I visited a wholesale tea market in China not so long ago — in Shenzhen — and this is about how it went. More than the actual outcome being “positive” it was more an interesting theme: Seeing how picking up tea would go differently in China.  Beyond buying it at the grocery store, I mean; selection is slightly better there in that country but the end result would typically still be kind of similar.

Cheap pu’er in a Shenzhen grocery store; reviewed on my blog

To be clear, this isn’t really about how people make tea in China or how it is experienced.  That subject just came up in a Reddit discussion, and there are two good answers to that.  Some people are tea enthusiasts, and they are using gaiwans and clay pots to prepare better teas — similar to Western tea enthusiasts.  Many more use very simple brewing techniques to drink lower-quality-level basic teas, or don’t drink tea at all.

I’m no authority on Chinese culture since I’ve only visited that country three times, and never to a tea producing area or with that subject as a main vacation theme. The first time I was there for work, and while waiting for other project members in an odd version of an old local shopping center I hung out in a tea shop. That wasn’t exactly my main entry point to tea interest but it was an important step.  A few months after my second visit to China I started a tea blog — maybe that wasn’t a coincidence.

Luohu-area railway station market: It was near here

I’ll back up: A senior tea blogger I  respect very much passed on to me advice about shopping for tea in China. His advice, in summary: If you don’t speak Chinese and know tea well enough to already know what you want — and to know when you’re experiencing it — local shops won’t work out and you may as well visit overpriced major chain outlets. That actually works, in a sense; but a lot of this will end up touching on possible exceptions.

On that initial shop outing way back when, I didn’t buy interesting teas (as experienced enthusiasts would judge) or get a great deal on what I did buy. We visited Beijing and Shanghai on the next vacation outing, a year or so later (about 6 years ago — the time flies), and visiting local markets was really eventful. Again I didn’t buy tea that was as exceptional or as good a value as basic online sources would sell (except for running across an unusual green tea which I never will reliably identify). …I think explaining how it went in the Shenzhen wholesale market will cover what I mean more clearly.

To be continued in Tea Shopping in a Market in Shenzhen, China – Part 2

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