What is Yum Cha?
Yum Cha literally translate to ‘drink tea’ in Cantonese Chinese and it means going to a Chinese restaurant to drink tea and eat Dim Sum. Dim Sum (i.e. the food) is usually pushed around in a cart or trolley and you can pick and choose which ever dish that appeals to you. Dim Sum is then placed in the middle of the table and is shared amongst the table. Dishes are calculated on a per dish bases.
People usually go Yum Cha as a social gathering rather than just a ‘feeding session’ – it’s for chilling out and catching up with friends and family. Yum Cha used to be only available early in the morning through to afternoon tea, but nowadays you can probably find many restaurants that also cater for night time yum cha too. Asking people to go yum cha is as causal as going for a coffee in the western world. It’s very common for Cantonese people to go Yum Cha on a daily basis as their start up routine for the day!
So how did Yum Cha start?
The idea of eating Dim Sum and drinking tea was not invented by Cantonese people (i.e. people from Guangzhou, China) but the practice has been carried forward and made popular by the Cantonese people in the last 100-150 years. Cantonese people love drinking tea and the tea culture is part of their folk culture. The practise of Yum Cha boomed around the early 20th century during the Qing dynasty as Guangzhou developed. As Guangzhou grew, so did the number of tea houses and restaurants – hence the increase in competition. And it is under this intensely competitive environment the styles of Dim Sum flourished and improved over time, leaving us with a wide variety of Dim Sum available at Yum Cha restaurants today.