This year I was fortunate enough to visit China for the first time and enjoy a month of sight-seeing. Even though tea wasn’t the focus of the trip, I was able to experience some wonderful tea adventures in the country where it all started.
I was able to try a number of local specialty teas, go to a big tea market and visit some fancy tea houses. As a bonus, I also had the chance to visit the China National Tea Museum.
Local speciality teas
Emei Maofeng (娥眉毛峰)
Emeishan (峨眉山 – or Mount Emei, Sichuan province) is both a city and a mountain. The mountain is important in Chinese Buddhism and various kinds of tea have been produced there for a long time.
I found myself in a book store in Emei city and for some reason they had a tea shop in one corner of it. Practicing my Mandarin, I was able to taste and buy some 2017 Emei Maofeng green tea.
Huangshan Taiping Houkui (黄山太平猴魁)
Huangshan (黄山 – or Yellow Mountain, Anhui province) is also both a city and a gorgeous mountain range. The mountain peak area is incredible to explore and was the #1 highlight of our trip. On the way up to the peak area we passed by many farms growing tea, most of which would be turned into Huangshan Maofeng green tea.
Having already tried Huangshan Maofeng before, I focused on acquiring the other local specialty: the hand-pressed Taiping Houkui green tea.
I also picked up a decent filter, which had been on my list to get for ages 😉
Nanjing Rainflower (南京雨花)
I hadn’t heard of this tea before I arrived in Nanjing (Jiangsu province). I found it to be a very gentle and understated green tea that I could easily drink large quantities of without over-caffeinating.
Hangzhou West Lake Dragon Well/Longjing (杭州西湖龙井)
Easily one of the most famous teas in the world, it was an absolute pleasure to be able to sit at a tea house on West Lake in Hangzhou (Zhejiang province) and sip away at some longjing.
West Lake is a very beautiful and relaxing. Definitely a tick off the bucket list.
China National Tea Museum
The museum is located in Hangzhou near West Lake. The surrounds of the hotel are beautiful and covered in tea bushes.
The museum covered many things, including the history of tea in China, its cultural significance, how it was consumed differently during the different dynasties and in different parts of China, its rise to popularity in the west, biology of the tea plant and leaves, the different types of tea (with many examples of each type), the associated differences in processing, pu’er (different pressings, storage, transport, history), different tea ware and utensils and had specific instructions for brewing in different styles (e.g. gongfu, “grandpa”).
It was definitely worth a visit for anyone interested in learning more about tea!
Tianshan Tea City (天山茶城)
In Shanghai I visited a large building several floors high and full of tea shops. It was amazing seeing so much tea but it was hard to know which shops to go to!
After going to several shops where they spoke English and had good reputations on TripAdvisor, I left with a huge haul of tea, tea ware and even one of those kettle setups with a pump that can both fill up the kettle and heat the water automatically. The tea ware and kettle set are just things I cannot find back home at all, let alone available at a good price.
Fancy tea houses
We have some tea houses at home but I really wanted to try some high-end traditional tea houses that you might see in a Chinese period drama 😀 The two I found were both in Beijing.
Family Fu’s Tea House (茶家傅)
I think we heard about this place in a Lonely Planet guide or TripAdvisor but wasn’t too sure what to expect. On the banks of Houhai lake, we found the somewhat unusual stone building that seemed both old and modern at the same time.
We were the only customers in the house and a delightful old woman who spoke quite good English helped us order tea from the Chinese menu (I believe the owner’s mother). The interior was full of Ming-era furniture, lots of books and interesting tea ware and tea pets.
After we were served, the old women took a nap out on the balcony after watching some TV on an iPad ;D We enjoyed the tree-lined view with the lake behind it, the relaxing and quiet atmosphere in the teahouse and the beautiful tea ware.
Aroma Zen Tea Club (月溪香林)
While walking around a touristy area in Beijing (Guozijian street – 国子监街), it started to rain and we looked for a shop to take cover in. Through fortuitous circumstances, we found this tea house.
This place was incredibly beautiful but also very expensive. Unlike a typical tea house, you actually hire a room to sit in and pay by the hour, and this includes your tea and snacks. Everything was in Chinese and the staff did not speak English, but with my poor Mandarin we managed to hire one of the beautiful “booths” for an hour and enjoyed some nice tea while we snacked on nuts, grapes and jujube. They give you your own water and a bell to ring if you need anything else.
I was a pleasure sitting in such a beautiful setting with my partner, brewing our own tea in such lovely tea ware. It worked out to be about 400 RMB ($80 AUD).
That sums up my tea adventures on my 2017 China trip. I hope to be able to go back to have more adventures soon!