All the tea in China Featured

Culture steeped in history, with prices that may come as a surprise.

by 13 November 2009

The custom of tea appreciation goes back a long way for the Chinese people. As far back as the Han Dynasty, there were records of tea-brewing. In the Tang Dynasty, a tea guru called Lu Yu actively promoted tea as “the national drink” . Regarded as one of the seven most important necessities in daily life for the Chinese, tea is naturally included in this list, even for the common people. Throughout history, writers and artists adored good conversations over a cup of tea, producing many a great poem, essay and even Taoist philosophy with a fragrant brew as inspiration. Premium tea is regarded as a delicacy. The Ancient Chinese gave the best tea to the emperor, developing a ritual of tea-drinking over the centuries. Nowadays, excellent tea is sold at a hefty price on the market.

Throughout Chinese history, many emperors liked a good infusion. Qing Dynasty’s Qianlong in particular was an avid tea lover. He would have great tea parties at the palace, saying “no ruler should ever go without tea.” He even wrote four poems with longjing tea as subject. His works described how tea was harvested and brewed, and what joy and comfort a great blend could bring. Many of his anecdotes about were passed down through the centuries. They remain a reflection of just how important tea has always been for China.

The tea saga is literally larger than life. Today, tea is divided into six types: green, white, yellow, oolong, red and black. Different kinds of tea require a different method of appreciation. Similar to wine-tasting in the western culture, tea appreciation is a knowledge in itself. From the shape of the tea leaves, its harvest and preparation, the brewing technique, all the way to the material of the tea set used and the environment in which the tea is served. Every step affects the art of tea-drinking.

Among all the fine teas, the Antique pu'er tea produced in Yunnan is categorized as the most prestigious in China. A round “disk” of packed tea leaves is valued up to several thousands to several hundred thousands Hong Kong dollars. The king of pu'er teas – the centuries-old Fu Yuan Chang round tea – is coveted by tea connoisseurs for its unique minty flavour and a very rich, longlasting after-taste. 300 grams of this tea is now valued at 200,000 HKD. And to enjoy this blend at tea houses would cost up to 10,000 HKD.

The Hong Kong Museum of Tea Ware has a new wing called “Lock Cha Tea House”, offering a luxurious setting for tea lovers. A modern space filled with rosewood and redwood furniture characterises the six-year-old tea house. Antiques such as Qing Dynasty screens and works by Deng Fen - an all-round artist from the post-Qing period - are also proudly displayed here. You can taste all grades of tea, and you can make an appointment to savour supreme teas such as the prestigious Fu Yuan Chang, the lush Song Pin and the balanced Tong Chang Huang Zhi. Sit back, listen to live traditional Chinese music and savour a delicious brew accompanied by a healthy vegetarian dim sum. The tea saga of China is as real today as it was thousands of years ago.
Related articles:
Masters of Chinese and Italian Cuisine
Favourite tea locations in the tea-time capital