The steaming water, the lovely aroma from the tea, the sound of cracking peanuts on the stove, and the delicate scenery in the teahouse. Enjoying such a cup of tea around a stove with friends has become popular in Shanghai in winter.
Especially, a trip to just such a teahouse on the outskirts of Shanghai, escaping the hustle and bustle of urban life as well as the fears over COVID-19, to enjoy local country life and the traditional Chinese tea culture is nothing but agreeable.
Located in Maoqiao Village, suburban Jiading District, Heqin Garden is attracting visitors with its beautiful garden, as well as different kinds of Chinese teas.
The garden was designed with the idea of "people in the grass and trees." The inspiration comes from the Chinese character cha (tea), which is made up of three radicals, cao (grass), ren (people) and mu (tree), with people in the middle of the grass and tree.
Li She, a famous poet in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), once wrote in his poem "to find a moment of leisure in a busy life" is just something that a cup of tea can bring you.
Tea culture has been an important part of life in China since ancient times. Everyone has his own idea of the best tea, or the best way to enjoy a cup of tea.
Heqin Garden integrates the rural experience of Maoqiao and the traditional Chinese tea culture.
Stepping into the garden, a couple of chickens would immediately catch your eyes – they are the stars of the garden.
"The two chickens are gifts from my neighbor in the village. They grew up here, and have become my pets, and the guests like them. If you take a picture, they even pose in front of the camera," said Xu Li, the owner of the teahouse.
The traditional Chinese-style garden is delicate. There are red koi fish swimming in the pond, flowers and bonsai plants everywhere.
The guestroom has a unique window of ancient Chinese buildings, which is covered with a white silk curtain. When the light changes, the shadows of the bamboos in the garden create a vivid Chinese ink painting on it.
"Enjoying the charm of Chinese culture is a must when you are in a teahouse," said Xu, who was born in Xinyang, Henan Province, and learned tea culture in Fujian Province when she was young. She built the garden three years ago, inviting people to enjoy the culture behind tea.
"Different kinds of tea bring us different cultures," she said.
One of her favorite teas is Yunnan Ancient Wild Tree Black Tea.
"People always think tea tastes bitter. But this kind of tea has a light sweet flavor, which is very gentle," Xu introduced.
She recommended the Fuding White Tea for the winter period.
"It's a different kind compared to the Anji White Tea, as it's nature-dried. In ancient times, it served as a TCM remedy to treat flu."
"These days, boiling tea around the stove is popular. Ancient people said that the water cannot be boiled more than twice," Xu opined, adding that the advantage of the stove is that it can keep the water above 90 degrees centigrade, so that the sweetness, freshness and fragrance of the tea will stay pure. The warmth also makes people feel good in the winter.
Boiling tea on a stove used to be a tradition in Yunnan Province, the birthplace of Chinese tea. Local people would carry a stove when they went to the forest to pick tea. They boiled tea, as well as baked rice cakes, nuts and fruits on the stove for their meals during the day. This later became a custom in the region.
It has spread all over China nowadays, as the new style of making the traditional tea seems more interesting and attractive to many, especially the young generation.
Combining the new style and the tradition has sparked a renaissance for Chinese teahouses in the city. If you want to know more, why not plan a trip and get your first-hand experience on what I've tried and liked.
If you go:
Address: 120, Maoqiao Village, Huating Town
Opening Hours: 9am-5pm
There are more distinctive tea houses in Jiading District, and here is a list:
"Songming" is named after the five-needle pine as the main plant grown in the garden, and "Songming" itself happens to be the name of a Chinese tea. The garden is designed in the countryside style with several cottages. It's an ideal place to enjoy traditional Chinese tea culture.
Address: 600 Changxu Rd, Juyuan New Area
Opening Hours: 9:30am-9:30pm (reservation required)
It's a teahouse featuring Yunnan tea culture. All the names of tea rooms refer to famous tea mountains in the southwestern province. The signature tea of Yue'erju is the original ecological tea, such as the Ancient Tree Pu'er, which has a smooth taste with a clear and amber color.
Address: Bldg 15, 66 Xinyuan Rd, Anting Town
Opening Hours: 10am-10pm
Neighboring Yuanxiang Lake, Poly Grand Theater and Jiading Library, the teahouse is hidden behind a green wall full of blooming Chinese trumpet creeper. Different kinds of tea pots are displayed in the teahouse, where it would be nice to spend an afternoon immersed in the tea culture and Chinese calligraphy.
Address: Bldg 55-8, Lane 333, Baiyin Rd, Malu Town
Opening Hours: 9am-11pm