Travel {Tang Xiang Tea Room}

By joselle - December 10, 2019

 "In a group of three people, there will be someone who I can learn from."
Chinese Saying 

It's always wonderful to meet people who are eager to open up their world to you. We've met so many people of that kind here, people who love what they do and are eager to let you take a peek.

I met Noah from one of the StartUp Grind events in the city a few months back. We became fast friends because we have similar interest like photography, among other things. We planned on hanging out in a teashop and we finally had a chance to do it last month. 

He introduced JP and I to a tea shop in the Art District at the back of IKEA, where we met the owner and the creative staff. It was a real treat since the husband and I have never been inside a tea shop before and we always saw these traditional tea shops as a little bit intimidating. Most of their interiors looked so traditional, so Zen, we wondered if you were even allowed to talk while you sipped your tea. Did you pray? Play mahjong in silence? 

It was all just one big mystery. 

Little did we know that it would be one afternoon where we got to learn so much about tea and have all my burning questions answered, all while sipping cup after delicate glass cup of Pu-er black tea. 

Mrs Xu opened the shop to compliment her son's interior design career, which says a lot about his  design skills. Done in traditional Chinese with a minimalist urban twist, the tea shop is a study in simplicity and natural textures, from the stone tables and benches to the handmade earthen tea pottery  made by local craftsmen. 

Camping has a background in design and she's the one who does their packaging, which Mrs. Xu wanted to make sure was organic and simple. The end result is tea packaging of simple but sophisticated handmade paper boxes, with the shop's name in front. Cheaper tea balls wrapped in paper are also available if you want to try a little bit of each kind. 

We got to taste different teas from Yunnan and other places, and even got to sample their most expensive tea leaves there (costly because they are hard to source and the fermentation process takes time). I got my questions answered, like how costly it is (it's not), how you need to observe strict tradition when drinking tea (you don't) and only older Chinese like to gather in teashops (younger generations are starting to meet in tea shops as much as they do in coffee shops). We also got a  crash course in how tea is harvested and fermented, and how tea is so much more than green and black. 

Mrs. Xu also walked us through the different changes in taste and color that the tea goes through the more it is steeped. Curious as to why tea sets are designed like they are, with a small pot for steeping, another for pouring, etc? It seems like the pot for steeping allows the tea's flavors to come out, but it's not much for pouring onto small teacups. That's the reason why after the tea is steeped, it is poured inside the cup which is designed for graceful pouring. 

Meeting local friends definitely is a great way to know an aspect of any culture especially if they have a deeper immersion in a particular aspect of culture than the average person. Noah is also a licensed tour guide (he introduced me to the beautiful Chinese quote above) so we basically got treated to a tea crash course that others would've gladly paid for. 

Definitely an afternoon that left us with a deeper appreciation for tea, not just for its benefits but for its rich history. 

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Say hello! Coffee, perhaps? :)