Today I was able to experience something I had yet to experience in all my time in China, a traditional tea ceremony. I had been led to believe for a long time that it was quite difficult to experience this ceremony authentically with a true tea master and fine teas from around China. So when ebeijing began arranging this event I was naturally thrilled.
The Yupinge Tea House is located in the same building as the Athletes Apartment in the National Olympic Sports Centre. Located on the 2nd floor it has an impressive circular entrance and reminded me of entering into a courtyard. Immediately as you enter, glance around and smell the fragrances you feel like you’ve walked back in time. The staff are instantly on hand to greet you and walk you to your table. What a truly impressive table we were so fortunate to have the pleasure to sit at. Before getting too comfortable we were taken on a tour around the tea house, with its cosy rooms, impressive furniture, tea sets and ornaments; it certainly was a feast for the eyes. The staff are extremely knowledgeable here so while you're enjoying looking around the tea house they explain whatever it is you so happen to have gazed upon. The tea house has a Guqin, which is a traditional Chinese stringed instrument, and fortunately we had a guest who was able to play and offer us a short performance.
When the tea master arrived, adorned in her traditional Chinese clothing, we took our seats eagerly waiting in anticipation. The tea master first explained the various utensils she would use. She allowed us to smell the first tea before she began the process of brewing. One of the first things you realise during the ceremony is how symbolic everything is, from the process of brewing, how you hold the cup, to the way the tea master uses the utensils. It’s these details that makes this whole process special. The first tea we tried was Pu’erh, which was lightly flavoured but was a real palate cleanser. The flavour becoming less strong each time but had very interesting subtleties. The second tea was a black tea, and is one of the most common tea types around the world. Since i am British this was naturally the most familiar to my taste buds and the most satisfying. The falovour, while familiar, was very distinct and quite different to any black tea i had tried before. It was strong and complex with a bitterness that i liked the most. The 3rd and final tea we were given was a Jasmine tea. This is amongst the most popular drunk tea in all of China. It is easy to see why since it is extremely fragrant and made for a perfect balance with the two teas we had just tried.
The experience was an extremely rewarding one. It is clear that the people who run this tea house take what they do very serious and care about the details. They offer an experience that is memorable, with added touches such as offering us a small bag of tea that we could drink at home while thinking of the wonderful time we all had.