Last night I was treated to another unexpected and unique experience. A few years back on this trip to China, some of the students became friends with a local man who teaches English here. His Chinese name, Xiao Long, sounds very much like “Shalom” and so that is the English name he goes by. He also happened to live in Israel for a few years, so the name stuck I guess. Anyway, most of our group left on Saturday to go to a place called Jiuzhaiguo, a beautiful area at the base of the Himalayas, part of the Tibetan Autonomous Region. Five of us stayed behind in Chengdu to do our own thing. I was meant to go out to Emei Mountain, one of the four sacred Buddhist mountains in China, but alas a nasty cold has kept me confined to my hotel room. One of the other people who stayed behind, Joy, made contact with Shalom and went to dinner with him on Saturday. He invited her, and she invited me, to go for some tea and dinner on Sunday afternoon. If there is one thing this trip has taught me, it’s to go with the flow, so rather than
being bummed out about being sick, I decided to go along for the adventure.
So, 3:30 on Sunday afternoon arrived and we met Shalom in the lobby. We hopped in a cab and ended up outside a high-rise apartment building. “Where is the tea shop?” I thought to myself. Shalom explained that he as taking us to some friends of his, 2 brothers in fact, who run a tea ceremony school. It turns out their father had been one of the pioneers of the Sichuan style tea ceremony. We were in the presence of some tea-lebrities. Wow, I thought. They met us outside and took us upstairs to their Tea room. It was awesome. In the center of the main room was a table set up with all of the tea ceremony supplies and accessories, and around the room were various tea sets, teas, and artwork. It was very cool. For the next 2 ½ hours we all sat around and drank tea, learned about tea, and just chatted away the afternoon, with our new friend Shalom playing interpreter. Never before had I had such an incredible tea experience. We learned that there are 6 main types of Chinese tea.
Green, Black, Red, Yellow, White, and Oolong. Of the 6, we tried all but the Yellow and White types. Each tea we had was more amazing than the next. We started off with a green tea, whose English name translates as “Sweet Dew.” It was delicious. After numerous cups, we moved on to a type of black tea known as Pu Er. It too was delicious, and there was certainly no need for milk, sugar, or any other distractions we Westerners have come to put into our tea. Besides the amazing taste, each type of tea had it’s own unique way of being poured and presented to us. I loved the intention and care that was taken with each cup. Next in line was a type of red tea, most similar to an English style of tea, and finally we finished with a Jasmine Oolong. I felt amazing, and almost “drunk” on tea. Not only had the Tea Brothers taken their time and energy to pour incredible tea for us, and answer the numerous questions we had, but before we left they presented each of us with a traditional tea cup of our own. I was, and still am, immensely
grateful to them both for all that they gave us on so many levels. I will never again look at, or drink tea in the same way again. My heartfelt thanks go out to Joy, Shalom, and his friends for another experience I will never forget. With that in mind, when I return from this journey I look forward to sharing with you all that I have learned over a nice cup, or cups, of tea.
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