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Coffee, Tea Make Yuanyang Beverage Popular in HK
"When preparing tea for drinking, the British poured milk first before pouring tea. This is because original English porcelain was such that it could break under high temperature," said Grace Kwok, an assistant Curator of Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware in Hong Kong.

Kwok was explaining the history of western and eastern tea and coffee drinking during a preview of Yuanyang Exhibition at the museum Tuesday.

Yuanyang (mandarin duck) is a species of waterbird, always appear in pairs and a symbol of conjugal love of things that come in pairs.

When it comes to beverages, Yuanyang denotes the admixture of coffee and black tea -- a unique Hong Kong-style beverage of the East and West.

"The typical Hong Kong-style beverage blending the cultural essence of the East and the West reflects the identity of the cosmopolitan city of Hong Kong -- unique yet diversified and traditional yet modernistic," said Acting Director of Leisure and Cultural Services Choi Suk Kuen at the opening ceremony of the exhibition.

Yuanyang beverages are so popular that they are available in supermarkets as prepared instant drink packets. Jennifer Chan, executive director and assistant general manager of Tsit Wing International Holdings Limited, a sponsor of the exhibition, said, although her company has a fixed formula of manufacturing the beverage, how much the coffee and tea should be mingled really depends on the taste of the drinkers.

But assistant curator Kwok reminded the drinkers that behind all the enjoyment, there is the history and origin of the tea and coffee, which are less known to the public. She said although both beverages are much cherished by Europeans and the Americans, they actually originated in tea-growing China and coffee growing Africa.

Choi said by as early as the 17th century, Chinese tea had reached the West through trades. The way of drinking tea was then modified in there. "In Britain the people liked to drink black tea with milk or lemons and had gradually developed their unique afternoon tea culture."

Kwok said the art of tea or coffee appreciation goes deeper than just the taste or the methods by which the beverages are prepared, Kwok said. The art encompasses the appreciation for the incidental vessels and artistic work.

The current exhibition features more than 100 items of coffee and tea vessels as well as ceramic sculptures produced by 46 noted Hong Kong artists. "These artworks range from naturalistic, geometric to abstract sculptural or even avant-garde forms, are further embellished with elements of painting, calligraphy or engraving to enhance their aesthetic values," Choi said.

Topics addressed by exhibition include: origin of Chinese teahouses and restaurants in Hong Kong, modernistic Chinese teahouses, essential tea vessels, how the enchanting Pu'er tea spread to the West, the legend of coffee, coffee cups and vacuum-pot brewing, utensils for coffee making and a detailed explanation of Yuanyang.

(Xinhua News Agency February 12, 2003)

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