Shanghai, 1st – 3rd May
Back to Shanghai, back to the conform. I don’t like cities that much, but I must admit being happy to be back in Shanghai for some days; I know the city, many (tea) friends live here; everything is easier and more comfortable. I stay at Zhi Xiao’s place, a cozy flat with the luxury of a bed with mattress and a bathroom all for myself.
I spend the whole first day in drinking tea, comparing different samples with each other. I am with same tea friends; more fun and their valuable opinions help me in the choice. We start with the samples of Anji Bai Cha that collected in the past days in Anji. For everybody, the tea of Huifang –the tea farmer I stayed with in Anji– is doubtless the best; fuller and sweeter than all the others; and very delicate. Unfortunately, only 500g are left from this batch. Huifang will send me a sample of a tea picked just few days before; I hope it will be as good as this.
Comparing different Anji Bai Cha.
From green, we switch to yellow.
This year at Nannuoshan, we will offer all three famous Chinese yellow teas: Huoshan Maofeng (already purchased), Jun Shan Yin Zhen (samples on their way to Shanghai) and Mengding Huang Ya, the tea from Sichuan we are tasting today.
Just one additional step turns a green tea into a yellow tea; the process is called “yellowing” and it’s quite difficult to master. Only a few producers have the required experience and knowhow; our supplier from Sichuan is one of them. I visited their tea factory two years ago, spending two whole days in his tea factory to learn how to “yellow” the leaves. I think we should hold a yellow tea seminar in Berlin, in one of the next months.
Mengding Huang Ya, the yellow tea from Sichuan.
In the afternoon I get pu’er-thirsty: Time to visit Cherry! In her pu’er teashop I always find good tea for reasonable price. Her major is tea –yes, in China you can study tea at university– and she specialized in tea from Yunnan, both pu’er and black tea.
Benjiamin, a German friend currently in China, join me. We ask for a raw pu’er (Sheng Pu) from Lincang, a county located in the center of Yunnan. Lincang’s pu’er are less bitter than those from Xishuanbanna; and, most important for me, they are “würzig, speziati” (not sure how to translate this word in English).
Cherry chooses a bing cha (cake) from the Fengqing Tea Factory, year 2008. The leaves are big and well separated from each other; the cake quite loosely compressed. It tastes exactly as I wanted it to taste. In the mouth it's like they would pleasantly scratch my palate, right there where it's itchy; thirst-quenching.
Raw pu'er (Sheng pu) from the Lincang county - Mature, "würzig," no bitterness.
During these days in Shanghai I visit a different tea house every evening. Tea houses here are places where you cannot buy tea, just drink it; usually in exchange of a substantial amount of money. Most of them have separated rooms, one for each group of guests. The furnishing is tasteful, refined and expensive. The guests can pick a tea from a list and decided whether to steep it themselves or let a Gongfu Cha lady do the job for them. During the stay, the waiters will bring different kinds of snacks, all included in the price. Charging is either by person -independently on the amount and kind of tea- or by the tea.
A friend of a friend, to thank me for having brought her a nonstick frying pan from Germany, invites me to an old-style tea house. A massive house with tens of rooms each furnished in antique Shanghai style. Here only pu'er is served. The menu is thick, the choice huge, the prices ridiculous. 16 grams of the most expensive pu'er cost 200000 RMB, equal to almost 30000 €. We go for a much cheaper but still expensive Shupu dated 1988.
Pu’er tea house. Shanghai old-style atmosphere and pu'er that cost like a car.
After three days it's time to leave. The mum of my host prepares me a delicious breakfast: rice dumplings with pork meat and plenty of fresh fruits.
Homemade breakfast. Last luxury before hitting the road once again.
Written By Gabriele