Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Old Style Beijing Teahouse

On Tuesday, we decided to take have a low-key day and simply saunter the Qian Men area (near Tiananmen Square). I wanted to go to a real Chinese teahouse and my guidebook suggested the Lao She Cha Guan as a fine example of the "old-style" Beijing teahouses; and I think even translates to "old tea house". Since we quite enjoyed Beijing's "old-style" restaurants and it was nearby, we decided to give ol'Lao She Teahouse a try.

We were greeted in by a a large fellow who theatrically told us that small rooms were on the second floor and the large room was on the third. We didn't exactly understand until we reached the second floor and saw that it was divided up into small private tea rooms, beautifully decorated and serene. As we realized this gorgeous second floor was for the true tea conneusier, we quietly shook our heads at the elegant hostess and clomped our puffy jacket, furry hat, and dirty winter boot wearing selves to the third floor.
Which was elegant as well, but in a much more casual way. While a quintet of musicians played old Chinese music, we watched a woman order tea and take out a bag Kentucky Fried Chicken out of her pocketbook and precede to eat it without any qualms. With a sigh of relief, we stripped off our outerlayers, settled in, and ordered tea and snacks.

What we didn't know about Lao She Teahouse was that it specializes in sculpture tea. I think this is a fairly new phenomenon; and it is fascinating. Instead of tea bag or loose leaves, a tea "seed" is put in the bottom of your cup which blooms (and brews at the same time)in the hot water. When the blossom is fully open, your tea is ready.Very cool and beautiful. And the tea is very good too.

And if the tea was not enough of a show, there was plenty of other entertainment. A shadow puppet show took the stage. I was excited to see the objects I bought at the dirt market in use, even though I didn't understand a word that was being said. But that didn't seem to matter too much, as the shadow images were mesmerizing.

So mesmerizing that we didn't even realize how long we had been at Lao She Tea House until the musicians came back on stage. We had been there for hours! I guess that is "Old-Style" Beijing enjoyment, as well.

Lao She Teahouse
3 Qian Men Xi Dajie
6303 6830

1 comment:

Susan Sandmore said...

Beautiful! Thanks for sharing!