I was invited by a friend to drink tea this afternoon. I didn’t know where we were going, but I was advised to wear smart clothes, so I knew we weren’t going to your run of the mill tea shop.
The ‘tea shop’ wasn’t exactly the kind of place you just walk into off the high street. It definitely had a ‘by appointment only’ vibe, and was located on the upper floors of an upscale skyscraper in town.
When we got out the lift, we were met with ornate furniture made of 红木 (red wood) and various decorative pots of bamboo, pothos and ivy. The fragrant smell of tea wafted into our nostrils as we walked down the hall towards the converted apartments. The owner of this tea establishment owns four or five apartments on this floor, and each serves as a showroom for different tea-related products, such as tea pots, display stands, ornate cups and red-wood tables.
Now, these are no ordinary teapots – some of these on display command prices around 5000-50000元 (around £500 to £5000).
If you’re anything like me, you’re confused as to why these teapots fetch such high prices. Well, fortunately, the owner of this business was more than happy to introduce and explain her wares – the prices vary depending on the age, artist, style and means of production. The most expensive teapots are handmade, crafted using traditional wooden/bamboo tools.
As all of this was being explained to me by Miss Wang, something caught my eye by the window. A large, ancient looking stone was on display on a wooden stand covered in red cloth:
Miss Wang explained that this is a 紫砂化石 zǐshā huàshí or ‘Purple Sand fossil’ from Eastern China’s Jingsu province. Miss Wang is actually the president of the material’s guild, and therefore was more than happy to explain the history of these beautiful teapots to me.
After many more cups of tea and chats about England tea drinking habits in comparison to the tea culture in China, we were invited to take a look in the other apartments. I was amazed at what I found. It was like a museum display of artifacts, some modern, some ancient. I didn’t take many photos here, as I was just too busy taking it all in.
What really blew my mind was the private collection (not pictured here), none of which was for sale. Out of respect to Miss Wang, I won’t specify the actual price of the items in her personal collection – but let’s just say there were little teapots there that wouldn’t dare touch, even if I was allowed to.
What was struck me most about this experience was Miss Wang’s humble demeanor. She was genuinely interested in England and I showed her photos of how we drink tea at my grandma’s house and in our garden during the summer months. It wasn’t until I got home and saw her website that I appreciated her level of expertise on her wares, and how respected she is in the community. A fantastic experience, and I’d recommend a visit to anyone interested in Chinese tea or teapots.
If you’re planning on visiting, feel free to get in touch with me, and I’d be more than happy to introduce you.