Chinese Business Culture: The Bottomless Cup of Tea

The Culture of Chinese Tea

You may wonder what a bottomless cup of tea is.  First, let’s talk about the chá experience.  We would visit my mother-in-law every Sunday and we would always “yòng chá”. Chinese people enjoy the fragrance and taste of the tea.  They put the chá yè into the chá hū and fill it with boiling water.  They use the first pot to rinse the tea by pour that pot out.  They frequently smell the tea.

Yòng chá is a zen like process that involves talking and sitting.  There aren’t any video games.  The TV might be on, but the volume is typically low and the focus is on one another.

I first ran into the bottomless chá bēi at my mother-in-law’s .  We had gone over for a visit on a Sunday.  We made tea (pào chá).  When it was time to leave, I emptied my chá bēi be polite.  Before I could stand up the chá bēi was full again.  I quickly finished that and said, “That is wonderful, but I can’t drink anymore.”  My host gave me a confused look and clearly wanted to dào chá.

My wife explained my mistake to me on the way home.  Polite hosts will always fill your cup.  They might even pào chá.  When you are done, it is okay and polite to simply stop drinking.  When you walk away the cup will be full and cold.

Basic Tea Phrases – chá jù

Tea – chá

Make tea – pào chá

Drink tea – hē chá

A more polite way to say drink tea – yòng chá

Pour tea – dào chá

Leaves – chá yè

Pot – chá hū

Cup – chá bēi


A great place to learn about Chinese tea traditions in Denver is Seven Cups Denver Tea Shop. has information on the Chinese Tea Ceremony.