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.
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.
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
Images provided and copyright held by author