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Published: October 23rd 2011
Beijing Tea Market. After a month of searching for tea, it was only fitting that we found ourselves wandering the labyrinth of shops composing the Beijing Tea market. Over 1,000 tea shops. Which to choose? We have already explored so many shops in so many places that Kit has begun producing an imaginary movie called “Kunming”. The first line is: “Of all the tea shops on all the streets in all the towns in China, she walks into mine.”
Now we just had to find the shopkeeper to utter these famous words. We decided that the main streets with the large glitzy shops were not for us. Kit remembered a small hutong (Beijing alleyway) in the Maliandao tea district from a previous visit. We knew what to look for: gunnysacks and boxes full of fragrant tea; a friendly shopkeeper with a tea table, cups and water ready to go. We had finished our search for fine Pu'er in Yunnan. We were now on the hunt for oolongs and special black teas.
About mid-way down the hutong we found what we were looking for. A shop with its garage door front rolled up. Filled with more boxes of tea than
we could count. Two shopkeepers, each with their own tea table ready to serve us any tea of our choosing. We started with two grades of a very special oolong called 'Iron Goddess of Mercy'. This is a tea to be drunk for a lifetime. A tea for everyone to enjoy and savor. It comes with its own Chinese myth about a peasant who felt sad everyday when he passed a deteriorating temple. Although he was poor he felt he could at least sweep it twice a day as he passed. After doing this for many moons he was visited by a goddess who told him that he would find a treasure in a nearby cave. He looked and found a single tea plant. He cultivated the plant and gave the tea to all who needed it. This tea became known as the Iron Goddess of Mercy tea. For pure enjoyment, this was my favorite tea of all the tea I tasted in China. I knew I had to bring some home. The shopkeeper sold tea canisters of all sizes, shapes and colors. How much fun to choose and fill the canisters from the giant bags filled with this fall's
pick of tea!
Among my canisters is a special tin of Iron Goddess tea especially for one of you who I believe is, unquestionably, an Iron Goddess of Mercy herself. It will be hand-delivered upon my return. For the rest of you who are in the category of IGM wanna-bes, all you need to do is call and invite yourself
over for a Chinese teatime and I will be happy to serve you the Iron Goddess as she was meant to be served, in tiny cups, from a gaiwan and tea table festooned with tea pets (little clay animals a part of every tea service we ever experienced). We will steep the tea a dozen times, only a few seconds each time, as we sip from our Chinese cups. The rush and frenzy of life in the USA will fall away. It will be just us and the tea, our friendship and the moment at hand. I look forward to each sip immensely.
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