Private tea ceremony in Kunming

Last Saturday, we attended a tea ceremony in a private tea house. Normally, only manager or other white-collar workers book sessions there. Very few foreigners have visited it. The story about how we came to know about it is quite interesting. A fellow pupil from my Chinese school in Kunming met a local neighbour in our building. They bumped into each other in the elevator and started to talk. Her friend is the tea lady. They went together to the tea house. As he liked it alot, he invited us to come along for a second time.

The tea house itself is located in the city centre of Kunming. The Chinese friend said we would meet there, therefore for the first leg of our journey, we foreigners were on our own. The doors looked all the same, so the first building we entered was the wrong one. We used the wrong key code, but the guard let us in anyway. We waited on the right floor in the wrong building, which was quite awkward. After realizing our mistake, we decided to just wait in the general area for the Chinese friend from the school.

Finally, we arrived in the right place. The tea house itself is located in an normal apartment which was repurposed. The décor is really traditional, everywhere is tea as well as utensils for drinking it. In the background, one could hear traditional Chinese music which fitted the atmosphere perfectly. The tea lady welcomed us wholeheartedly. Our Chinese and her English led to some difficulties in communication, but we managed to get over it by using Baidu Fanyi, our broken Chinese and a dictionary.

Then, the tea ceremony began. At first, it was explained which tea we will gonna taste. It was one red/black and one green Pu’er Tea. The tea itself comes from the very south of Yunnan Province. The vicinity has no pollution, no machines are used to pick or process the tea leafs. This results in a product of a high quality for a steep price. The first tea was a green Lao Ban Zhang (老班章) from 2005, the second one a red 2005 Lao Man E Gu Shu (老曼娥古树).

It was then explained how to drink tea. At first, the color has to be appreciated. Next comes smelling the tea. Only the last step is actually tasting. I found the ritual behind drinking Chinese tea very rich, from the sacrificing of the first brew to the cleaning of the glasses to the actual drinking. I liked the red tea more than the green one but both tasted well and unique.

The husband of the tea lady is a photographer. Together they go every year to Tibet and stay several months. He has shown us some of the pictures and videos he took. It is really a terrific and untouched landscape, full of vast tundra, mountains and lakes. The videos are taken by a quadcopter and give an even more intense impression. For non-Chinese citizen, it is difficult to visit these places, as foreigners are required to have a certified guide.

In summary, I really enjoyed this evening. It gave me a glimpse on the Chinese traditions. Also, the contact with local Chinese was a nice change from the school environment. Finally, the tea tasted very good, I am usually drinking tea catered to the taste of Europeans.

Freelance machine learning engineer

I am a freelance machine learning engineer and avid Chinese learner.