Tea with Friends

Tea with Friends
Western people are accustomed to serving guests coffee, while Chinese people serve their guests tea. Serve tea instead of wine to a guest arriving on a cold night while water is boiling in the bamboo stove, on reddening fire. Hosts serve fragrant tea to show their hospitality.
Because hot tea tastes better, and it will get cooler if the guest cannot finish a full cup of tea, the rule of "tea 50% full and wine l00% full" should be observed. When there is only one-third water left in the cup, hosts should re-fill the cup. Generally, apparatus for guests to drink tea should be clean.
Treating guests with tea is not a custom confined to Han nationality. Ethnic groups such as the Bai nationality of Southwestern Yunan Province do so, too. The most respectful way for them to treat guests is to serve "Three-course Tea," which has a parlance of "first bitter, second sweet, and last, the aftertaste,” implying the vicissitude of life. The leaves, cups, and plates for "Three-Course Tea" are all specially made, and the decorum of serving tea involves eighteen steps. Each course is served by two girls or boys. One of them holds the plate and the other takes a ”tea serving” bow to the guest. Then he or she holds the cup with both hands to the height of his or her eyebrows, showing respect for the guest.
Tea is used to show that someone is unwelcome in a home as well. In the world of officials in Qing Dynasty, there was a custom of "serving tea and then showing the door.” When a guest came to an official’s home, he was generally treated with tea, but this sort of tea drinking was different from wine drinking. The host would persuade guests to take some tea, but he wouldn’t raise his cup for a toast like in wine drinking. If the host didn’t like the visitor, or he had urgent affairs to attend to, he would raise his own cup and ask the visitor to drink, hoping that he would leave as soon as the tea was finished. The guest normally understood and took leave without actually drinking up the tea.
Source: www.orientaldiscovery.com