I thought I wasn't going to post about my first trip to China. My priority was to visit the Shaolin Temple and to find the illusive traditional martial art master who lives in the mountains, reachable by windy roads only.....
I found him. It's another story. But, what a pleasant surprise to find that tea as I love it, (kung fu tea)is also loved by all the martial aritists that I've met on this trip! Granted, they all smoke too, which was the little imperfection in this otherwise perfect world of martial art and tea, but I don't think I'll be able to find myself anywhere else in the world to be amidst a group of martial monks and ex-monks talking about the state of the martial art world, with one designated tea-maker seriously and meticulously making tea for everyone.
It is easy to find tea shops with the electric or otherwise powered tea kettle nearby, big tea trays designed for the hot water baths for the tea cups and pots, tea-sniffers, and tea cloth, for a brief dab of the tea cups before serving...etc. Most hotels in China, instead of a coffee maker, has a water boiling kettle and tea cups. Granted, this for boiling water before drinking, but I soon started carrying a mini purple clay teapot and good leaves with me. It's all too convenient!
In a tea whole sale market(consists of at least 30 or 40 shops that carry various tea and tea apparatus, a shopping mall of nothing but tea shops!) in Zhengzhou, Henan, I found a Taiwanese tea that cost 300 US dollar in the States for 300 RMB (about$38). Not only that, this tea I cannot get in the US any more because the shop in NY went out of business.
In Hangzhou, the city of the beautiful West Lake, I found one tea shop on the lake side that is a part of a chain(Xue Feng, meaning "Snow Peaks") which sells organic oolong that carries wonderful tea and that offers a special lunch and dinner meal with tea for a mere 30 RMB. The meal includes all courses from soup to dessert, plus not just a pot of tea, but the whole bit: a little water-boiling station, the tea tray, with the whole set-up. The deal can be 60 RMB or 80 RMB if you get higher quality tea leaves.
The majority of the Xue Feng tea shops are in Shanghai, but I'm pretty sure only some offer this meal deal.
In a little city in Guangdong I walked into one of many local tea shops. There were something that caught my eyes. The large straight long tea leaves (don't know the technical term)as oppose to the oolong leaves that are usually curled up. I was curious when I saw the name: something about orchid. They assure me it's not like the jasmin tea that's scented WITH jasmin blossoms, but that this type of tea from has a natural orchid scent, just as some others have a Osmanthus blossom scent(an unforgettable scent that I will forever associate with Hangzhou). Well, now my memory is refreshed. I did read something about this. They told me to make this in the style of the Kung Fu tea. Wow! The beautiful scent just drew me in and I swear, I was feeling a bit drunk from this.
Maybe this is the reason I'm still here in China.....afraid to go back to the States where the only choice is Tien Ren. Sigh.