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.
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:
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:
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!
by christystarfish Wanderlust Wonderings