Susan Johnson (more chengdu)|
Freshly harvested spring tea, famous teas like Tie Guan Yin, herbs and flowers that brew into tisanes, Tibetan brick tea, Yunnan Pu-erh – all can be found at the Wukuaishi wholesale tea market. The best selection is of local teas like Zhu Ye Qing, jasmine, maofeng, and Mengding Shan. Organically grown leaves are also available. Many vendors are eager to share their knowledge and demonstrate with tastings the difference between spring and autumn harvested tea, or the mouthfeel (kou gan) of different types.
You are quoted a price per pound (jin), which is a lot unless you run a tea house. Buying a half pound or a couple of ounces (liang) is usually more manageable, and bargaining is necessary. English speaking vendors are few and far between, unfortunately. I have also run into quite a bit of stale or off-flavoured tea, so tasting before buying is recommended. I have not yet had any luck finding deals here on top notch versions of non-local teas such as Tie Guan Yin. Ordinary Tie Guan Yin can be bought here very reasonably, however. So can Yunnan Pu-erh (the sheng style of which my Chinese friends swear helps weight loss) and Yunnan red tea. Teaware and tools can also be bought.
“This tea really lifts your spirits (tishen) – it's better than smoking!” enthuses one vendor as he pours water over some leaves of fresh Gao Shan tea. He is right – the appearance of the leaves a they unfurl in the hot water, the colour of the tea, the fragrance, and the taste all put us in a good mood and we get to chatting about anything and everything, over a cup of tea.