Sips and Steeps

Why You Should Try Yum Cha (+Oolong)

Translated literally as “drink tea,” Yum Cha is a Chinese-style brunch tea that originated to China and has spread as far as Australia and the U.S. and Canada, where it’s known as Dim Sum (in Cantonese, Dim Sum refers to the small plates of food that are served, while Yum Cha refers to the whole experience).

The Tea Ritual

Yum Cha is a communal experience: Groups of friends, family, or co-workers often go out for Yum Cha, where tea and food are shared among the members of the table. Serve tea to others at the table first, then yourself. If someone else serves you tea, show thanks by tapping your pointer and middle finger on the table. Out of tea? Turn the lid over, and it’ll soon be refilled. Tea is a traditional drink of choice at Yum Cha for its use in aiding digestion. We think LiShan Oolong or Wenshan Baochung Oolong would be perfect at Yum Cha.

The Food

At Yum Cha, you won’t order from a menu – instead, you’ll be offered small servings of food from carts roving the dining room. Steamed dishes (read: dumplings) abound, but there’s also braised meats, noodles, and other goodies to be had. Some of our favorites are the classic chai siu bao, tender pork-stuffed steamed buns, and cheong fun (rice noodles with prawns, beef, or pork). For dessert, there are often egg tarts and mango pudding.

Do I have to use chopsticks? No – but you should try! For items that are notoriously difficult to pick up, such as button mushrooms, it’s acceptable to spear your food with a toothpick.

The bottom line: For its good food, good tea, and good company, Yum Cha is a tradition that has spread worldwide.

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