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Time for Tea in Beijing?

Author: mpressman  |  Category: Destinations
Published: September 6, 2008

The tea ceremony has been an integral facet of Chinese culture since the days of old Beijing and is one that remains popular within contemporary Chinese society. In centuries past, teahouses were at the heart of Chinese social activity where people from all walks of life would gather to enjoy tea and swap stories. Today, teahouses play a similar role in everyday Chinese life and act as a place for city dwellers and travellers alike to gather amongst wood furniture and rice-paper lanterns to enjoy freshly prepared teas and chase away the troubles of the day.

No trip to Beijing would be complete without paying a visit to a traditional teahouse, where guests are offered a wide choice of green teas, made freshly from the leaf and believed for centuries to have healing and medicinal properties. Upon arrival at a teahouse it’s easy to feel overwhelmed at the choice of teas available – but fear not as help is at hand.

One of the teas most popular with foreign visitors and tourists is jasmine, closely followed by chrysanthemum. Jasmine tea is simply green tea blended with the jasmine flower. The end result is a heady aroma which tastes as good as it smells. Chrysanthemum tea also has a natural sweet fragrance and taste. Either of these flower based teas would be a good introduction to tea drinking in China.

Tea can vary hugely in price depending on many factors including the time of day at which the tea leaves were picked and how rare the variety itself is. The legendary Oolong tea ‘Da Hongpao‘ – also known as Big Red Gown or Scarlet Gown – dates back as far as the 18th century and is one of the rarest and most expensive teas to be found. This full bodied tea has a sweet floral aftertaste which lingers for several minutes after drinking and this is what makes the tea so special. Also very popular in Beijing are Wild Peony teas whose leaves are never exposed to sunlight as this is believed to result in loss of flavour.

Great pleasure is to be taken in the traditions and formalities surrounding tea drinking in Beijing, and indeed throughout China. There are no mugs to be found in the Far East – small ceramic dishes are typically used to serve tea. Such small serving vessels are used because tea should never be swallowed or gulped down. It is etiquette to slowly sip your tea and savour the taste and when relaxing in the surroundings of a teahouse you certainly will not want to rush the experience.

Restaurants, bars and hotels in Beijing offer a variety of teas to choose from, though these are typically brewed from a bag as opposed to the fresh, natural leaves used in traditional teahouses and nothing quite beats the experience of sampling some of Chinas finest teas in the authentic setting of a teahouse.

Disclaimer: Matthew Pressman writes for a wide variety of commercial clients. This article is intended for information purposes only and readers should seek additional information before taking any actions based on its content.

Author: mpressman

Matthew Pressman writes for a wide variety of commercial clients. This article is intended for information purposes only and readers should seek additional information before taking any actions based on its content.

This author has published 47 articles so far.

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