Sunday, November 27, 2011

Tea: One of My New Obsessions

"I will bet you all the tea in China..." 

I know almost nothing about red wine, but I know more about red wine than I do tea. Nevertheless, I am really interested in the tea culture here. My friend David and I shared a cup of tea this morning. The tea is called Mao Feng ("furry peak"). That was the inspiration for this post.
An ancient Chinese legend concerning the origin of Huangshan Mao Feng tea has it that a young scholar and a beautiful young maiden who worked on a tea plantation on Yellow Mountain were madly in love. One day a wealthy landowner saw the girl and desirous of her, he made her his concubine, which was within his power. However, the unhappy girl escaped only to discover that the landowner had in the meantime killed her lover, the young scholar. The young girl located the grave of her lover and remained there, weeping incessantly and uncontrollably, until finally she became the rain itself and her murdered lover became a tea tree, nourished by her tears. This is why, says the legend, the slopes of Yellow Mountain are humid and mist-enshrouded all year long.(
Going to a tea house is an elite activity and costly, but worth the experience. At an establishment near here, some months ago my friend and I bought a canister of the cheapest tea which entitled us to go there five or six times and keep using up the tea.  On the last time, I got to bring the canister and remnant tea home. Pretty girls in traditional garb rinse the cups with boiling water, pour your first cup, and leave you and your friends (or business associates, as the case may more often be) in a private little room to discuss, bargain, or marvel at the tea. Some rooms have regular solid tables with solid chairs and some have little tea tables where you sit on the floor. In the summer, you can pull a chain and start a fan. All the year long, you can ring a bell and the pretty girl comes back to help. You can order snacks of green tea-flavored pumpkin seeds or walnuts, prunes and other dried fruits. It is, in a word, delightful.

There is a tea market in Changchun with fifty or sixty stalls by my estimation. My friend E (short, er, very short for Elizabeth) and Sun Lu went there two or three weekends ago. A lawyer ran the particular shop we visited and another tea expert (pictured below) came in and had her picture taken with the foreigners--a not infrequent occurrence!

The little tea bricks that you see above are what Santa is bringing to the Lee Family this year. (Shhhh!) Pu'er, Pu-erh, Puer, also Po Lei or Bolay is a variety of post-fermented tea produced in Yunnan Province, China. You have to sort of peel it off with a knife or sharp tool and you don't need much to make a potent cup of tea.

At the tea market, I purchased this nifty picnic box which turns into a tea table. It has six cups and you put the tea in the pot with the lid, then pour it through a strainer into the one sans lid. I had already had a tea set for several months, but this portable addition will allow me to bring tea anywhere I go and share it with friends.

This tea set was a gift from Fan Xin about seven months ago. He is my Chinese tutor. I picked up the little boy with the penis at Alice's Tea House in Beijing. If he soaks in water and you pour water on him, he will pee across the room. "Tea toys" come in a wide variety, but this one is common...almost vulgar!

I should have some tea tools.  The information about tea tools below is from

A.) Vase – provides storage for all tools
B.) Tea Shuffle – shuffles/scope tea leaves
C.) Tea Needle – prevents spout blockage
D.) Tea Digger – digs and remove expended tea leaves from teapots
E.) Tea Tongs – handles hot tea wares for cleaning
F.) Tea Funnel – funnels tea leaves into small teapot openings

Those of you who know me well, know I am a fan of jasmine. I also was enamored of a tea made from dried fruit that I have run out of. A collection of green teas that have come as gifts from friends have also accumulated in my cupboard.

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