Celebrating the Olympics With Chinese Tea, Chinese Food and Drink

The summer 2008 Olympics are quickly drawing near. The events are scheduled to take place in Beijing, China, and begin on August 8, 2008 (08-08-08). The preparations in China have been underway for at least the last six years; the hopes before they clinched the bid in 2001 going back even further. Now that the time is almost here, people all over the world are gearing up for the spectacular. The Chinese national drink, tea is at the center of preparations.

“Vegetarian food”

With the recent Sichuan earthquake occurring less than three months before the start of the Opening Ceremonies, many are wondering how it will impact the games. For starters, Beijing is approximately 960 miles northeast of Sichuan, the province where the epicenter of the May 12 quake occurred. Though tremors were felt in Beijing, there was no structural impact that will affect the games. The emotional impact is certain to make its presence known, but there’s also a good chance of this being a healing event.

With final Beijing preparations occurring still, China’s Vice President Xi Jinping recently reassured his nation, as well as the world, that equal attention will be paid to both the Sichuan earthquake relief and finishing everything in time for 8-8-08. The world will be converging on China at a time when it will need its support emotionally, financially, and spiritually.

Even if you cannot attend the games in person, there are numerous ways to keep the spirit of the games alive in your own home. Watching the Olympic Games on television is a traditional event for many families, with network coverage showing the most-desired events during primetime viewing hours. Taking from the official theme of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, “One World, One Dream”, there are great ideas for keeping interest and excitement alive in your home clear through until the closing ceremonies on August 24, 2008.

Food and drink concessions are popular complements to any sporting event- baseball games with hotdogs and beer, football games with nachos and beer, Super Bowl parties with, well, everything. Hosting a big party for family friends might be appropriate for the Opening of Closing Ceremonies of the 29th Olympics, but chances are you aren’t going to be able to sustain that level of celebration and gluttony every night! Instead, consider highlighting a different snack, beverage, or food course each night or even once a week. A good place to start is with the national beverage of China, tea!

Worldwide, tea is the second-most consumed drink, behind water. Along with India, China is the world’s greatest producer of tea. While there are four main types of tea–black, green, white, and oolong-oolong is a great tea for everyone in your family. The caffeine in tea is less than half that of coffee, it is said to aid in digestion, and is full of healthful antioxidants. Oolong tea is the smoothest tasting of the four types of tea, lacking the slight bitter of black tea or the grassy taste of green tea. There’s even a slightly fruit-infused flavor that is sure to appeal to people of all ages. For more on tea’s healthful benefits, see the numerous articles listed here: Tea health benefits

Another night, you could focus on a menu of red foods. Red is considered to be a very lucky color in Chinese culture, seen in artwork, traditional clothing, and anywhere luck and fortune are desired or being celebrated. Try incorporating foods with red beans, radishes, seasonal red fruits, or red meats such as spare ribs. In China, there is a strong emphasis on fresh foods. Chinese people rarely use canned or frozen foods when preparing their meals, but that’s not to say you cannot take some short cuts! Check out this link for an online Chinese Microwave Cookbook: Chinese Microwave Cookbook. It may even be fun to get the family involved in planning the menu and preparing the red food feast.

Another way to incorporate Chinese cuisine into your Olympic activities is to focus on a different Chinese region each night. There are said to be eight main regional cuisines: Anhui, Cantonese, Fujian, Hunan, Jiangsu, Shandong, Sichuan, and Zhejiang. These are sometimes referred to as the Eight Great Traditions. Other times, two additional types of cuisine are included-Beijing and Shanghai-known then as the Ten Great Traditions. Follow this link to a page full of links that go in greater detail on the types of cuisine: Chinese Cuisine.

Even if you have no interest in exploring the different types of Chinese cuisine, recipes, or traditions, there are simple things you can do to bring the spirit of the Beijing Olympics to your family’s meals and snacks. One fun idea that the kids will undoubtedly love is to make all of your food into finger foods! Chinese people once thought using forks and knives at the table were barbaric, so foods were cut into bite-size, ready-to-eat pieces. Another reason for the small portions of foods was that fuel was once very hard to come by. By cutting food into small pieces, the individual pieces were able to cook more quickly, using less cooking fuel or using smaller cooking fires. Another idea is to serve fresh fruit for dessert or for a snack. Again, the emphasis on Chinese culture is to use fresh foods, so pick what is in season. Strawberries, for example, are both red and in-season!

However your family decides to enjoy the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, it is a great opportunity to learn about other cultures. Television and cable network coverage will no doubt highlight some of the traditions and experiences of the Chinese people, as well as what visitors are experiencing. Chances are, you’ll see that while Beijing seems worlds away, the Olympic spirit resides in each and every one of us, wherever we may reside.