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Morning Tea Culture Takes Root in Shanghai

Morning tea, a habit of Hong Kong people, has gradually taken roots in Shanghai. As long as you are willing to sacrifice some sleeping time, you can spend weekend mornings with a group of like-minded friends and, over tea, talk spiritedly about that week's events and discuss things big and small. Morning tea has created an opportunity for bustling urban dwellers to get together and it is not difficult to see why more and more people are becoming its devotees.

Shanghai's early tea has three varieties, Shanghai style, Cantonese style and Western style, with a mixture of the first two being the most popular. Inside many restaurants, Shanghainese prefer the traditional "four pillars" -- cake, fried dough, sticky rice bun and soybean milk. It is a unique sight to behold of someone grabbing a Chinese cake in one hand and sipping coffee with the other. In Shanghai, "mixing east and west" has melted into daily living in such a way and reflected itself authentically.

Morning tea generally is quite inexpensive for Shanghainese, with some restaurants promoting "ten RMB per head" buffet specials. Although people in Shanghai do not spend that much time over their morning victuals, their conversation topics during that time cover virtually everything, from serious matters of state to personal gossips. Everything can become a matter of discussion for these morning tea lovers. The themes of discussion often cover property, stock market and investments and reinforce the general beliefs that Shanghai people are very astute. One often overhears talks of which property has risen in prices and which has fallen, or what stocks have made money and what has not. Quite a bit of business information has been exchanged during this seemingly open-ended leisure hour.

Mr. and Mrs. Zhou, in their sixties, recently caught the "morning tea culture" bug and they would not miss the early tea rituals that end their morning exercises for anything in the world. According to Mr. Zhou, he felt that spending an hour or two for an early meal was a waste of time before he retired. But since he became acquainted with a group of "tea buddies", he not only felt the time spent on early tea was not wasteful, he even found that ritual was helpful in keeping him clued to the events in the world. He said that after morning tea, he and his "tea buddies" often continued to play chess, one of his favorite activities of the day.

For those who have to work daily for a living, a leisurely early tea opens a wider social circle to them. Miss Peng who works in construction material said that compared with banquets, she preferred to talk things over with people over a cup of tea. For one, the atmosphere at tea was usually more leisurely and open and made people feel more relaxed and comfortable. For another, people's minds tended to be clearer and sharper in the morning, leading to easier execution of matters discussed and decided in those early hours.
(Chinanews.cn November 15, 2005)

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