Sunday, November 16, 2008

Chengdu Tea Culture Street

I travel to Chengdu to pick up Sunee. We visit the fairly new Tea Culture Street to see what teas are offered. The place is huge with hundreds of stores, some specializing in specific teas while others selling accessories.

While walking to my hotel from the Jiatong University bus stop, I met an old friend from Mozambique. Mr. Gugu is a PhD student who lives on campus. I met him about a year ago and we never did maintain our contact. This time it will be different.

14 November 2008, Our First Trip To The Street

The Southwest Chengdu Tea Culture Town is about a twenty or thirty minute taxi ride from Jiaotong University. This is the entrance to the largest street in the town.

Not far down the tea street, sits this huge pot on the side with its huge tea cup. Guess this just proves where we are.

As we walked down the street we saw several ladies working diligently removing stems from what appeared to be Tie Guan Yin tea. We verified this to be what was happening when we asked at the shop we bought most of our tea that evening.

Tea shops were everywhere. This one was right across the street from where we bought most of our tea.

This is the tea shop from which we bought our first batch of tea in Tea Culture Town. The people were really nice and we got a lesson in Pu-erh tea for free.

Deciding which cake to buy proved to be difficult, so we asked for more information.

In this Pu-erh tea cake, there were both young and old tea leaves mixed together. It looked so good that we ended up buying it.

We asked questions about how the tea was prepared and pressed and then sent to market.

The wonderful sales lady explained everything we wanted to know about Pu-erh Yunnan tea. This quick course in Pu-erh took over an hour and still we felt we knew very little.

We ended up buying two Pu-erh tea cakes to save for a couple of years. The older the better so it would seem.

In addition to a lesson on the history, picking and processing of Pu-erh, we participated in a free tasting of the various kinds of Pu-erh.

These horses were loaded taking the tea to market.

The area was full of tea shops of all kinds. We only went to a total of four shops during our quick stop to the area.

Two more stops brought us more tea and more samples. We bought some Guan Yin Wang tea at this place. They put them in tiny little packages which we really appreciated.

We also bought some Da Hong Pao, one of the most famous teas in China.

In this tea store we sampled Mengding Ganlu and Huang Ya.

Mengding Ganlu/Sweet Dew (on top) and Huang Ya/Yellow Tip (on the bottom). We bought around 100 grams of each to try. I already had some Mengding Ganlu that two of my students had bought for me in Ya'an at the foot of Mengding Mountain. This tea, however, was beautifully packaged and we did not want to open the packaging so we bought some more Ganlu here.

This is a cup of Huang Ya tea which was very good. We bought a small sample to see if we really liked it.

Next we went looking for tea accessories. This shop was on the second floor off the main street and it was a really great store.

The store had all kinds of great tea sets in all different styles and colors.

The sales lady was from Xiamen so she could speak Min Nan with Sunee. They both had a lot of fun negotiating and renegotiating the items we decided to buy.

This is a very inexpensive Gongfu set we bought to get started. It was delicate white with a black dragon on each piece. not bad for around $3 USD.

We also considered buying a gaiwan or two but decided to wait for another trip.

This is the tea service set we decided to buy. It was $41 USD. They gave us the utensils after much negotiations.

The store also offered beautiful Yixing pottery. These will have to wait for another trip. They are not cheap.

We met this gentlemen as we bought our tea accessories and he invited us next door to his tea shop.

Along with sampling his teas, we provided us with more history on tea, especially the black teas and Pu-erh teas from Yunnan.

He had taught for many years and seemed to be expert in all things Yunnan.

He let us sample some of these black teas from Yunnan.

He told us that this Pu-erh loose leaf tea was the best he had so we bought some to try it out.

His tea shop had several beautiful displays of Pu-erh cakes and tuo cha (birdnest) teas.

This is a close up of his Golden Tip black tea from Yunnan. One can see why it was called Golden Tip.

Golden Tip Black Tea from Yunnan. We bought a half pound of this to try.

We ended the evening with this guy. He was personable and seemed to give us pretty good prices on his teas. We will probably do more business with him later.

15 November 2008, Return For More Tea
The following day we caught a taxi to the Sichuan Art Gallery where Sunee bought some books and watercolor supplies. Afterward we took a taxi back to the Tea Culture Town to look for some teas which I was interested in.

We originally were going to walk into this store the night before but instead went to get something to eat before we shopped. We never got back to the store. The lady in the store remembered us and was overjoyed that we had returned. She was very fun to negotiate with and went out of her way to help including sampling whatever we wanted.

I was interested in getting some white tea. No one seemed to have it available. She had some tea she said was white but we decided not to buy it until I did more research on it. This is the white that she offered us. It just did not seem right or what we expected.

We got to try some really strange looking stuff that came from the top of Emei Mountain. Have no idea what it was but the lady assured us that it was good and healthy for us. We passed on buying any as it had very little taste.

This is a glass of Hangzhou Longjing tea. We got a half pound of it because of its fame worldwide. We got the second to the best grade and it was not cheap.

The kuding tea is called Clear Mountain Green Water. We had bought some in Baguan Village where we live and liked it even though it was bitter. This kuding tea, however, was not as bitter and was very good. The lady told us this was the best Clear Mountain Green Water tea money could buy. We believed her because it was really good.

Another area of the Tea Culture Town. This place really is very big.

Sunee still shopping for tea and accessories.

A final look at one of the big tea shops in Southwest China's largest tea market area.