Friday, March 21, 2008

Tasting Teas in Shanghai

We cupped so much tea that I forgot to eat!

We began our day traveling across town to a tea market where various brokers have set up small shops selling a wide range of teas. As I entered the market I was overcome with the intense aroma of Pu'erh tea, yum.

There to meet and cup black tea's with our friend Pauline I experienced some wonderful Mao Feng Keemun's, golden Yunnan's and another very interesting tea that Pauline referred to as 1/2 fermented (oxidized). Not oolong, not black tea but 1/2 fermented. She went on to tell me how this tea got better with age, similar to a Pu'erh, and kindly gave me a gift of this special one year old tea. She said I must try it each year for the next 3 years to experience the transformation in the character.

Pauline told us about the celebration taking place this weekend for the first spring harvest of Bi Lo Chun and invited us to go. So we have changed our plans and will be skipping our trip north to Jinan. That will wait until I return in July and is not nearly as urgent or fun as following tea! I was hoping to visit Suzhou on my last trip so I am excited that it worked out this way.

We enjoyed a couple of hours cupping and laughing together and then wandered the market checking out many spring Dragon Wells which are now plentiful on the market.

After collecting samples and pricing we were off to lunch and another tea market. We enjoyed a simple noodle soup lunch, which I love, but was so full of tea that I could not eat much. I think it is so funny Americans are always poking fun at the tiny Chinese tea cups, but those little cups sneak up on you quickly. That aside the best part about cupping with this brewing style, using a gaiwan, is that each infusion of the leaves revels another layer of taste and character.

In the second market I met a new supplier a woman from Huangshan area who had some wonderful Dragon Well, Bi Lo Chun and in about 10 days will have the spring Mao Feng greens, cant wait. We cupped her teas and moved on to oolongs sharing some special Da Hong Pao from our Wuyi tea friends. Many times gardens and/or factory owners will have shops in larger cities to sell there teas this was just that type of market. Again we gathered samples and pricing and set off to meet with our Shanghai freight broker Charley.

We stopped to get something drink in a very "cool" coffee bar, yes coffee bar. The youth of China adores everything western and scoffs at the old tradition of tea. Charley even ordered iced tea! What is this world coming to?

After our meeting in the upscale shopping and business district we were off to get fitted at the Cheong Sam shop where we got to meet and get fitted by the master himself, 91 years old and still going strong. There must be something in the tea here!

Back at the hotel we begin mapping out our newly adjusted travel schedule and planning for the days ahead. I am teaching Amy the meaning of spontaneous.

Off to Suzhou for the very exciting Bi Lo Chun festival, celebrating the first spring harvest of this famous Chinese tea.

Until next time, Beth

Bi Lo Chun and Dragon Well Spring Teas












Lunch with Amy











Famed 91 Year Old Shanghai Tailor

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