Sipping the good stuff at Liuzhou tea market

Traditional accoutrements for serving tea in China. White porcelain showcases the tea’s strength and color.

Liuzhou, P.R.C.     June 2012

I am drowning in kilos and kilos of Chinese tea, but somehow that doesn’t stop me from going to the tea market!  It’s too much fun and I just can’t help myself. It makes for an interesting experience that is so quintessentially Chinese, that whenever I’m entertaining folks from out of town, you can bet the tea market is very high on my list of things to do.  Today I visited with a prospective Liuzhou-zian, Jayne from the U.K.  So in this case the tea market may be doubly appropriate, since we all know Brit’s love to have their tea.

My favourite tea vendors host us at their table, in China you always “try before you buy” at traditional tea shops.

In the above pic, you can see the hand carved solid wood tea table is cluttered with all sorts of bits and pieces for making the tea.  The steeping process and service varies depending on what kind of tea you’re having.  The green tea ( 绿茶) leaves we sampled were simply put into a small glass pot of hot water and poured through a fine strainer into another pot, and from there served into the drinking cup.  All the pots and cups used are heated: pots by rinsing with hot water, and cups by keeping them in a hot water bath.  For serious tea drinkers like the Chinese, you can buy an electric appliance that has the hot water bath for cups on one side and a kettle for heating tea water on the other, and some even can be hooked into a water source so the water dispenses from a spigot straight into the kettle.  Video short at the tea table:

Black tea, green tea, red tea, jasmine tea, rose tea, fruit tea, flower tea, and so many more are here at the traditional tea market.

The red tea (红茶) we tried was made by putting the loose leaves into a small cup with a lid, hot water poured over them, and then steeped while pushing the leaves back and forth with the lid of the cup.  The ceremony of proper tea making and all it’s rinsing, pouring, straining, cleaning, etc can be quite complex and the tea lady had a whole book with pictures showing the proper steps for each kind of tea.  You can also imagine that quite a bit of water and tea gets dribbled and spilled, but no worries if you’re at a proper tea table which has a recessed surface by design and all the liquid spilled goes down a drain built into the table.  Water is also dumped on the table on purpose, as the rinsing water is ritualistically poured over a ceramic figurine for luck and fortune (usually a 3 footed frog with money in it’s mouth).  See a short clip of my “lucky” tea figurine that changes color when the hot water is poured on it:

Proper tea making tools! All are hand carved out of various woods. Includes a scoop, a pick for breaking up formed tea, tongs for retrieving hot cups out of water, and paddles for sorting tea.

So as you could have guessed,  tea is a big deal in China.  There are a bewildering array of varieties available, and it takes the better part of an afternoon to properly explore the many little shops overflowing with tea, pots, cups, and accessories.  You must also keep in mind that you can’t really just go in, buy the tea and get out:  you will be asked to sit at the table and try whatever ones you may want to buy,  try some others the vendor suggests, sip awhile, converse (even if you don’t really speak Chinese), and attempt to explain to curious Chinese passerby what the heck you are doing here in China.  It’s great fun!

I know what it looks like, but these smiley china gals are not drug dealers! They are sorting and rolling up tea leaves, all by hand. Since this is labor intensive, hand rolled teas are more expensive.

Lots and lots and lots of pots! It’s almost as much fun shopping for tea accessories as it is the tea.

Just a few of the teas I have at home. Clockwise from top: Rose bud tea, black tea, pu’er tea, green tea and jasmine tea. The red lucky charm is made from pressed tea, and the box in background is tea dried and pressed into a big disc, which are aged for many years (I’ve seen some as old as me!)

by christystarfish Wanderlust Wonderings



Filed under Asia, China

4 responses to “Sipping the good stuff at Liuzhou tea market

  1. cecilia silveira

    Hi, Christina, I love your blog. It gives another view from China! Thank you for sharing your experience. Cecília

  2. Patty Ulrich

    Thank you so much for bringing some culture into our lives Christy. It looks like so much fun! ANy chance you guys may be in the states around April 27th, 2013 for Billy’s wedding in Peoria? Can you email me your address again so I make sure I have the right one to give to them. Do you still prefer going through GM? Thank you! Love you much – Auntie Patty XOX

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