My best friend and my husband are both tea drinkers. I wouldn’t trade either of them for all the tea in China. So when I went to China without them in tow, I decided to visit a Chinese teahouse to buy them special gifts—despite my non-tea-drinker dread of having to sample all the tea myself.
I found myself in Old Shanghai, surrounded by myriad exotic sights, sounds, and scents. I wasn’t looking forward to an afternoon drinking tea—even in the land that invented the drinking of the world’s most popular drink (after water, of course). But it was almost time to return home and I couldn’t do so empty-handed.
My guide recommended the Fenghui Teahouse, a Tang-styled teahouse above a pearl market. I climbed several flights of stairs—and found myself charmed by the quiet, darkly wooded chamber above the bustling pearl market. I was the only customer, so I had the undivided attention of the hostess for the next hour or so.
It was wonderful. No, I didn’t discover a taste for tea. But I learned to appreciate tea. She graciously understood that I didn’t care for tea personally so she splashed only dollops of tea into my glass. I took a couple token sips—and survived—as she described the medicinal properties of each. She opened jar after jar for me to sniff wondrous smells as I tried to decide what to buy. It was fascinating.
I learned that they carried over a dozen traditional teas and even more herbal teas. I was familiar with tea that came in bags or grains but here were hand-rolled tea balls and stacks of sticks with heavenly scents. Each tea was labeled by its special qualities: Jasmine Dragon Pearl Tea relieves tension, while Bodhi Leaf Tea eases muscle and joint pains. I ended up taking three canisters and a sack of tea home for my loved ones—and they were so popular that we’ve ordered more via the Internet as time has passed.
We are having fun learning to brew tea and watching balls un-flower. My best friend gave my husband an infuser for Christmas and he is experimenting with more flavors. I still don’t drink it, of course, but I greatly enjoy the rich aroma permeating the house every morning and evening. If I return to China, I will definitely visit another teahouse. It was a magnificent experience!