speaking areas of Holland and Belgium drink tea, they like to match the tea with Dutch characteristics. The Dutch Stroopwafel, with brown sugar maltose syrup sandwiched between two pieces of waffle, is very similar to the Belgian Waffle in appearance. Traditionally, the Stroopwafel is covered on the top of the cup of hot tea. When the heat of the tea melts the syrup in the two pieces of waffel, the boiling hot tea also cools slightly, making it easier to drink. With the steamed Dutch Stroopwafel, you can enjoy tea slowly.

Stroopwafel is a very cheap local dessert, its original invention came from waste utilization, it was made from the surplus materials of baking. Due to its low price, once it was introduced, it was very popular with poor people. In the early days, it was also called poor people’s waffle. Stroopwafel first appeared in Holland’s Gouda area at the end of the 18th century. They were popular in Holland and Belgium’s Dutch speaking areas. After 1870, they began to appear in areas other than Gouda, and soon became a famous snack in Holland. Nowadays, many open-air markets can see stands selling freshly-made Dutch Stroopwafel, and supermarkets can also buy factory made Stroopwafel.