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Enjoying Morning Tea

Guangzhou residents enjoy morning tea. Sipping morning tea is a daily rite for local residents.

Guangzhou is the center of China's tea trade, and tea has the favorite drink of the city for centuries. Before the Qing Dynasty, teahouses in Guangzhou were mostly poorly equipped low buildings and had a limited range of service. It was until certain time during the reign of Emperor Guangxu of the Qing Dynasty (1875-1909) that the first decent teahouse, named "Sanyuan Building", appeared at the city's business center, the Shisanhang ("the 13 firms"). The Sanyuan Building was a magnificent sumptuously-furnished three-storey structure, dubbed "the High Teahouse". Soon, local residents referred to the morning tea rite as "going to the High Teahouse". Shortly afterwards, teahouse mushroomed across the city, notably the Taotao, Luyu, Tianran, Yixiang and Furu Teahouses, and the Nanyuan, Beiyuan, Banxi, Datong and Guangzhou Restaurants. All of them are sumptuous furnished in distinctive styles, and many of them have evolved into renowned established eateries in Guangzhou.

All major teahouses and some restaurants offer morning, afternoon and evening tea. Morning tea is the most popular, often on offer from 4am to 11am, and the teahouses are often packed. Long queues are common sights in front of the teahouses on public holiday. Guangzhou residents' passion for morning tea is evident in everyday life. For example, local people greet each other by asking "Have you drunk tea?" And there is an even popular proverb that "A kettle of tea every morning keeps the doctor away".

In Guangzhou, morning tea is often accompanied by refreshments, and people would talk about local news and business and catch up on old times over cups of tea. Thus, the morning tea rite is actually a form of socializing. Guangzhou residents drink a wide variety of tea, including the flower tea, puer tea, chrysanthemum tea, tieguanyin tea, oolong tea, and aromatic tea. Common refreshments consumed with tea include noodles, steamed pork dumplings, steamed buns stuffed with barbecued roast pork, bread with lard and sugar fillings, prawn dumplings, steamed small pork dumplings in baskets, steamed dumplings with mushroom and pork, dried taro chips, water chestnut cake, rice porridge, and rice noodles. Every morning, patrons would stream into the teahouses and order a kettle of tea and a couple of snacks. Many commuters would have the morning tea before going to work, and people with more time would enjoy the rite at leisure while socializing with fellow-patrons.

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