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Chinese Teahouse: Haven for the Heart


For city-dweller cramped in pigeon-holes all day, a change of scene without going far might well be compelling. One such recommendation is the various Chinese teahouses. A visit to the teahouse is a doze of placebo for the exhausted soul, and it also gives you a real sense of the ancient Chinese culture.

As Lu Yu, the "tea deity" in ancient China, wrote in the Canon of Tea, tea-drinking is a road to immortality. Although a daily recreation for ordinary citizens, tea-drinking is not without certain etiquette. Special requirements have been set for water, heating, tea leaves, tea sets, the tea-making process and the tea-drinking ritual. According to the Canon of Tea, there are 24 steps in the tea preparation. For example, the only water that qualifies for tea-making is water from a slow-moving mountain stream boiled over a smokeless fire of charcoal made form olive pits. The usual tea set is made up of several cups, a pot, a tray and a holder. Cups used are rather small and bear a fine and translucent texture enabling the drinker to appreciate the color of the tea. The tea pot is not big either, capable of holding only three to four cups of water. The tray is punched so that waste water and tea residues can sink into a tea holder below.

Though various schools of tea culture differ from each other in details, they still share many features in common as to the tea-making and the tea-drinking rituals. Before putting tea leaves in, the pot and cups have to be warmed with boiling water. Tea leaves are also cleaned before being made. Cups are arranged in a circle, and the tea is poured in circles around all the cups to ensure the tea in each cup is the same shade of flavor. And the last drops in the pot are also equally divided into the cups in turn. The tea-drinking ritual is no less precise. Pick up the cup and first inhale the rich aroma of the tea, then take little sips and allow the liquid to linger in the mouth. When the tea is finished, again smell the remaining fragrance in the empty cup.

Maybe what is more appealing than the tea itself is the whole atmosphere that it creates. Different teahouses may offer different programs, and there are always happy surprises for you to discover in each of them. These vital teahouses may be the answer not only to summer heat, but also to the preservation of a vanishing culture.

The following are some distinct teahouse in Beijing.

Wufu (Five Blessings) Tea House is one of the biggest chain teahouse in Beijing. With its branches scattered in downtown Beijing, the teahouse provides an escape from the bustling city life. Offered by the teahouse are over 18 kinds of top-quality Chinese tea, including Longjing, Biluochun, Tieguanyin and Wulong. You can also try your hand at Chinese chess and go.

Sheltered inside a former royal garden of an imperial prince in Beijing, the Hanmo Tea House creates a rich ancient aroma by keeping the original interior setting. The house offers many types of Kongfu Tea and is known for the its elegant musical performances of ancient Chinese instruments.

In the shape of a farmhouse, the Dreamy House is a sleepy little affair with stone benches and tables. Only the Chinese cuckoos disturb the calm as tatty red lanterns flutter in the breeze. Surrounded by bamboo fences, the teahouse doubles up as a barbecue picnic spot, seating large parties tucking into beef, mutton, fish, mushrooms, onions and sweet potatoes.

Inside the Youth Lake Park, there is a seriously cool teahouse named Shenglanxuan. The teahouse rewards its loyal customers by storing their own tea, a little like personalized beer mugs in a local English pub. Though not much to look at from the outside, it is worth investigation inside. Chinese traditional music performances are also available on Sundays.

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