It’s common yum cha etiquette to tap your fingers by your cup when someone pours you fresh tea, but what the heck does it actually mean?
Legend has it that back in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912 AD), a disguised Qianlong Emperor was traveling with a subordinate. While they stopped to dine at a restaurant, the emperor decided to pour the poor guy some tea.
The subject, equal parts grateful and terrified, didn’t know how to express his appreciation to his king without blowing Qianlong’s cover, so he invented an ad hoc method: by bending his index and middle fingers on the table to imitate a person in a deep bow. And it stuck!
Want to learn more? Check out our book on Hong Kong Food & Culture here.
[Updated Oct 2016]