Yum cha, in Cantonese literally means “drink tea”, is a Cantonese style morning or afternoon tea, which involves drinking Chinese tea and eating dim sum dishes. To try it is not only a good way to learn about Cantonese culture, but also an interesting experience to taste some yummy food.
Yum cha primarily refers to the tradition of morning tea in Cantonese cuisine exemplified by the traditional tea houses of Guangzhou. Due to the prevalence of Cantonese cuisine outside China, yum cha tradition can be found in many parts of the world. If you have a chance to visit Guangzhou, you should not miss a genuine one here.
Similarly to a Western morning or afternoon tea, despite the name, yum cha is focused as much on the food items served with the tea as the tea itself. These food items are collectively known as “dim sum”, a varied range of small dishes which may constitute or replace breakfast, brunch or afternoon tea. Dishes are usually steamed or fried and may be savoury or sweet, including steamed buns, rice noodle rolls and desserts. All of them are exquisite and delicious.
During yum cha, it is customary to pour tea for others before filling one’s own tea cup and it is most gracious to be the first to pour tea. When tea drinkers tap the table with two (occasionally one) fingers of the same hand, an action known as finger kowtow, it is an expression of gratitude to the member of the party who filled their cups, so do not forget to tap the table with your fingers if you are there.