Tea for Tourists: Cultural Capital, Representation, and Borrowing in the Tea Culture of Mainland China and Taiwan


  • Irena Weber UP FTŠ Turistica


Tea is arguably one of themost widely consumed beverages in the world. It has been imbued with diverse medicinal, cultural, and symbolic characteristics. Tea plays a significant role in the construction of  contemporary national and regional identities that are, in turn, presented and represented for tourists in the form of tea houses, museums, tea trails, guided tours, and tea tastings. Based on ethnographic participant observation in Shanghai, Hangzhou, Taipei, and Pinglin, this paper tackles a comparative analysis of tea culture as used and represented in cultural tourism, focusing on the identity narratives of specialised teamuseums, tea houses, and teamarkets to trace cultural representations and flows of contemporary cultural borrowing in the art of tea.

Keywords: tea culture, tourism, China, Taiwan, cultural capital


Benn, J. A. (2015). Tea in China: A religious and cultural history. Honolulu, Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press.

Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education (pp. 241–258). New York, NY: Greenwood.

Chan, S. C. (2012). Terroir and green tea in China: The case of Meijiawu Dragon Well (Longjing) tea. In L. Augustin-Jean, H. Ilbert, & N. Saavedra-Rivano (Eds.), Geographical indications and international agricultural trade: The challenges for Asia (pp. 226–238). Basingstoke, England: Palgrave Macmillan.

Dewar, K., & Li, W. M. (2007).Hangzhou: China’s green tea city. In L. Jolliffe (Ed.), Tea and tourism: Tourists, traditions and transformations (pp. 180–206). Clevedon, England: Channel View Publications.

Ellis, M., Coulton, R., & Mauger, M. (2015). Empire of tea: The Asian leaf that conquered the world. London, England: Reaktion Books.

FAO. (2018, 28 May). Global tea consumption and production driven by robust demand in China and India. Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/1136255/icode/

Jolliffe, L. (2007). Towards a research agenda for tea tourism. In L. Jolliffe (Ed.), Tea and tourism (pp. 247–253). Clevedon, England: Channel View Publications.

Han, K. P. L. (2007). Tracing the history of tea culture. In L. Jolliffe (Ed.), Tea and tourism: Tourists, traditions and transformations (pp. 23–37). Clevedon, England: Channel View Publications.

Mezcua Lopez, A. (2013). Gazing the mountains, tasting tea: The relation between landscape culture and tea culture in Song China. Studies in the History of Gardens & Designed Landscapes, 33(3), 139–147.

Needham, J. (2000). Science and civilization in China (Vol. 6). Cambridge, England: CambridgeUniversity Press.

Okrožnik, D. (2018). Reprezentacije kulturne dediščine in nacionalne identitete v turizmu – primer Tajvana (Unpublished MA thesis). University of Primorska, Portorož, Slovenia.

Rose, S. (2010). For all the tea in China: Espionage, empire and the secret formula for the world’s favourite drink. London, England: Arrow Books.

Saberi, H. (2010). Tea: A global history. London, England: Reaktion Books.

Saje, M. (2015). Zgodovina Kitajske. Ljubljana, Slovenia: Slovenska matica.

Springer, K. (2017, 12 September). Cheese tea is taking over China and invading theU.S. Retreived from https://www.cntraveler.com/ story/cheese-tea-is-taking-over-chinaand-invading-the-us

Su, X., & Hong, F. (2017). Reconstruction of the tradition: Tourism and authentication of heritage in China. New York, NY: Nova Science.

Tong, L. (2010). Chinese tea: A cultural history and drinking guide. Beijing, China: China Intercontinental Press.

Xiao, K. (2017). The taste of tea:Material, embodied knowledge and environmental history in northern Fujian, China. Journal of Material Culture, 22(1), 3–18.

Wang, J. (2013). All the tea in China: History, methods and musings. Shanghai, China: Better Link Press.

Writer, S. (2013). A world of flavour: Taste and text in Taiwanese tea culture. Media International Australia, 147, 134–146.

Zhang, J. (2014). Puer tea: Ancient caravans and urban chic. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press.

Zhang, J. (2018a). A transnational flow of the art of tea: The paradox of cultural authenticity in Taiwan. The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology, 9(1), 1–18.

Zhang, J. (2018b). Rituals, discourses, and realities: Serious wine and tea tasting in contemporary China. Journal of Consumer Culture. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1177/ 1469540518773812

Zhang, L. (2016). A foreign infusion: The forgotten legacy of Japanese chad? On modern Chinese tea arts. Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies, 16(1), 53–62.




How to Cite

Weber, I. (2019). Tea for Tourists: Cultural Capital, Representation, and Borrowing in the Tea Culture of Mainland China and Taiwan. Academica Turistica - Tourism and Innovation Journal, 11(2). Retrieved from https://academica.turistica.si/index.php/AT-TIJ/article/view/148