Drinking Tea

Tea is serious business in China. In Kunming, the university quarter is a beautiful area lined with cozy cafes. I happened upon an upscale tea shop and decided to pop in armed only with my Mandarin phrasebook. After a brief browse of some very expensive teas, I was soon invited to sit down and sample some of what was on offer.

Two women began to prepare the tea in the most elaborate of manners. The process is all very ceremonius and probably involved well over 10 steps. The first step is to provide the guest with a miniature tea cup and the server must take care not to touch the cup (she used tongs). From there, the cups are first washed with hot water and then washed with tea. The tea must be washed before drinking. Eventually I was able to taste the tea and it was quite good. I took 5 sips and soon learned I should take three. Additionally, the forefinger and middlefinger should be placed under the glass. I learned these things as I failed hopelessly with my phrasebook.

After about about a half hour of tea drinking, my new friend Lingshuntao came to the rescue. He is a chemist by trade and very well versed in tea (and English). He was soon explaining the healing properties of Puer tea, the most sought after tea in Yunnan. Puer tea is a bit like wine, it ferments slowly and becomes better with age. It is starting to catch on all over the world, but the tea all comes from the Yunan province in China.

Another Chinese customer came in who was in the market for some tea and we were able to sample four different qualities. It was interesting to taste the different teas, though I think my palate needs a little bit of work. After about two hours, I said goodbye and “syair, syair” (thank you) and hopped on my bike to return to the hotel after a full day in Kunming, ready to board the overnight train to Dali.

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One Response to “Drinking Tea”

  1. Auntie Annette Says:

    Hi Ed,

    You have a great way with words. I am right there enjoying the tea!

    You definitely are having a trip of a lifetime and keeping this blog will have your memories in tact.

    Today Uncle John is arriving at MIA and we are looking forward to his visit. He’ll stay here until March 6. Both times that he has come here it has been because of death and illness so this is a wonderful chance to show him some of the places around us that tourists usually do not go. I still love Miami!

    Looking forward to more from you. You are doing a great job in journalling.

    Love you.
    Auntie

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