Category Archives: 23.The Laying out and Design of Tea Presentation Setting -Rong-Tsang Tsai

The Laying out and Design of Tea Presentation Setting -Rong-Tsang Tsai

The Laying out and Design of Tea Presentation Setting -Rong-Tsang Tsai

茶席设置与茶席设计   The Laying out and Design of Tea Presentation Setting

蔡荣章Rong-Tsang Tsai


When tea culture has reached a certain level of development, people will inevitably turn their attention to the brewing utensils, the tea presentation setting and the environment under which tea is served – they will demand more sophistication for each of those. The term ‘tea presentation setting’ emerged after the 1990s, first in Taiwan, then Malaysia, and then China and the rest. Subsequently, there have been exhibitions on the design of these settings.  As the emphasis is put on design, beautification and innovation takes centre stage and everyone is competing to stand out from the pack. With this prevailing thinking, presentation has become visually appealing at the expense of functionality and rationality of tea brewing. Some exhibitions are more of tea ware showcases – no one worries if the designer knows anything about tea brewing at all; worse still, some occasions have become a channel for marketing tea ware, or showpieces for tea brewers to strut their feathers.

This mentality could be understood at the dawn of a revival of the tea culture – a fascinating or Zen-packaged appearance will succeed in capturing people’s attention before more profound substance is developed. And yet, in the post-2010 era, tea culture has matured with ample contents, which should rightfully be presented in the tea presentation setting, the way tea is brewed and the tea infusion itself.  As such, there should be a shift of attention – from design to layout.

While laying out and designing a tea presentation setting may refer to the same thing, the emphasis is different. The former tends to remind people of the tea brewing function, while the latter directs one’s attention to the visual impact. Sure enough, aesthetics plays an important role; but even more important is tea brewing, the convenience for tea brewing and serving, as well as the integrity and refinement of the entire experience. Sacrificing the requirement of flawlessness in tea brewing and tea serving for the sake of appearance is unacceptable. For tea brewing and serving, the requirements include free supply of water, mastering of temperature, ease of water pouring, tidiness of tea ware, elegance in tea appreciation, convenience for tea ware placement, efficient filtering of tea residue, graceful tea serving and appropriate supply of tea snacks. Only when functionality is attained with uninterrupted smoothness will tea brewers be able to bring out the inherent flavor and unique state of tea.

What we want to stress is a work station, and not a stage, where a tea brewer comes up with a good pot. The person has to concentrate on brewing, and not be distracted by the effect of something of a performance. This is the only way for us to take in the innermost substance of tea culture – great tea infusion, well-paired tea snacks, the elegant act of a tea brewer, and the fine touches of service.

The evolution of tea presentation setting layout and design does not apply to traditional Japanese matcha and English afternoon tea, because there has been a set way for both. This evolution only refers to the modern new tea culture (as mentioned above) that emerged after the 1980s in Taiwan, Malaysia and China, among others. With an emphasis on laying out rather than designing, we wish to develop a distinct tea culture that put the emphasis back on tea brewing, serving and drinking.

(Translator:Katherine Yip.2012.07.18)